Bench Memos

James Taranto on “From Roe to Gosnell”

In his Best of the Web Today column, the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto offers a long and interesting reflection on various aspects of the controversy over Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Of particular relevance to the portfolio of this blog, Taranto, who puts himself in the “mushy middle” on abortion policy, perceptively observes that “the bitter polarization about the question of abortion is inseverable from the Roe regime.” He calls for an end to Roe’s “gross abuse of power by the Supreme Court” and for the restoration of abortion policy to the democratic processes.

Among Taranto’s other observations, I’ll highlight the Mother’s Day Massacre of 1972:

A young Philadelphia doctor “offered to perform abortions on 15 poor women who were bused to his clinic from Chicago on Mother’s Day 1972, in their second trimester of pregnancy.” The women didn’t know that the doctor “planned to use an experimental device called a ‘super coil’ developed by a California man named Harvey Karman.

A colleague of Karman’s Philadelphia collaborator described the contraption as “basically plastic razors that were formed into a ball. . . . They were coated into a gel, so that they would remain closed. These would be inserted into the woman’s uterus. And after several hours of body temperature, . . . the gel would melt and these . . . things would spring open, supposedly cutting up the fetus.”

Nine of the 15 Chicago women suffered serious complications. One of them needed a hysterectomy. The following year, the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade. It would be 37 more years before the Philadelphia doctor who carried out the Mother’s Day Massacre would go out of business. His name is Kermit Gosnell.

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