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Gosnell Trial Should Sound Alarm

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The Gosnell trial tells the story of everything that's dangerous about taking away access to abortion for women who are so desperate that they feel they have nowhere else to turn.

Let's start with Kermit Gosnell. What he did to women is reprehensible. The conditions in his clinic were horrific. No one should ever have to endure the kind of unethical, life-threatening treatment to which Gosnell routinely subjected women. It's also shocking that the state continued to ignore repeated complaints about his clinic. There is no question that Gosnell should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

We may never know why Gosnell preyed on women and put their lives at risk. But what we do know is why women would turn to someone like him instead of a reputable provider elsewhere: anti-choice politics have put safe, affordable, legal abortion care out of reach for many women.

Almost as soon as abortion became legal with the Roe v. Wade decision - which should have ended the days of back-alley abortions - anti-choice lawmakers restricted low-income women's access to comprehensive reproductive-health care by prohibiting the use of federal Medicaid funds for abortion services.

The effects of forcing poor women to scrape together hundreds or thousands of dollars to pay for an abortion have become crystal clear through the Gosnell horror story. Gosnell offered his services at a lower cost than was available at safe providers. And when it takes women months to save for an abortion, they may be forced to wait until they are later in pregnancy.

One woman said she turned to Gosnell because the anti-choice protesters outside Planned Parenthood were too intimidating. Anti-choice activists are known for their aggressive strategy of literally stalking women outside of clinics. Clearly, their tactics can force women to take desperate measures.

We'll only prevent women from facing this kind of desperation if we address the root causes and end barriers to abortion care.

States likes Pennsylvania show how excessive restrictions make it more difficult for women to get the care that they need - not more safe. In the past few decades, the number of abortion providers dwindled from 50 to just 13. There are no abortion providers between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, which are hours apart, with the vast majority of clinics concentrated in the southeastern corner of the state in Philadelphia.

This tragic story highlights what we ought to be talking about - improving women's access to safe, affordable, and legal abortion regardless of income or geography.

Instead, anti-choice activists are trying to exploit the situation by saying there is some vast pro-choice media black-out conspiracy. Except that reporters like Irin Carmon have soundly debunked this false claim.

The horrific conditions in Gosnell's clinic are an example of what happens to women and our basic dignity when abortion isn't available through safe and legal providers. It is why we fight every day.

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