The Corner

Re: Kermit Gosnell Is Not an Outlier

I’d like to add two things to Shannen’s excellent post below.

First: The National Abortion Federation should be ashamed of themselves, even on their own terms. From their statement:

 The recent arrest of a Philadelphia doctor and his associates has made national headlines and led some women to ask how they can be sure they are choosing a quality abortion provider.

Although stories like this get a lot of media coverage, it’s important that you understand that this particular facility in Philadelphia is an outlier and not typical of the high-quality abortion care provided by NAF members.

The doctor in question, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, was NOT a NAF member. As the Grand Jury Report in this case notes, Gosnell applied for NAF membership in late 2009, but his application was rejected because his facility did not meet NAF’s standards for quality care.

Yes, the grand-jury report notes that Gosnell was denied membership in this august organization. What the NAF doesn’t acknowledge here is that NAF never reported Gosnell to any authorities. Even though Gosnell hustled to clean up his act for NAF’s inspection, his shoddy standards were still too low to earn him the NAF good abortion-providing seal of approval. But his standards were not so terrible that anyone at NAF told the Department of Health or the police. Indeed, I’m not sure that NAF’s seal of approval is worth that much. The evaluator who flunked Gosnell’s clinic also testified to the grand jury that she’d never heard of an applicant being totally rejected before, Gosnell was the first.

Second, as Shannen notes, it’s absolutely true that Gosnell is not an outlier when it comes to one thing: the killing of late-term fetuses that are viable outside the womb. Also known as babies. 

But if you are radically pro-choice, that’s not the outrage. And to be fair, the feminist writers complaining that they’ve paid attention to this story have a point. No, they don’t disprove the charge that there’s a blackout. The blackout charge has to do with the mainstream media, not feminist pundits. But if you’re pro-choice, there’s still plenty to be outraged by here, starting with the death(s) and/or mistreatment of pregnant women. Many of these writers don’t care about the “rare” part in safe, legal, and rare. But they obviously care about the safe part, as they should. This is a point David Weigel makes well. Even if you believe it’s okay to kill a baby with a foot still in the birth canal. Even if you believe, as Barack Obama did when he was an Illinois legislator, that accidentally delivered babies don’t have a constitutional right to live if their mothers or doctors don’t want them to survive, you can still be outraged by the unsanitary conditions and the disparity of services provided to poor people. That’s Amanda Marcotte’s gripe. And it’s perfectly consistent with her views. 

But, as I tried to argue last night on Special Report, I think the mainstream media stayed away from this story as much as it did because it had already locked into the position that partial-birth abortion is a right-wing bogeyman. If they covered the outrages that the feminists are understandably furious about, they would also have to mention somewhere in the reporting the fact that a whole bunch of actual babies were being cut up. The feminists don’t think that’s a problem. They just just want to make sure it’s done under more equitable and sanitary conditions. But the mainstream media understands that it is a problem — for them.


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