Many of the gruesome details of what happened at Kermit Gosnell’s unregulated and unlicensed abortion “clinic” in Philadelphia have become public. Among anti-choice advocates, the drumbeat is steady: Gosnell’s clinic is representative of all clinics, they say. If we want to stop this horror from happening again, we should ban abortion.
They couldn’t be more wrong. What happened in West Philadelphia would happen more, not less, were legal abortion to disappear. Gosnell’s clinic was a symptom of a much larger, more complicated diseases that ail this country: Sexism, racism and poverty.
It was that perfect storm of injustices that allowed Gosnell’s clinic to operate unhindered for so many years. And it is that intersection of inequities that prevented most people who know about the clinic to learn of the cases against its employees only in the last month.
Getting a legal abortion isn’t easy in Pennsylvania. Some 46% of women in the state live in counties without an abortion provider. Travel costs and lost wages only add to the cost of a procedure that can top $1,000 and thanks to the Hyde Amendment, abortion isn’t covered by Medicaid. Some insurance providers refuse to cover any abortion costs.
And in Pennsylvania, abortion is illegal at the end of the second trimester of a pregnancy.
For those without legal access or the ability to pay for it, an unlicensed, unregulated clinic suddenly becomes an option when it shouldn’t even be in business.
As the evidence of Gosnell’s operation shows, those clinics can be dirty, scary and staffed by employees unqualified to practice medicine. Patients have been drugged and then labor induced. African-American women patients were separated and their treatment was worse. Those in charge are - and this is wildly understating it—doing harm. These facilities are a modern-day “back alley” housed in a building.