Can we agree that THIS is wrong?

gosnell powersThis seems like a good way to ease back into blogging after a long absence.  Planned Parenthood of Delaware faces “allegations of unsafe and unsanitary conditions” as witnesses report a failure to wear gloves, use of unsterilized instruments, and unclean surfaces.  This April 9 story ran on ABC’s local Action News program in Philadelphia.  What you probably haven’t seen on your local news stations, however, are the stories of “Infant beheadings. Severed baby feet in jars. A child screaming after it was delivered alive during an abortion procedure.”  In her USA Today piece today entitled “We’ve forgotten what belongs on Page One,” Kirsten Powers explains that “Since the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell began March 18, there has been precious little coverage of the case that should be on every news show and front page.”

If ungloved hands and unsterilized instruments count as news, then certainly so should these macabre accounts:

NBC-10 Philadelphia reported that, Stephen Massof, a former Gosnell worker, "described how he snipped the spinal cords of babies, calling it, ‘literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body." One former worker, Adrienne Moton, testified that Gosnell taught her his "snipping" technique to use on infants born alive.

Massof, who, like other witnesses, has himself pleaded guilty to serious crimes, testified "It would rain fetuses. Fetuses and blood all over the place." Here is the headline the Associated Press put on a story about his testimony that he saw 100 babies born and then snipped: "Staffer describes chaos at PA abortion clinic."

"Chaos" isn’t really the story here. Butchering babies that were already born and were older than the state’s 24-week limit for abortions is the story. There is a reason the late Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan called this procedure infanticide.

Planned Parenthood recently claimed that the possibility of infants surviving late-term abortions was "highly unusual." The Gosnell case suggests otherwise.

There’s much worse compiled at HotAir.  And yet, Powers reports, “none of the news shows on the three major national television networks has mentioned the Gosnell trial in the last three months.”  Even during the original trial, The Washington Post did not publish original reporting, and The New York Times ran only one original story on the trial’s first day, says Powers.  That story appeared on page A-17.

The reason for the silence seems obvious:  it renders indefensible an issue that, for ideologues, must be defended.  I ask only this:  It is indefensible, isn’t it?  “On this,” Charles Krauthammer said today,

“I would think there would be unanimity in the country, and the reason that there is resistance, against either outlawing or heavily regulating it is because the pro-choice people imagine that any regulation, at any level, at any kind, is the beginning of the end of abortion rights. I think there is room for a national consensus on this.”


Tim Kowal

Tim Kowal is a husband, father, and attorney in Orange County, California, Vice President of the Orange County Federalist Society, commissioner on the OC Human Relations Commission, and Treasurer of Huntington Beach Tomorrow. The views expressed on this blog are his own. You can follow this blog via RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. Email is welcome at timkowal at


  1. Welcome back, Tim! To answer your question, Yes this is horrible. I’m close to someone born at about that stage of development; she turns 50 in a couple weeks. Our first “baby pictures ” were sonograms from that age, maybe earlier.

    I’m also horrified that my state legislature is in the process of passing a personhood bill defining life to start at fertilization. This could possibly render common forms of birth control illegal. I realize that as a Catholic you find that untroubling, but I want my daughters to have those options as well as very early abortions. I LIKE the end result of Roe even if the legal reasoning is shaky.

    • The obstetrical community is scared spitless of this. Even if they don’t perform abortions, or object to abortions, they are required to make referrals. But if they make a referral, and the fetus is a person, they could hold some criminal liability. Unless they don’t because it’s unconstitutional. Nobody really knows what to do.

      • From the reading of the post, I thought you were talking about multiple stories of one incident, this is two different stories, though. Just an editorial note.

        I am generally very skeptical of witness reports that are both very sensational and coming from someone under multiple indictments (or the threat of such). You’re looking at capital murder as a legitimate charge for the star witness, who is no longer under a capital murder charge. I recognize in criminal proceedings that this can actually be a just set of outcomes, and it’s not even entirely outside the realm of probability.

        I do wholeheartedly agree that yes, this is wrong, if it occurred as claimed. Both Delaware and Pennsylvania should have better auditing of any medical facility. This… this should not slip through cracks.

      • The personhood bill is absolutely unconstitutional*

        My guess of what will happen is that the law will be given an injunction and not enforced while the courts determine constitutionality. The law would probably be found unconstitutional.

        What this shows to me is that there are large segments of the country that are still opposed to any aspect of modernity by tooth and nail. We are nearly 50 years away from the Griswald decision and a large segment is still fighting tooth and nail against birth control.

        • Look a little deeper.
          A large portion of our society is willing to institute pro-rape policies to avoid demographic armageddon. (oh, not /violent/ rape… oh, no, not that. that would be… unseemly. )

          people who speak up against “marital rape” laws are aiding and abetting…

        • I think “modernity” does a lot of work here. And accusing people who disagree with you of simply fighting “modernity by tooth and nail” is a good way to get no one on your side who doesn’t already agree with you. It’s also a good way to turn off people who might agree with you but dislike what they see as baiting entire segments of the population as simply “anti-modern” (where modern = good). In fact, it’s the sort of claim that becomes a rallying cry for your opponents, another reason to resist, in their equally charged words, “the condescending liberal elitists.”

    • … when I hear something like this … “girls should be able to have very early abortions”… I find myself wondering… what if they don’t know that they’re pregnant until later?

  2. If the allegations are true, or even close to true, it is indeed wrong. Very wrong. I can imagine slightly-more-charitable rationales for their actions then, “They’re monsters!” but nothing that would ultimately justify such behavior, especially over prolonged periods, once stepping back from the situation and reassessing the course of actions taken.

