Infanticide and the infantilisation of women.
By James Taranto
"How safe is abortion?" asks the frequently-asked-questions page of the Potomac Family Planning Center, a regional chain of four abortion stores in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. The answer: "Very safe. Our doctors are gynecologists who have years of experience specializing in abortion care. It's unusual to have even minor problems."
Tell that to Desiree Hawkins. Kirsten Powers reported in USA Today recently on what happened when Hawkins, now 20, visited Potomac's Hagerstown, Md., shop as a pregnant 16-year-old:
The clinic told her she was 19 weeks pregnant and referred her to [Philadelphia abortionist Kermit] Gosnell. When she recently retrieved her file in anticipation of testifying [at Gosnell's murder trial], she was shocked that her sonogram showed she had in fact been at 21 weeks, which meant she would have been 23 weeks pregnant by the time Gosnell performed the abortion. "I was so overwhelmed and hurt," said Hawkins. "If I had known I was 23 weeks, I would have (chosen) adoption."
She also would have avoided the trauma visited upon her by Gosnell. Hawkins described the licensed medical professional as laughing at her during the procedure as she cried and begged him to stop because of the pain. "Stop being a baby," he said.
"Stop being a baby." You know what we do to babies around here.
This story reminded us of the first item we wrote about the Gosnell case, back in January 2011 when he had just been indicted. We were commenting on a post by "science blogger" P.Z. Myers, who was trying to argue that the charges against Gosnell do not in any way implicate the abortion industry more broadly. We wrote that Myers had gone off the rails with the following passage:
[Gosnell] has also been charged with the murders of seven babies, and there I have to disagree. There has to be a difference in degree, or the mothers of those infants would also have to be charged as collaborators (they were all willing volunteers for this medical procedure, and they knew the result would be termination of their pregnancy).
Our response was an emotional one: We were shocked and appalled that Myers was willing to step over the line, slender though it may be, that separates pro-abortion extremism from endorsement of outright murder. We stand behind that emotion, but it seems to us his argument also is worthy of some careful analysis.
For one thing, Myers deserves some credit for his candor. Most abortion advocates, when discussing the Gosnell case, simply refuse to acknowledge that he is charged with murdering children after birth. Instead they stress (as Myers also did) his alleged crimes against women. One suspects that they share Myers's insouciance about infanticide but are politically shrewd enough to be evasive about it.
Myers's argument is also revealing of the deeper logic of America's regime of abortion on demand. His key assertion is that in order for Gosnell to be held to account for murder, "the mothers of those infants would also have to be charged as collaborators." As a matter of legal analysis this statement is demonstrably false, and was when Myers wrote it. None of the mothers were charged in the case.
But Myers didn't really mean to make a legal argument. His point was that if Gosnell was guilty of murder, the mothers who contracted for his services were morally guilty. This logic is facially plausible, but in due course we shall refute it. What's interesting about it, though, is the structure of the argument.
Myers rejects the predicate (Gosnell's actions constituted murder) because it leads to a conclusion he considers unacceptable (that women seeking abortions were morally culpable). Another way of expressing this is to say that for Myers, the mothers' innocence--the innocence of any woman seeking an abortion--is an a priori assumption. His objection to charging Gosnell with murder is a conclusion that follows from the premise that the women are, by definition, innocent.
All beliefs and intuitions about whether and when abortion is moral or immoral amount to a priori assumptions, although one hopes such assumptions would be informed by an informed understanding of reproductive biology. If you do not think abortion is immoral, it follows that a woman who seeks or obtains an abortion is not morally culpable. To put it more precisely, it follows that seeking or obtaining an abortion cannot be a sufficient condition for moral culpability.
But Myers is making a far broader claim. He is asserting that a woman's seeking an abortion is sufficient to establish that she is not culpable for any consequences that proximately result from her "choice," including the deliberate killing, after birth, of the baby she sought to abort. Myers is, in other words, positing that women who seek abortions are categorically free of culpability.
