Monday, January 24, 2011

Safe, Legal and Rare

The State of Pennsylvania finally shut down a horrific "clinic" and arrested a doctor for performing illegal abortions under medically unsound conditions, leading to the deaths of at least two women and several viable infants who were allegedly born alive and then killed with scissors.

The State ignored complaints and did not properly inspect the facility for years. The doctor, Kermit Gosnell, was not even an obstetrician/gynecologist. He employed unqualified, untrained (and possibly underage) assistants who, under his direction, performed medical procedures without licenses.

How did he get away with it?  Why did women keep coming to him for abortions?  For one, he worked cheap. Poor women on medical assistance did not have access to abortions in legitimate medical facilities, because Pennsylvania law does not allow taxpayer funds to be used for abortions. They had to pay out of pocket.

For another, he was willing to perform abortions far later than the law allows. He even told some women that their pregnancy was less advanced than it really was.

The legal authorities finally performed their responsibility and shut down this illegal operation and arrested Gosnell, as they should have done years ago.

Why was this horror show able to thrive in Pennsylvania?  Perhaps for the same reason that rum-running flourished under Prohibition.  Studies have shown that abortion rates are relatively similar in countries which outlaw the procedure as they are in countries which allow it.  The most effective way to reduce the number of abortions isn't to make them less available or more onerous, but to empower women to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place and to increase support for pregnant women.

Abortion should be safe, legal and rare. We should work to teach girls how their bodies work and not feed them lies like "you can't get pregnant if you don't enjoy the sex" and "abortion causes breast cancer". Girls who are ignorant and taught to be subservient to males are much more likely to be coerced into sex (as shown by the high rate of teenage pregnancy in school districts with abstinence-only sex education programs). They are also more likely to ignore the signs that they are pregnant (leading to a whole abhorrent reality show).

We should work to make the alternatives to abortion more attractive. We should strengthen open adoption laws. Right now, only a couple of states will uphold an adoption if the birth mother changes her mind and decides she wants her baby back. This discourages adoptions where the birth mother is included in the baby's extended family, which has the effect of discouraging young women from going through with a pregnancy if they are not prepared to be mothers. Many young women who choose abortion have expressed an unwillingness to give their baby to strangers.  We should also avoid treating unwed mothers like pariahs, unless you would rather punish them for having sex than save the lives of their unborn children.

Stop picketing clinics and harassing doctors, unless you want to see the return of back-alley abortion mills like the one in Pennsylvania and the one in Indiana that killed Becky Bell.

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