I am in favour of a woman’s right to make her own sexual choices. This encapsulates her right to choose her sexual partner, her right to use contraception, and her right to choose whether or not she has a child. I am unmoved by the “logic” of the anti-choicers, which conflates the life of a developing embryo with the life of a fully-grown human person. I am similarly unmoved by their constant appeals to emotion, thrusting pictures of aborted fetuses in the faces of people who already have a difficult decision to make.
I am not, however, unmoved by this:
West Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell routinely delivered live babies in the third trimester of pregnancy, then murdered them by “sticking scissors into the back of the baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord,” according to the Philadelphia district attorney. One newborn who weighed almost 6 pounds was so big “the doctor joked . . . this baby ‘could walk me to the bus stop.’”
Those are among the jaw-dropping details — complete with photographs — in a 260-page grand jury report released Wednesday that charges Gosnell, 69, with the murder of a patient and seven infants.
The article goes on to detail some of the abject depravity with which this “doctor” treated his
victims patients. He hired unqualified people to perform medical procedures, gave inadequate care, and operated under nightmarish conditions:
What they found, according to the report, was “filthy, deplorable, and disgusting”: blood on the floor; the stench of urine; cat feces on the stairs; semiconscious women moaning in the waiting or recovery rooms, covered with bloodstained blankets; broken equipment; blocked or locked exits.
Whatever your feelings on abortion, you can’t help but be disgusted by not only the way in which this man conducted himself, but at the utter lack of humanity at his core. People pursuing medical care are at a fundamental disadvantage – they’re in severe need and are afraid for their safety. This is precisely the reason why all health care practitioners must undergo extensive medical ethics training (I myself have been the recipient of such training at least 7 times over the course of my short career). When someone provides medical care to another, they enter a position of both authority and trust. Those types of relationships are far too easy to abuse – one person is willing to sacrifice a great deal of their autonomy for the chance at relief from suffering. When you’re the person to whom autonomy is being given, you have a moral obligation to work for the best interests of that person, since that person would (under different circumstances) be operating for their own best interest.
Once again I find myself flummoxed by my inability to express sufficiently my utter horror and disgust at anyone who would systematically abuse this kind of trust. Most health care professionals I have had the pleasure of working with take the oaths and ethics of the caregiver-patient dynamic extremely seriously. I know that I do, even though I rarely have any contact with patients in my day-to-day work. To imagine that someone would not only dismiss that ethical responsibility, but outright contravene it in such an egregious and deleterious way for years shocks me. That this happened under the noses of the people who had a responsibility to regulate and inspect it depresses me beyond all belief.
PZ Myers says that this isn’t an argument about the morality of the practice of abortion, and for the most part I agree with him. He hits it squarely on the head when he says this:
Gosnell is precisely the kind of butcher the pro-choice movement opposes. No one endorses bad medicine and unrestricted, unregulated, cowboy surgery like Gosnell practiced — what he represents is the kind of back-alley deadly hackery that the anti-choice movement would have as the only possible recourse, if they had their way. If anything, the Gosnell case is an argument for legal abortion.
Outlawing abortion, as we have seen from international cases like Romania, and even within the United States, does not stop it from happening. All it does is reduce access to safe abortions, allowing monsters like Gosnell to maim more women who have no other options. Criminalizing abortion disproportionately affects the poor, particularly people of colour and immigrants who do not have the same access to resources and illicit medical services that their wealthier counterparts do.
I am deeply aggrieved and horrified that a remorseless killer like Kermit Gosnell exists and was allowed to continue hurting women for so long. I don’t know what the answer to this problem is, but I am confident that putting more women in the tender merciful hands of amoral ghouls like Kermit Gosnell is a step in the wrong direction.
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