That is the sort of moral immunity we normally extend to persons who lack the capacity to understand either the consequences of their actions or the difference between right and wrong: very young children, extreme mental defectives and, more controversially, the severely mentally ill. In absolving women seeking abortions of all moral culpability, then, Myers is infantalizing them. Yet even Myers's dubious premise, that women seeking abortions are innocent by definition, does not lead to his monstrous conclusion, that Gosnell is innocent.
It is among the many peculiarities of contemporary feminism that when carried to its logical extreme, as Myers has so ably done here, it ends up making blanket claims of feminine innocence. In truth, many women who seek or obtain abortions do not see themselves this way at all. Their own moral intuition tells them they are doing something grievously wrong, and the abortion industry seeks to persuade them otherwise.
In Desiree Hawkins's case, according to her account, that was accomplished in part by misinforming her about the baby's gestational age. In our lengthy reflection on the Gosnell case last month, we quoted this passage from an article about abortion-clinic workers who changed their minds:
Linda Couri, who worked at Planned Parenthood, described how she responded when a teenager considering abortion asked her the following question: "If I have an abortion, am I killing my baby?"
Couri said: " 'Kill' is a strong word, and so is 'baby.' You're terminating the product of conception."
But Couri was haunted by the girl's question and troubled about her [own] response. She began questioning whether providing abortions was really moral. She recalls asking her supervisor if she had done the right thing. The supervisor did not deny that abortion was killing a baby but told her that in the teenager's case, abortion was a "necessary evil." Struck by the use of the word "evil," Couri continued to question her position at the clinic. Eventually, she left, and now she is a pro-life speaker.
It's the Bizzaro World Garden of Eden: Eve walks in with full knowledge of good and evil, and the snake tries to disabuse her of it with doubletalk.
The antiabortion group Live Action today released the results of the fourth undercover video in its series of investigations of late-term abortionists. This time the target is a high-profile one: LeRoy Carhart, whose name will forever be linked with partial-birth abortion--the barely prenatal version of Kermit Gosnell's "snipping"--through a pair of Supreme Court cases: Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), which struck down a Nebraska ban on the abortion method, and Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), which upheld a federal ban. (The difference was owing not to some jurisdictional subtlety but to Samuel Alito.)
In the Live Action investigations, two women late in pregnancy visited Carhart's Nebraska clinic, where they falsely claimed to be seeking abortions:
Both investigators asked if Carhart's abortions "hurt" the babies. He replied by arbitrarily inventing his own parameters for when a fetus feels pain. "so, after about two to three weeks after birth . . . I think then they have pretty good knowledge of pain, but before that I'm not so sure that they do." In fact, there is wide consensus in the scientific community that babies feel acute pain by 20 weeks of gestation. . . .
Carhart blatantly lied to both our investigators about the danger of his abortions, coercing his patients into a risky procedure. "I've never had to send anybody to the hospital." Less than a year before, his staff were forced to call 911 after he injured a woman in an abortion.Our second investigator asked Carhart if she should call an ambulance if she goes into labor in her hotel room. With callous disregard for her safety, Carhart replied, ". . . don't call 911 . . . you're gonna be within 10 minutes or 15 minutes of a clinic, just get in the car. Call me."
LeRoy Carhart delivered false medical information to his patients, rendering them unable to give informed consent to a dangerous abortion procedure.
"Coercing" is too strong, for the putative patients did not actually go through with the abortions, which they never wanted to begin with. And Carhart, unlike some of Live Action's other targets, did tell them that it is illegal to kill an infant after birth (while also assuring them that his procedures posed no possibility of a live birth).
The stories of Desiree Hawkins, Linda Couri and (notwithstanding being partly fictional) Live Action's investigations refute both the pro-abortion myth that abortion on demand is all about "choice" and Myers's claim that women seeking abortions are innocent.
In truth, many women have abortions despite their moral intuitions thanks to the abortion industry's deceptive, high-pressure sales tactics. Gosnell may be an outlier, but he's nowhere near as much of one as the pro-abortion side would like you to think.