Kermit Gosnell Wasn’t Running An Abortion Clinic

Photo Credit: (Yong Kim / Associated Press / March 8, 2010)

Photo Credit: (Yong Kim / Associated Press / March 8, 2010)

*This story contains graphic details*

The emerging details in the Kermit Gosnell case are nothing short of horrific. Kermit Gosnell ran a back alley “abortion clinic” in Philadelphia, and is being charged with seven counts of first degree murder. His untrained staff administered drugs, and performed haphazard medical procedures with unsterilized and outdated medical equipment. The Grand Jury report details unethical practices wherein Gosnell and his staff killed, mutilated and maimed mothers and babies (the atrocities disproportionately affected low-income women and women of color). What Kermit Gosnell did was unequivocally unacceptable.

Gosnell and his staff deserve the harshest possible punishment under the law, but in all of the craze surrounding the case, it must be said that the treatment of women and the procedures performed in his clinic are not representative of clinics operating within the law. Kermit Gosnell was running a butcher shop, not an abortion clinic.

According to testimony in the trial, Gosnell frequently performed illegal late-term abortions. Babies were delivered, and their spinal cords were snipped. And the women that visited the clinic? According to quotes from The Atlantic:

One woman “was left lying in place for hours after Gosnell tore her cervix and colon while trying, unsuccessfully, to extract the fetus,” the report states. Another patient, 19, “was held for several hours after Gosnell punctured her uterus. As a result of the delay, she fell into shock from blood loss, and had to undergo a hysterectomy.” A third patient “went into convulsions during an abortion, fell off the procedure table, and hit her head on the floor. Gosnell wouldn’t call an ambulance, and wouldn’t let the woman’s companion leave the building so that he could call an ambulance.”

All of the details in the case tell a story of an unlicensed person, who employed unlicensed staff, and committed murder. His clinic was an aberration. When performed under the right conditions–by licensed medical professionals–the complications arising from abortion are comparable to similar outpatient medical procedures (no medical procedure is without risk, that’s why the doctor makes you sign mounds of paperwork).  

Here are some abortion facts from the Guttmacher Institue:

  • About 61% of abortions are obtained by women who have one or more children.
  • The risk of abortion complications is minimal: Fewer than 0.3% of abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization.
  •  Abortions performed in the first trimester pose virtually no long-term risk of such problems as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.
  •  Exhaustive reviews by panels convened by the U.S. and British governments have concluded that there is no association between abortion and breast cancer. There is also no indication that abortion is a risk factor for other cancers.
  • In repeated studies since the early 1980s, leading experts have concluded that abortion does not pose a hazard to women’s mental health.
  • Fifty-eight percent of abortion patients say they would have liked to have had their abortion earlier. Nearly 60% of women who experienced a delay in obtaining an abortion cite the time it took to make arrangements and raise money.
  • The risk of death associated with abortion increases with the length of pregnancy, from one death for every one million abortions at or before eight weeks to one per 29,000 at 16–20 weeks—and one per 11,000 at 21 or more weeks.

The bottom line is this: Kermit Gosnell is a ghoul, and the gory details of his practice are in no way representative of the vast majority of abortion clinics.

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