    Personally, I’m not particularly interested in discussing what the news media is doing or not doing for two reasons:
    1.) The various news media outlets have so many interests outside of reporting the news that I’m not really all that surprised.
    2.) More importantly, I fear getting into an argument over which side the media is more unfairly biased towards will dilute the far more important conversation that needs to be had here.

    And welcome back, Tim.

    • This is an important conversation, one that must be sustained over a longer period of time than the lifespan of a single story. But if most participants rely on the media for information to meaningfully participate in that sustained conversation, and if the media refuses to report this information, then the conversation is doomed.

      • I thought the Gosnell story was pretty well covered. I hadn’t heard of the Delaware story until now. I am a believer in media bias, though this one can be attributed to “We recently covered a story like this one.”

        Of course, if it were a more politically convenient story, two incidents (or series of incidents) might be more likely to be considered a pattern and thus more worthy of coverage rather than redundancy and not so worthy of coverage. Hard to say.

        • From

          Politico‘s search engine pops out 165 results on Trayvon Martin (local crime story in Florida), 94 stories on Komen, 233 on Sandra Fluke and 866 on Todd Akin.

          Guess how many stories Politico has published on Gosnell.

          Did you guess zero? You win!

          This was in response to Sarah Kliff insisting that she didn’t cover it for WaPo because it was only a “local” story. This is one of the gentler rebukes I’ve seen to Ms. Kliff.

          Given Will’s and Patrick’s comments, I regret the attempt to juxtapose the Delaware Planned Parenthood story. The idea was to demonstrate that the media is willing to “get tough” with Planned Parenthood so long as it can kept in context of the “women’s health” meme, but when the story invites criticism of abortion policy, it’s shut off. For Maybe I’m rusty, but that point apparently didn’t come across.

          At any rate, I can’t agree that “we already covered a similar story” is a viable excuse here.

          • Re-reading the quoted passage, only one of those appears to be a “local” story. Here’s a better list from Jim Geraghty (I get his Morning Jolt emails, not sure if it’s somewhere online): “Trayvon Martin, the Cambridge Police arresting Henry Louis Gates, O. J. Simpson, the Unibomber, Jeffrey Dahmer, Casey Anthony, D. B. Cooper, Bernie Madoff, Son of Sam, JonBenet Ramsey, Andrea Yates, David Koresh & the Waco compound, Amy Fischer . . . Heck, all of the gun massacres that drive our periodic discussions of gun laws are technically “local crime” stories. You can argue about the importance of all of the crime stories listed above, but the point is that a lot of “local crime stories” become big national stories.”

          • I had to admit I had some trouble figuring out where you were going with the Delware Planned Parenthood angle. It looked more like you were trying to lump them together.

          • FWIW, I agree “it’s a local story” is a total copout.

            George Tiller wasn’t a local story, neither was that.

          • The idea was to demonstrate that the media is willing to “get tough” with Planned Parenthood so long as it can kept in context of the “women’s health” meme, but when the story invites criticism of abortion policy, it’s shut off.

            I got it, Tim, it just took me a re-read. And I more or less agree with this point. The yearly march on Washington for the RvW anniversary also gets under-covered.

            It’s a fair point.

            (See, this is your fault for being a dutiful parent instead of keeping your blogging skills sharp.)

          • Trayvon Martin – (deleted -tk)

            The Cambridge Police arresting Henry Louis Gates – Slow news day, mildly famous person, slight connection to the POTUS

            O. J. Simpson – Fame

            the Unibomber – Weirdness + Props (letters) to show on TV

            Jeffrey Dahmer + Son of Sam – Again, the media doesn’t cover every serial killer.

            Casey Anthony, JonBenet Ramsey, Andrea Yates, Amy Fischer – Pretty Young White Girl always draws ratings

            D. B. Cooper – Is the right really so desperate to pull out stories from the 70’s?

            Bernie Madoff – Connections to famous people and an easier way to “put a face” on the financial crisis than CDO’s and credit default swaps.

            David Koresh & the Waco compound – Sorry, the ATF sending f’ing tanks into a building is a valid national story.

      • Tim,

        What conversation is the important one?

        The one about doctors killing babies who were very much born alive?
        Or the one about what the media is doing about it?

        I agree that the former is an important conversation to have on a number of levels. The latter? Not so much. Only insofar as how it relates to our ability or inability to have the first conversation. If people want to get into a bunch of mud slinging about what media outlet is more biased and in which direction and who is really in the bag for which politician or corporate interest, we’ve diluted ourselves from what is really important. So, yes, there is an importance to the second question, but the resulting conversation is likely to be fruitless, at least if it happens in the typical arenas that conversations about the new media tend to happen in.

    • I think there’s a boy-who-cried-Wolfism aspect to this as well.

      Having spent time around — and listening to — anti-abortion activsts, there is an awful lot of grisly stories that have no basis in actual fact. (And even more that sort of do, but only because medicine itself is a rather grisly business at times. My recent foot surgery would make for some particularly stomach churning imagery, I am sure).

      Finally stumbling upon a grisely story that DOES appear to have a basis in fact, it’s generally hard to tease out from the noise.

      I vaguely recall reading about this awhile back and thinking “it sounds like a zillion other things I’ve heard claimed, all of which turned out to be BS. It’s probably BS, and if it’s not, it appears it’s being investigated and it’s not like I live there.”

