For months, most of the mainstream media treated the Kermit Gosnell murder case as if it was as significant as a suburban traffic court dispute. Only in the waning days of the trial of the Philadelphia doctor for the murder of infants born alive as a result of botched abortions did the topic attract much coverage. Yet even then, few journalists chose to think seriously about the implications of a case that raised serious questions about the quality of care and possibly illegal practices at clinics, especially those that specialized in the kind of late-term abortions that Gosnell performed. That unwillingness to address the core issues at the heart of this story would have important political consequences.
The Gosnell coverage deficit and refusal to think about what late-term abortion in this country actually means would dictate the subsequent media treatment of the battle in the Texas legislature over abortion. While the conservatives who proposed a ban on the procedure after 20 weeks were directly influenced by the Gosnell horrors, the mainstream liberal media saw only an attack on the right to abortion on demand and responded accordingly. Thus, when a heretofore-obscure Texas state senator staged a filibuster that successfully prevented (at least for a while) passage of the late term ban, overnight she was turned into a liberal national heroine with no one in her vast cheering section ever pausing to ask what she thought about Gosnell. Nor did they ask about the argument that since medical science now made most such babies viable outside the womb, perhaps the ban was a defense of human rights rather than an attack on women.
Thanks to the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack, we now have an answer to that question. But it appears neither Davis, who appears to be using her status as the pro-abortion champion as a platform to run for governor of Texas, nor her supporters who have responded angrily to the Standard’s chutzpah, have actually given a serious thought to Gosnell or have the slightest understanding of what it means.
McCormack cornered Davis at the National Press Club where she was taking yet another bow from the media for her role in defending the right to abort infants that would likely survive outside the womb:
THE WEEKLY STANDARD: The supporters of these bans, they argue that there really isn’t much of a difference between what happened in that Philadelphia case with abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell [killing born-alive infants] 23 weeks into pregnancy and legal late-term abortions at 23 weeks. What is the difference between those two, between legal abortion at 23 weeks and what Gosnell did? Do you see a distinction between those two [acts]?
SEN. WENDY DAVIS: I don’t know what happened in the Gosnell case. But I do know that it happened in an ambulatory surgical center. And in Texas changing our clinics to that standard obviously isn’t going to make a difference. The state of the law obviously has to assure that doctors are providing safe procedures for women and that proper oversight by the health and human services department is being given. It sounds as though there was a huge gap in that oversight, and no one can defend that. But that’s not the landscape of what’s happening in Texas.
As McCormack later pointed out, the one thing Davis claimed to know about Gosnell was actually wrong. Gosnell was not operating an ambulatory surgical center, just an ordinary abortion mill that was known for being willing to violate the Pennsylvania law that prohibited late-term abortions. That’s significant because the Texas law she sought to filibuster required clinics in the state to conform to the standards of care at such facilities.
But the main point here is that, like the liberal media, Davis thinks the Gosnell case is irrelevant to the question of whether states should demand that the loose regulatory regime that currently applies to abortion clinics should be changed to require them to be as good as ambulatory surgical centers or whether viable 20+ week babies should be allowed to aborted. Rather than ponder whether such atrocities are occurring elsewhere under the guise of legality, they prefer to grandstand on the issue and claim defending dangerous late-term procedures that often border on, if not cross over into, infanticide is the same as protecting the right to perform abortions in the first trimester.
As McCormack also noted, Davis doesn’t recognize any limits on abortion and, like many others in the pro-choice community, pretends that the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision protected all abortions, including late-term procedures, a position that is patently false.
Predictably, the Standard has been attacked by the left for even raising the question of Gosnell to Davis. In doing so, Media Matters repeated the liberal talking point that what Davis was doing in Texas was protecting the right to legal abortion while what Gosnell was doing was illegal. It quoted former New York columnists as saying that the issue with Gosnell was making abortion accessible and safe. But this is based on the myth that women went to Gosnell because they had no alternatives. In fact, his clinic was located in the middle of Philadelphia, where other clinics, including one run by Planned Parenthood, were available.
It is no small irony that abortion advocates claim that they want the procedure to be safe while simultaneously dismissing the idea that their clinics should have high health standards. While the assertion that all but five clinics in Texas would be closed by the regulations is almost certainly false, it still begs the question of why Davis and her supporters are so adamant about opposing improving facilities at what are well known to be highly profitable businesses.
The fact remains that those like Davis who seek to oppose all restrictions on abortion, even a reasonable one such as a ban after the point of viability is reached, are the real extremists on the issue. Gosnell is relevant to her celebrity because it is built on a willful desire to allow potential atrocities to continue undisturbed and a blind refusal to contemplate the moral and ethical issues behind late-term abortion. That so many in the media still seek to stifle such a discussion is nothing less than a disgrace.