Dr Kermit Gosnell, if the allegations made against him are to be believed, should be locked up for life.
He apparently spent decades performing illegal abortions, with inadequate equipment and untrained staff, causing untold harm to hundreds of women and a number of deaths.
No doubt many will miss the point, but as PZ points out, the case of Kermit Gosnell is entirely unconnected to the legal, authorised pregnancy terminations available in medical clinics across the country.
Based on infection and fatality rates, legal abortion is “safer for the mother than carrying a pregnancy to term“. Over a million abortions are performed each year in the US, the overwhelming majority of which happen safely, accompanied by appropriate counselling and follow-up care.
The only connection that these procedures have to the kind of fucked up shit Kermit Gosnell is accused of is that, if the anti-choice fanatics (who are jumping all over this case) get their way and have all abortion outlawed, many more women will feel that going to some dodgy back-alley hack with no official regulation is their only choice.
They want a woman to have to choose between bringing an unwanted baby to term, with all the risks and complications that involves – even if, right now, it’s just an indistinct cluster of cells – or seriously risking her health with a dangerous quack who could just be after her money and not have any real idea how to use those sharp things he proposes to shove into her vagina.
There’s a lot to object to about this story, but claiming Gosnell’s actions as the inevitable result of a society that allows safe legal abortions isn’t it.
Update: Wow. PZ got another email about this, from a woman making anti-abortion arguments that were visceral, emotive, and sub-rational. He’s not impressed.
And rightly so. The fact that it looks icky shouldn’t be our ultimate guide to the ethics of a procedure like abortion. It’s not hard to make all kinds of surgery look pretty disgusting, whether or not it involves a fœtus. The thing that matters to us should be the facts, not a gut response based on how our brains are programmed to instinctively react to certain unpleasant sights.
And anyway, for someone like PZ, it’s not even that grisly a spectacle:
I’m a biologist. I’ve guillotined rats. I’ve held eyeballs in my hand and peeled them apart with a pair of scissors. I’ve used a wet-vac to clean up a lake of half-clotted blood from an exsanguinated dog. I’ve opened bodies and watched the intestines do their slow writhing dance, I’ve been elbow deep in blood, I’ve split open cats and stabbed them in the heart with a perfusion needle. I’ve extracted the brains of mice…with a pair of pliers. I’ve scooped brains out of buckets, I’ve counted dendrites in slices cut from the brains of dead babies.
You want to make me back down by trying to inspire revulsion with dead baby pictures? I look at them unflinchingly and see meat. And meat does not frighten me.
Sleep well, everyone.