      I have an acquaintance — a conspiracy theoriest of the first order. I tune it out, regularly, the things he says about government and politics. The conspiracies of silence, of cover-up, of Machievellian power mongers — where once I might have investigated them, I’ve long since learned that whatever nugget of fact is at the core of his latest rant, it is 95% drooling rhetoric and overblown imagery and general excessive exuberance.

      To put it bluntly, where he to stumble upon a real conspiracy — my innate response would be disbelief and skepticism, simply because he’s been screaming the sky is falling due to alien mind-control rays for years.

      I suspect that is not a small part of the small scale response to this. Having been told — and I have been PERSONALLY told this — that such things happen in every Planned Parenthood office across the country (up to and — I am not kidding — including those that don’t perform abortions at all), hearing that it has happened in another on the far side of the country is met with skepticism. They’ve never been right yet, but they’ve always been loud and grisley and it sounds like all the things they’ve been wrong about before.

      If it turns out that have, for once, actually found something worth getting upset about — well, it appears to be being dealt with by the authorities. Followed by a “And no, that doesn’t validate the things you’ve always been saying because you’ve always been wrong before. I won at roullette once, but that doesn’t mean the house doesn’t have an edge”.

      • +1 to this. I’ve gotten in so many arguments with pro-life absolutists who’s every third post is a colorful description of late term abortions (sometimes with pictures) that I’m immune to claims about the butcher shop in ever abortion clinic.

  3. Yes. Yes it is wrong. Sadly not even the medical profession is immune from corruption.

  4. It’s wrong, but it might not lead to the conclusions you’re assuming (which is presumably that abortion clinics should be outlawed entirely). Pennsylvania isn’t exactly a state with loose restrictions on abortions.

    • Out of curiosity, is there any way to legislate against stuff like this without limiting legitimate abortion practices or is this like gun control where any law being passed is the nose of the camel to taking guns away from hunters?

      • I think it’s entirely possible to legislate against stuff of this nature, while making legitimate abortion practices easier at the same time. I think the problem is that you try to squeeze out legitimate providers which leads to more cases like this one.

          • For late-term abortions? It seems so. The law there is that anything after 24 weeks is illegal, and (according to Frieddersdorf) after 20 weeks is difficult to obtain. So Gosnell was effectively running a black-market operation.

          • So five months is when it becomes difficult and six months it becomes illegal.

            So if I said that this could have been avoided if there were fewer laws regulating and otherwise limiting a Constitutional right to abortion in Pennsylvania, would that be one of the conclusions I could reasonably reach?

          • Also, if there were fewer people out to murder or excuse the murder of abortionists, there’d likely be more and better providers available.

      • That would be strange, given how stringent abortion laws actually are in most of the country. And despite there being (currently) a fairly bright line in the sand on legality, a number of states are pushing to make those laws far more restrictive than are Constitutionally permissive.

        Not to mention, of course, the end-run methods that are designed not to outlaw abortions so much as prevent abortion clinics from legally existing. (Generally through ridiculous regulatory requirements).

        It’s rather hard to compare to gun control, insofar as gun control is relatively unrestricted with a hugely powerful lobby working to keep it that way. Abortion is heavily restricted, generally right up (or close to) the Constitutional limit with a powerful lobby and an entire party (and at least a third of another) hemming it in left and right. It’s not like any of the gun control legislation being proposed anywhere amounts to a de facto ban on gun ownership, wherein I can think of at least one state proposing exactly that on abortion.

        Furthermore, as it appears these people are prosecuted — what would further laws actually change? There does not seem to be a “this is legal” defense being applied here.

        • That would be strange, given how stringent abortion laws actually are in most of the country.

          Did this happen in one of the parts of the country with the stringent laws or in one of the parts of the country that respects the rights of women to control their own sexual destinies in accordance with the Constitution?

          • Bit of both. Pennsyltucky is one of the states which was running a law about sticking medical instruments up women’s cunts before letting them have an abortion
            I don’t think it’s passed yet.

          • It’s less about stringent laws (or lack thereof) and funding for audit, iff’n you ask me.

            If you want stringent laws, and you don’t pay for audit, you get scofflaws. Just spitballing – and wild opinion warning, here – it seems to me that the more stringent you make the law, and the less you audit it, the more egregious the violations are.

            Because once you cross the line, it gets easier to cross it again, and again. Rationalization comes into play, here.

          • You mean the part where what they are accused of is illegal and they are being prosecuted?

            I’m not following your logic — I’m obviously misunderstanding something, because what I’m getting it “Their laws on murder must be lax, because a murder happened”.

            Which I know isn’t your point, but that’s what I keep getting. Can you clarify? It appears PA — which is not the most restrictive but certainly not the least — had a clinic performing illegal medical acts, and is thus being prosecuted for it.

            Acts which are not, I don’t believe, legal anywhere. (Partial birth abortion is, under some circumstances in some states. And the procedure can be very upsetting indeed, but so is open-heart surgery. Medicine is often messy).

            So I’m not sure what you’re getting at.

          • I’m not following your logic — I’m obviously misunderstanding something, because what I’m getting it “Their laws on murder must be lax, because a murder happened”.

            Well, take into account the timeframe over which these excesses took place. We’re not talking about a particularly bad afternoon or even a particularly bad weekend. We’re not talking about “a murder” as much as “a policy”.

            Does that change the dynamic at all?

            (Perhaps now would not be the best time to assure everyone that I fully support the right of women to abort their babies, up to and including the moment of crowning, for reasons as trivial as eye color selection without government interference but… well, I’m hoping to avoid questions about any deep dark conspiracy on my part to keep women chained to beds for 8 1/2 months forcing them to carry parasites to term.)

