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Late-term abortion: Will the 'grisly' Philadelphia case change the debate?
A Philadelphia doctor charged with killing infants has reignited arguments surrounding reproductive rights
 
The West Philadelphia medical clinic where Kermit P. Gosnell worked (not pictured) has been described as a "house of horrors."
The West Philadelphia medical clinic where Kermit P. Gosnell worked (not pictured) has been described as a "house of horrors."
Corbis

Dr. Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia was charged on Wednesday with eight counts of murder for the deaths of one woman and seven infants. The doctor, who catered to minority and immigrant women and lost his medical license last year, is alleged to have induced the birth of seven infants, all in the sixth month of development or later, before severing their spines with scissors. Pennsylvania law prohibits abortion after 24 weeks. Prosecutors say Gosnell also kept fetuses in jars that lined his office and employed unqualified assistants, including a high-school student. The grisly case has raised a fresh round of questions about late-term abortions. Will it change the course of a perennially heated debate?

Pro-choice absolutists will face questions:  Some feminists believe that abortion should always be allowed late in pregnancy, says William Saletan in Slate. But while "it's one thing to preach these ideas in the lefty blogosphere," it's another to see them in practice. This "tale of gore and nihilism" should give pro-choicers cause to consider the limits of reproductive freedom — and decide whether they really want to support abortions at "28, 30, or 32 weeks."
"Kermit Gosnell late-term abortion scandal: How late is too late?"

The case is about murder, not abortion: Pro-life advocates are claiming that the Philadelphia case is a "vindication" of their stance on abortion, says PZ Myers at Science News. "But no one endorses bad medicine and unrestricted, unregulated, cowboy surgery like Gosnell practiced." If anything, this case argues for legal abortion. Gosnell's crimes, not his status as a doctor who performed abortions, "should be what generates public outrage."
"This is not a case about abortion"

This story highlights the economics of the issue: Gosnell "was a health-care provider of last resort" for many of the women he treated, says Belinda Luscombe at Time. These women came to him because they believed they'd run out of options; they were either "too young, or too far along in their pregnancies to be treated by the mainstream medical establishment." And the "low socioeconomic status of the complainants" may have played a role in the authorities' failure to act earlier.
"Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell's case is about poverty, not Roe v. Wade"

 

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