There. As the case against the Philadelphia abortion doctor accused of gruesome acts of murder in his filthy clinic goes to the jury this week, I have at last mentioned his name in my column.
Have I previously been complicit in the "media blackout" that the conservative New York Post thundered about in an April 11 editorial?
"Much of our press corps skews to one side on abortion," wrote the Post. "So even though what Gosnell is charged with is closer to infanticide — an unlicensed abortionist profiting mightily by killing the newborn babies of poor, minority women — somehow it's not news."
Well, it wasn't news to the New York Post, evidently. This indignant rant marked the first time the rascally tabloid had even mentioned Gosnell's name, according to the Nexis database.
Have I been among those who "can't handle anything critical of abortion" identified by the conservative Washington Times in an editorial that same day, decrying lack of coverage of the trial that began March 18? Have I been one of those lefties in the press who have preferred to "shut their eyes and close their ears," as the Times said, rather than report on the crimes of which Gosnell stands accused?
Not really. Though as Kevin Drum of Mother Jones points out, the Washington Times provided only glancing coverage of the trial itself while spilling most of its ink flogging the liberal-media conspiracy angle. And other right-wing news sources and pundits have been similarly late to the game, howling about poor coverage of a story they'd barely been covering themselves.
Truth is, until this eruption of opportunistic umbrage I'd forgotten about Gosnell, whose sickening indictment in early 2011 had been covered by CNN, NPR, Slate, Newsweek, the Nation, and had been mentioned in passing in the Tribune.
In the interest of space and out of consideration for younger or more sensitive readers I'll keep the summary short:
Gosnell, 72, is charged with running what amounted to a squalid abattoir where he performed late-term abortions and severed the spines or otherwise killed outside-the-womb fetuses who showed signs of being able to survive.
He's charged with first-degree murder in four such alleged incidents and with third-degree murder in the death of a patient who allegedly received a fatal overdose of anesthesia from Gosnell's poorly trained staff.
I don't mean to minimize the disturbing nature of these incidents and other stories out of Gosnell's clinic that are not part of the remaining charges against him.
But Gosnell is not the face of abortion in America, as opponents of abortion rights are suggesting. He is the face of illegal abortion in America.
NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue blasted Gosnell as "a dangerous predator." Dayle Steinberg, head of Planned Parenthood in Southeastern Pennsylvania, referred to the allegations as "criminal, horrendous acts (that) should be appropriately punished."
And while the nature and description of his crimes does, fair enough, invite reflection, conversation and debate about the legality and morality of the 1 percent of abortions performed late in pregnancy, it also invites reflection, conversation and debate about what abortion will be like if the ongoing effort to harass safe, legal clinics out of existence succeeds.
The bigger story in abortion these days is the campaign by abortion-rights foes to impose targeted regulation of abortion providers — so called TRAP laws — that drive clinics out of business by forcing them to comply with unrealistic and medically unnecessary requirements.
This attempt to force abortion back underground will inevitably lead women to delay making a decision about abortion — 90 percent are now performed in the first trimester of pregnancy — and to seek out quacks and butchers operating in unsanitary conditions.
Kermit Gosnell — there, I used his full name again — is a symptom of our inability to normalize abortion in a way that encourages medically sound regulatory practices and access to the sorts of safe, low-cost providers who would have driven his ilk out of business years ago.
Those who wish the media were making more of him, are, in their way, making more of him themselves.
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