          • Serial killers often work over many years. Embezzlers do the same. Extortionists, smugglers, kidnappers, pedophiles. Is there some point where we need to make their crimes double plus illegal that’ll help fix it?

          • It seems that the fact that Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell had a license to do some of the legal things that he did which provided some amount of cover for the illegal things.

            Is there a better way to review licenses? Get out there and make sure that the places that have these licenses on the wall are not abusing the privileges that have been granted to them by this license?

          • Serious question.

            Did you think Dr. Kevorkian’s practices meant that we should make more laws to more extensively review doctors?

          • Not at all. I fully support the right to doctor-assisted suicide. I believe that the records show that most juries found Dr. Kevorkian to be innocent of whatever crime he’d been accused of.

            I don’t know that the jury will reach a similar conclusion about Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.

            But, for the sake of argument, I’ll agree that if Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell is found innocent then that should be read as a signal that he requires about as much medical oversight as Dr. K required.

            I’m wondering what it will signal if Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell is found guilty.

          • It seems that the fact that Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell had a license to do some of the legal things that he did which provided some amount of cover for the illegal things.
            Okay, that gets even more into crazy logic land. “This man could do legal things, and did do legal things, so that hid his illegal things!”.

            As noted, this is true of embezzeling accountants, coaches who rape their students, pedophile Boy Scoutmasters and priests, and well — practically anyone who committed a crime. They were doing legal stuff AND illegal stuff. At the same time.

            Is there a better way to review licenses? Get out there and make sure that the places that have these licenses on the wall are not abusing the privileges that have been granted to them by this license?
            You mean other than the routine certications, inspections, and such? I’m sure if we had a federal official standing over every Doctor’s shoulder, notebook in hand, this might not happen. Seems a bit…Big Government to me, though.

            See, again, we come up against this: The Doctor is accused of doing illegal things. He was — presumably — quite aware of which things he did were legal and which were illegal. One would guess that he took steps to hide the illegal things he did, like any successful criminal.

            I keep replacing “abortion doctor” and “abortion” with similar crimes — like “Store Clerk” and “selling weed” and I keep stumbling upon this logic — it still boils down to “We made it illegal and he got away with it until he was caught! Can’t we make it more illegal? Or station a cop there 24/7?”

            Well yes, that’s how crime works. People break the law. Sometimes they’re caught right away. Sometimes they’re never caught. Sometimes nobody even knows a crime was committed. Short of slapping a 24/7 camera on everybody in America, or having everyone assigned their own government law monitor to follow them around, that’s life.

      • He’s on trial for seven counts of first-degree murder. What further legislation is required?

        • Maybe there are laws or regulations that could have prevented this from happening in the first place.

          • You mean the laws that made it illegal?

            Should there be more laws, specifying it’s double-illegal? Laws that make it illegal to violate laws? More illegal, I mean?

            I don’t get what you mean by “further laws”. Illegal act is illegal. If it violated even MORE laws, it wouldn’t be anymore illegal. (it’s hard to get worse than first degree murder, really).

            What sort of regulation did you have in mind? They’d have to be pretty special — cause let’s face it, as far as medical practices go you don’t get more regulated and scrutinized than abortion. Even the PP clinics that DON’T perform abortion tend to be under an eagle’s eye, lest they do so by accident. (That was light sarcasm. The implication being it appears a lot of people don’t understand that while PP performs abotions, that’s not all they do).

          • In Delaware, the piece Tim linked specifically reports that there was a failure of oversight because the state doen’t have the resources to monitor adequately. In Pennsylvania, as the Friedersdorf piece I linked says, there was also a huge failure of oversight. He doesn’t speculate on the reasons for that (in fact, he says that it’s an area where real reporting is required.)

          • So something like “dedicated funding to make sure that Planned Parenthood operations are acting in accordance with the law” would be something that they could do at the state level to prevent something like this? People whose job it was to inspect these places and make sure that everything is on the up and up… would that be seen as an acceptable solution?

            My intuition, of course, is that such an act would be seen as an obvious attempt on the part of anti-choicers who hate women trying to find a loophole to the Constitution that would allow them to shut down Planned Parenthoods. But I’m uncharitable like that.

          • Maybe instead of making more ridiculous and very hard to enforce or intrusive laws like transvaginal ultrasounds, they can just make sure abortion providers are A. not harassed by people and B. performing legal and safe procedures.

          • Or remove the stigma against abortions, so that they can be performed in regular hospitals by regular doctors, that are already highly regulated and inspected. I know, that’s crazy talk.

          • Or remove the stigma against abortions, so that they can be performed in regular hospitals by regular doctors, that are already highly regulated and inspected. I know, that’s crazy talk.

            No, that’s Canadian talk. True North, strong and free.

          • I don’t know about removing the stigma, actually. The thought of mid-term abortion makes me queasy and the thought of late-term abortion makes me very, very angry (note: I’m not talking about the whole rape, incest, mother’s life in danger, what if the kid has some genetic flaw exceptions which are, of course, perfectly awesome reasons to terminate a pregnancy).

            I don’t know that my negative feelings toward late-term abortion can be unbundled from my negative feelings toward many of the things Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell was accused of.

            I mean, maybe my feelings about infanticide are little more than a “stigma” that I have. I’d need it explained to me why, seriously, that’s totally different. Because, seriously, it’s not obvious to me at all.

          • I said “abortion” and you proceeded to infanticide. That’s an instance of the stigma I’m talking about.

