Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell's recent indictment has sparked a campaign to further restrict late-term abortions. That's the wrong message to take from his crimes.
The Philadelphia Inquirer quotes Michael McMonagle of the Pro-Life Union of Southeastern Pennsylvania, who says Gosnell's arrest for the murder of a woman and several already-born infants "adds a sense of urgency and makes the issue tangible." Gosnell is also accused of performing abortions after Pennsylvania's 24-week deadline — McMonagle's group would like to roll that back to 16 weeks. He says he's "puzzled" by pro-choicers outrage at Gosnell: "Once you dehumanize the unborn child, what Gosnell is is just a logical extension of the so-called right to choose. Human rights begin when human life begins."
The idea that all abortion providers are just one step away (if that) from a blood-stained, fetal-feet-filled "house of horrors" is pretty much a fixture of anti-choice rhetoric, and it doesn't really deserve much more ink than we've already given it. Somewhat more worthy of debate — because it's more honest — is William Saletan's question: whether aborting fetuses after viability should be illegal. It's a question on which even some pro-choicers disagree, and it's worthy of consideration. Saletan initially posed it last week, and today he posts a series of important caveats, most pointed out by feminist writers: that Kermit Gosnell "doesn't represent abortion providers or the pro-choice movement," that most abortions are not late-term, and that many late-term abortions are necessary because the fetus has severe abnormalities. It's also worth reiterating that there's a distinction between the late-term abortions Gosnell reportedly performed and the instances wherein he allegedly fully delivered living infants and then killed them with scissors — no pro-choicers are advocating that the latter should be legal.