          • Dude, I already said that I needed to be re-educated on this. Pointing out that, look!, I need to be re-educated doesn’t help with my re-education.

            Again: I need it explained to me why, seriously, that’s totally different. Because, seriously, it’s not obvious to me at all.

          • Mike’s remove-stigma suggestion was made as a possible way to pursue a policy aim you articulate (namely, “laws or regulations that could have prevented this from happening in the first place”).

            So in

            Or remove the stigma against abortions, so that they can be performed in regular hospitals by regular doctors, that are already highly regulated and inspected.

            you could focus on

            [Blank], so that they [abortions] can be performed in regular hospitals by regular doctors, that are already highly regulated and inspected.

            …where you can fill in the blank with something that a) doesn’t make you uncomfortable but b) works to achieve that aim.

            If you wanted to.

          • Oh, if we’re just saying “maybe we could overcome this if we just changed the culture”, let me agree with you wholeheartedly.

            If the culture were different, we’d never have gotten into this mess in the first place.

          • It seems like you’re in a position to be part of that culture change and declining, but that’s beside the point.

            The point is to bring abortions back into regular hospitals as a way to address your own request. I don’t know if removing stigma or changing culture is necessary for that, so no, I’m not saying ‘Things could be different if the culture were different.’ I’m saying, ‘Get on board with wanting things (policy) to be different in that way, because that change would address your stated desire.’ You could certainly continue to feel how you want about whichever abortions whether or not they were performed in hospitals. But those procedures would be tightly monitored and regulated, which is what you say you want. So get on board.

            Even if the culture would have to change for it to happen, you can still say you want it to happen.

          • I’m saying that the stigma is the horse and the getting it into hospitals is the cart.

            By saying that we could solve this problem by putting it into hospitals is to make a suggestion that strikes me as completely doing things in the wrong order. For example, I don’t think that my problem with late-term abortions is that we’re not doing enough of them and telling me that, seriously, I can be part of this culture change if only I would will myself to think about things differently is to… um. I’m sure that I must be misunderstanding your argument.

          • That could be, but then you’re saying it. I’m not saying one way or the other, and there could be a way around that. Committing yourself to the policy change is not committing yourself to the culture change, it’s committing yourself to looking for a way to achieve the policy change without the culture change, if that’s what you need. A way to start that would be to get on board and say, “I don’t want a culture shift of this-or-that, but I do think it would be good to put this policy in place. Maybe there’s a way to do it while preserving the culture we want to preserve. Maybe not, but if there is, I’m for doing that.”

          • Put the late-term part aside, just for a moment. Gosner was killing and maiming women though incompetence and negligence, infecting them though lack of basic hygiene, risking their lives through use of untrained staff, and, if you’d like to to get back to it now, performing illegally late-term abortions. And, his clientele was predominantly poor women, because cutting all those corners allowed him to work cheaply. All of this is of a piece: the disregard for anything but profit generally found in criminal enterprises. In fact, in Pennsylvania, abortion clinics aren’t regulated in the same ways as hospitals, precisely because abortion isn’t considered a medical procedure, it’s considered the next thing to a crime. Not just late-term abortions: all of them.

            Do you want to end this, and have abortions (all of them) regulated like appendectomies? Move them back into hospitals, or consider abortion clinics to be hospitals.

          • That reminds me of an argument that says that this wasn’t a problem of too little regulation but too much. Why shouldn’t I come to a conclusion that says that if only he had been inspected more often than never at all that he would have been shut down earlier?

            I mean, this clinic wasn’t found in North Dakota or in Jesusland.

          • And if his place had been regulated as a medical facility, that would have happened. Where do we disagree?

          • I don’t know that we enforced the regulations that we had against his place when it was operating for the 17 years. I don’t know that saying “we should regulate it like a medical facilty” 17 years ago would have changed anything.

          • It likely wouldn’t have, which is why moving abortion into mainstream medical facilities and giving women access to the full slate of health care options regardless of income is something might have changed it. Namely, it might have changed there being a reason for places like this to have existed.

  5. It’s worth noting that investigation of the Delaware facility found no evidence of unsanitary conditions. If the allegations were true, it would be a medical issue and people would lose their licenses (and open themselves up to lawsuits).

    I’m not quite sure why you lumped it with the other stuff. It seems… manipulative.

  6. I really don’t get why the right is seizing on this as their latest obsession. Surely the lesson is not one they’d want to get behind; namely: this is what we’re going to see much more of when abortion is outlawed.

  7. Here is an interesting piece exploring the coverage or lack thereof:

    The author makes a great point that this story and its coverage is not comparable to the Trayvon Martin story and that coverage. As he explains it, Martin’s story became a big deal when the investigation seemed inadequate. It wasn’t that a black teen was shot; it was that a black teen was shot and the police seemingly didn’t care. Once the police and the prosecutors seemed to start caring, the media storm died down.

    If Gosnell hadn’t been arrested and prosecuted, you’d see a bigger story. If the charges were downplayed because, hey, it was just unwanted infants he was killing, you’d see a bigger story. But, once the crimes became known, things proceeded as they should have: an investigation was done, the suspects were arrested, and now they stand trial. A big story would have mostly led to people battling to see just who could be the most outraged. Really, the story isn’t divisive enough and that is what the news media thrives on more than anything. As outrageous as the crimes committed in this case are, they’re not the type that are going to drive ratings on the news. Otherwise, they would be. Even conservative outlets didn’t run with the story until very recently, with the story being as much about how the story has unfolded as much as it was about what happened in that clinic.

    The real conversation that ought to come out of this is one that is already happening here… which is what, if anything, can be done to prevent this. The problem is, the two major proposals, are going to put both sides in uncomfortable situations, as neither side’s preferred route will be effective.
    What we need is better but more regulated and monitored access… full stop.
    Pro-lifers won’t go for better access; Pro-choicers won’t go for more regulation and monitoring. So, for the time being, everyone will avoid having that conversation in public because all the usual bumper stickers and slogans don’t apply.

    • Do not mention the Trayvon Martin story here again. Given the history of that particular topic on this sub-blog, I will not attempt a response to mischaracterizations of the facts of that story. I will not even explain why they are mischaracterizations. I will simply delete the comments without ceremony.

      • Tim,

        I apologize if the TM reference brings you undue ugliness. However, it should be noted that you made the initial reference through ones of your sources above, so it only seemed fair to respond to the analogy.


        I don’t know that there is “media malpractice” afoot. That presumes some sort of professional obligation to report each and every story. The commercial news media has no such obligation. They are businesses, plain and simple. And it is fair for them to pick stories based on what is best for business. As I see it, there is not false reporting going on or denials; the media is simply focused on other stories. And I think it is very much for the reason I’ve described above rather than some necessarily nefarious plot to kill babies.

    • Regarding the media malpractice angle of this story — which in my view makes any intellectual honest conversation about abortion impossible — I began a comment but have decided to turn it into a post. I hope to close the gap between postings. Lucky for me, I’ve set a low bar recently…

    • (deleted – tk)

      In case it hasn’t been made above, regulation and monitoring have been used as ways to shut down clinics. Hell some pro-life people have plainly said that is the goal of regulation and monitoring.

      • I think we can let Planned Parenthood craft the “monitoring” regime, and still wind up with no murders on our hands.

        • Well, much like educations reformers don’t much listen to unionized teachers ideas for reform because they don’t help lead to the end goals of many education reformers (ie. sending public money to private hands), anti-abortion advocates don’t much listen to what Planned Parenthood would think is the correct level of oversight because PP isn’t going to answer in a way that helps limit the demand for abortion on the supply side, which is the point of many of the anti-abortion laws passed since 2010.

      • Greg,

        While I don’t doubt that is true, just because people we might disagree with use an act to do something we don’t want to see done doesn’t mean the act itself is wrong.

        Proper regulation and monitoring of abortion clinics should be the norm, as I assume it is for other medical facilities. Without thinking through every odd and end, I don’t see why it’d need to be any more or less stringently regulated and monitored than any other medical facility.

        • As far as I understand, they are monitored like any other facility that offers similar levels of medical procedures.

          In fact, if anything they are often over regulated. As noted upthread, a common tactic is to require hospital or ER-levels of regulation, oversight, and certification — which is time consuming and expensive — on Planned Parenthood facilities or abortion clinics that do not offer anything other than first trimester abortions — requiring a facility that does minor outpatient surgery to adhere to requirements written for ICU’s and inpatient surgery clinics is using regulation as a weapon.

          • Well then, something went wrong here. Either standards were inadequate or the monitoring body was (or both). Fortunately, those are both correctable.

          • For what it’s worth, a big part of the story in this case is that this clinic went uninspected for 17 years. According to the grand jury report, the reason for the lack of inspection was that Gov. Ridge (who was a pro-choice Republican elected very much because of his strong support from the vehemently pro-choice Republicans in the wealthy Philly suburbs) didn’t want to do anything that would be perceived as interfering with abortion rights, and so he put an end to the annual inspections his pro-life Democratic predecessor had implemented.

            Abortion politics were huge in PA at the time, but the dynamic was often flipped from the rest of the country, frequently pitting socially conservative Democrats against socially liberal Republicans. That was what happened with the Ridge administration, which was succeeded by another pro-choice GOP administration, and then eventually by the strongly pro-choice Democratic Rendell Administration.

            It’s inconvenient to the pro-choice narrative (which I generally support), but in this case it really does seem that pro-choice policy played a major role in enabling the doctor’s actions.

            Oh, and Tim – one does not “ease” back into blogging with a post on abortion.

    • Seriously, Tim, if you bring up a topic, don’t get all ban-hammer-y when others respond to that specific topic. That response, coupled with the fact that I heard about the abortion doctor story in Canada, makes me think there isn’t much to the media malpractice angle.

      • Oops, that was a response to Tim’s comment dated April 12 at 6:57 pm. I lose the internet today.

      • If I had things my way, we’d have an honest discussion about it. It’s not my way. With the discretion I have left, I’ve imposed this rule. If you still have a burning need to address it, you have my email address.

        • I don’t feel the need to address it, but if you wanted to remove it from the discussion (which is fine with me) you should have taken it off the table rather than saying “I will not attempt a response to mischaracterizations of the facts of that story. I will not even explain why they are mischaracterizations. I will simply delete the comments without ceremony.” That kinda sounds like, ‘I’m right about this, but I’m not willing to discuss it.’

          But, I’m getting into the weeds here. I’ll drop it.

      • Tim probably shouldn’t have mentioned it up with his aversion to talking about it, but I think he is absolutely right to shut it down early. Little good has come from it at The League. Too many people working off too many premises.

  8. Abortion is the 2nd Amendment of the Left. (Or the 2nd Amendment is the Abortion of the Right. Whatever.)

    • No one is excusing this, or saying it’s the price we have to pay for freedom, or applauding the fact that the state of Pennsylvania under-regulates abortion clinics.

      • applauding the fact that the state of Pennsylvania under-regulates abortion clinics

        How about disputing whether it’s a fact? Or arguing that poisonous attitudes in society at large are also culprits here?

        You know what we need? More education. Hey, if these are made illegal, it’ll only go underground and things will be even worse.

    • It’s a good analogy, Jay. Gun rights advocates have learned to condemn criminals who commit murder. Abortion advocates fear a trap if they do the same thing and thereby fall into a different trap.

      This horrific story has always seemed to me to be nothing but a rallying flag for the all-important “safe” part of “safe, rare, and legal.” It demonstrates the necessity of “legal,” because if as demonstrated here, women are willing to endure the kinds of conditions present in Dr. Gosnell’s “clinic” to get the abortions, then there’s going to be no stopping it at all. As to how to make abortions “rare” — increasing access to contraception and sex education seem to be the best ways to do that in the long run. At least to me, but what do I know?

      But the pro-choice movement would do itself all kinds of favors to condemn Dr. Gosnell.

          • I don’t know if the silence is deafening is all that great an argument. ( unless of course we’re talking Dr. Who villains).
            Has the NRA condemned gun stores will with hundreds of violations enough? It seems to easy to bash a group for not condemning often and loudly enough. Its not a useless argument but it seems sort of weak.

          • Whether or not babies were killed, I think we all agree that that’s something that nobody should be expected to support so expecting them to get in line to denounce it is a pretty shady tactic.

            Now let’s talk about how the opposition is likely to use this as an opportunity to pass laws limiting liberty.

          • ummm whatever. Again “they have denounced loud and long enough” does not seem like the strongest argument to me. It is so easy to make, to be mostly pointless. Has Reason screamed enough about fetal personhood bills? Beats me, but i’m sure if i wanted to i could accuse them of not yelling loud enough.

            What is this “Liberty” thing you keep mentioning?

          • Are, say, pro-choice people contributing large amounts of money to his defense fund?

            (If you feel like deleting that, Tim, I understand.)

          • I googled “Gosnell Defense Fund” and found this:


            A few days after Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s request to be represented by a city-funded public defender was denied by Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes—after all, it’s estimated Gosnell earned $1.8 million a year and owns almost 20 properties—he showed up to his preliminary arraignment yesterday afternoon flanked by big-wig attorney Jack McMahon.

            I can’t find whether he attempted to set up a defense fund, though.

            I don’t know whether it’s fair of me to assume that since I can’t find evidence of him doing so as evidence of him not doing so.

          • Since the purpose of a defense fund is for people to make contributions to it, I think it’s fair to assume that he didn’t create one secretly.

          • There was lots of condemnation back in 2011 when the story broke, as
            this Salon piece points out: it links directly to CBS, NPR, even The Nation. The furor is about why it hasn’t become a front-page story again, now that he’s on trial. Perhaps because, horrific as it is, it’s old news?

          • Well Mike you have to agree it would irresponsible of us not to speculate on the shady web of collusion that has kept this out of the news now.

          • I think that the official answer to that, Greg, is “it’s not that interesting a story and, besides, everybody is covering it.”

          • No, it’s definitely a conspiracy. The Bosses learned their lesson in 2011, and they’re cracked down.

      • I’m genuinely curious since i haven’t followed this story. Has the pro-choice movement been defending this guy?

  9. Coming back to the last point of this: Why isn’t this front page news everywhere?

    It’s not that interesting. The story, boiled down to it’s essence, is “back alley abortions unsafe, gory, and dangerous. Doctor doing them arrested and on trial”.

    That is…local news. To counteract: “Why is there so little coverage” I ask “Why is there so much“.

    Because it’s about abortion. If it wasn’t about abortion, if it was about — say — a plastic surgeon doing illegal plastic surgery or cash-only plastic surgery — nobody would care. (In fact, I’m sure there are probably dozens of such stories from the last few years that you’ve never head of, because you don’t get the local papers of whatever jurisdiction someone was doing dangerous, cut-rate surgery in).

    It is equally as valid to claim the case is only covered as widely as it is is because of “abortion idealogy” as to claim it is being silenced because of it.

    • This, basically. Murder coverage rarely belongs in the national news. I mean, look at what Tim Called out as being covered by WaPo despite being non-local. Casey Anthony? Amy Fischer? Can anyone here honestly say that the American newsreading public is better off having read those stories? Terrorists, I get. Serial Killers and Celebrities, I begrudgingly accept as newsworthy. But the man or woman who buys the Washington Post or the New York times is not looking for sensationalistic murder coverage. They’ve got the National Enquirer for that sort of thing.

      • Without the Amy Fisher story, we would have been deprived of the comedic possibilities of the name Buttafuoco.

        • ” But the man or woman who buys the Washington Post or the New York times is not looking for sensationalistic murder coverage.”

          wasn’t there some shooting in connecticut recently? i think they covered it once or twice.


          “It’s not that interesting.”

          i get that the sports bar is aflame with passions and humors as your armies of the mind contend against one another and all that. and the current line about how this is the greatest media coverup in human history is laughable, to put it kindly. but saying “fetus parts in jars is simply not of interest, salacious or otherwise” is ridiculous to the ultra-max.

          it may be prurient, or at least awfully gross, but dude was hella stabbing babies with scissors. there are many things this story is, but uninteresting is not one of them.

  10. Welcome back Tim. I’ve missed you.

    {{Now I’ll read the post.}}

  11. I realize this is probably too late to add to the conversation, but as Sarah Posner points out in her article (, the pro-choice and feminist movement did plenty of talking about the case when it first came to light about two years ago or so, including plenty of excoriations that guess what, Gosnell should be brought to justice. Unlike with the case of other people connected to political footballs. Of course, I’m not shocked that Tim, Rod Dreher, the National Review, or others weren’t paying much attention to what Katha Pollitt and Michelle Goldberg were writing about reproductive health.

    However, contrary to popular opinion, there was no conspiracy. There were no notes passed around New York and Washington DC that said, “don’t cover Gosnell! He’ll ruin our plans!” The real reason, of course, why MSNBC, CNN, and whatever “left-wing” news organizations weren’t writing about this or spending six hours a day on the story and atoning for our sins as it seems the right-wing blogsophere believes every liberal should be doing, is because to be blunt, the victims in this case were largely poor woman victims of color, many of whom were also immigrants. When do major news organizations ever carry stories about what happens in capitalism’s Sacrifice Zones? Ya’ know what the right should’ve done to make CNN care about this story? Send a cute white girl in her twenties or a celebrity to that clinic.

    All this stories shows to me, as others pointed out above, is that we should remove the stigma around abortion and fund it via Medicaid (or in my perfect world, universal health care) so women without other resources can obtain abortions before they’re in their third trimester.

    • I don’t doubt it may have been covered as a “women’s health” story, the way Newsweek covered the Bush tax cuts as a savings to the rich. But it was apparently not covered as a partial birth abortion story, the way Newsweek never covered the tax cuts as a progressive tax policy — though both angles are equally true, the media just picks the angle they’ll run with.

      • Was this a partial birth abortion story? It sounds like a murder story.

        • Here’s The Nation, NPR, and CBS reporting it, with no punches pulled, as infanticide.

          The Nation:

          It is not legal to slit the necks of born-alive fetuses at any age, much less at thirty weeks or even more.


          Gosnell is charged with eight counts of murder, including seven babies and one woman who died on the table. According to the report, he delivered babies alive, then severed their spines.


          Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor facing eight counts of murder in the deaths of a female patient and seven babies, appeared confused as he listened to the charges against him at his arraignment Thursday.

          Gosnell, who was not represented by an attorney, understood that he was to be charged in the case of a 41-year-old woman who died during an allegedly botched abortion at his offices.

          However, the 69-year-old did not seem to understand the other seven counts until he was told that they related to live-birth viable babies that he allegedly killed using scissors, reports CBS affiliate KYW.

          Actually, in her USA Today editorial, Powers gives her game away:

          Since the murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell began March 18, there has been precious little coverage of the case that should be on every news show and front page.

          And then she does her Lexis-Nexis search, conveniently omitting all of the reporting that pre-dates the trial. Typical partisan BS; it’s shocking how many people have fallen for it.

  12. Awesome to have you back, Tim.

    But HOLY CRAP. This is the worst story I’ve seen in a long time. I am dumbfounded that this hasn’t been a bigger story, and as much as I don’t want your theories to be right I have to admit they certainly sound right.


  13. It is so very sad when people talk about how “unconstitutional” it would be to put limits on abortion. This country is suppose to protect the people, but no body really thinks that an innocent baby should be included in that protection. The medical field defines life and death by a heart beat, when there is a heart beat at less than 5 weeks old, and that heart beat is purposely stopped, its murder. Doesn’t really matter what stage of the pregnancy it is. It’s all inhumane. I don’t speak about this from a bias position, I took the morning after pill in college and I am still haunted by that decision. The sad thing was, no body at the clinic even gave me options, offered to talk to me or explain what I was doing…they just gave me a pill to treat the symptom and sent me on my way. We have become numb to horror just because the government allows it. It’s sad that most people are going to be upset by the fact that the place wasn’t properly sterile, but the ending result is still a dead a baby, which is what the true horror is.

  14. Let’s not forget that the state had received complaints about this guy for TWO YEARS and had done nothing.

    • It seems clear to me that an independent investigation of the oversight group is in order. Not a witch hunt, but an honest look at how this was able to go on for so long.

      • True dat!

        Given the description of the unsanitary nature of the environment described in the article I read, I’m surprised the guy isn’t up on numerous health code violations, failure to dispose of bio waste property and didn’t infect employees/co-workers/clients with diseases.

        • I don’t mean to suggest this is what you intended to say, but there seems to be an underlying logic here that would say that Al Capone’s real sin was tax evasion. Yes, the authorities put him away on evasion, just like authorities could do with Gosnell on “health code violations.”

          And this gets at the significance of the media’s evasion of this story. Everyone knows it’s not significant as a “health code violations” story. Its real importance — its tendency to spark a discussion about partial-birth abortion procedures similar to what Obama has voted for (, about whether we’ve been desensitized to the killing of human fetuses and babies to the point where we regard them only as implicating potential “health code violations,” etc. — would come to the very uncomfortable fore if you’re pro-choice.

          • There are many more ethically troubling (and surprisingly effective!) treatments than partial birth abortions.
            I can understand someone’s desire to protect a potential human life (teh innocent)…
            But if we’re going to focus on medical crimes, lets keep in mind that the unborn are not nearly all of the innocents who suffer.

          • Tim,

            Not at all. But if they were inspecting properly, I assume they would have seen evidence of murder. They got Capone on tax evasion because he hid his other crimes so well. Gosnell doesn’t seem to have done that. All someone had to do was look and they would have seen enough to lock him up. They didn’t look at all, it appears.

  15. Can someone help me out here? I’ve been scanning the coverage on this that I can find and I have yet to determine exactly how this all came to light. Was it due to an inquest on the death of that 41-year old patient? Was it the surprise inspection resulting from complaints?

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