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Men Like This Remind Us of the Importance of Safe, Legal Abortion

Men Like This Remind Us of the Importance of Safe, Legal Abortion

You may have heard the horrific story of Kermit Gosnell, the “doctor” in Philadelphia, PA who offered abortion services to desperate low-income patients who had nowhere else to turn. His patients were primarily women of color, and they had run out of options for managing unwanted pregnancies, turning to Gosnell’s clinic although they knew it was dangerous because it was the only option available, thanks to the restrictions on abortion that made it hard for them to access safe and legal abortion in a compassionate environment.

The house of horrors that existed under Gosnell’s roof sounds like the stuff of nightmares: he didn’t just perform abortions but infanticide, and infamously nonsterile tools in filthy rooms with indifferent staff. One of the women who went to Gosnell for help died as a result of getting an excess of anesthesia, compounded by Gosnell’s staff not calling emergency services soon enough, and obstacles in the clinic that made it hard for an ambulance crew to evacuate the patient.

His clinic was a living nightmare, so far below standard that while he attempted to join the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which lists safe practitioners who adhere to their standards, they refused membership on the basis of the conditions at his clinic. Members of the community and fellow health care providers had complained about his clinic and no action was taken, thus endangering his victims for years before the clinic was finally shut down and he was sent to prison for his crimes.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, Doctor Steven Brigham has been endangering patients for years, but it was only very recently that one of his patients made the news, triggering an investigation into his activities that may lead to stripping him of his medical license.  In a report at Reproductive Health Reality Check, documentation indicates that abortion providers had been complaining about Brigham for two decades, asking for an investigation and intervention to get him out of the operating room. Brigham’s long history of problems includes the loss of his medical license in several states, along with investigations into his clinics, but he hasn’t been fully called to account yet.

This latest event might prove the tipping point, but it’s a dangerous one. Anti-choice proponents point to people like Gosnell and Brigham in order to formulate an argument against allowing patients to access abortion services. That’s actually the wrong conclusion. These men are compelling evidence in the case for freely accessible abortion provided in safe, compassionate environments by people who are trained, confident and comfortable in what they are doing.

The more abortion is driven underground, the more it endangers people with unwanted pregnancies. The issue of unwanted pregnancies doesn’t stop with abortion bans or complex laws making it extremely difficult to access abortion care, it just goes further and further underground. While wealthier women may have resources they can use to access safe abortion care if they need it, for millions of lower class women, especially immigrants and women of color with limited resources, men like Gosnell and Brigham prove to be the only option.

These men run practices that thrive on the restriction of abortion, exploiting their patients and taking advantage of their fear and vulnerability. Banning abortion won’t make them go away. Making abortion safe, accessible and fully legal, on the other hand, will drive them out of business because women will be able to seek care from ethical abortion providers who belong to organizations like the NAF and take the care of their patients seriously.

Such providers can’t practice in an environment hostile to abortion services and the people who need them, creating a stalemate where the practices that thrive are the ones that operate on the margins of the law, to the danger of the women who need to use them.

Let’s make sure that the Kermit Gosnells and Steve Brighams of this world go out of business. We owe it to women today, and girls tomorrow.

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Photo credit: Demion.

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162 comments

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5:31PM PDT on Jul 30, 2013

Noted.

10:25AM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA ROTFLMAO OfCOURSE thats why they are passing those lawas HAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAA Good lord. Thats why I come here…..for the comedic relief.

4:44AM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Men like these are why states are passing more regulations to keep the industry safe for all women.

3:00PM PDT on Jul 27, 2013

History does repeat itself, we're going back to the '60's with the abortion battle again. Guess the protesting of the "bra-burning" & NOW women was all for naught.

11:50AM PDT on Jul 25, 2013

Thanks.

3:48AM PDT on Jul 25, 2013

I think Karen H. said it best, especially her last paragraph quoting the bible for all of you evangelical, right-wing christian types who love to throw the bible in everyone's face. You only want to follow those choice little verses that you think make your point and then forget the rest of it when it's not convenient.

11:49PM PDT on Jul 24, 2013

Jennifer S is so right. Women do NOT have the magical physical ability to prevent pregnancy. They have contraception like the pill, IUD or diaphragm, none of which is 100% effective. Alan H’s solution “Don’t get pregnant” is ridiculous. It’s like saying, “Don’t catch a cold.” You can use all the prevention you can find and still find yourself with a fever, sneezing and coughing. And, Alan, I’m not comparing pregnancy to catching a cold; I’m making an analogy, if you understand what that is.
The solution “Don’t have sex” is equally ridiculous. Do YOU deny yourself the pleasure of making love to your partner?
The majority of women who have abortions are NOT using it as birth control. It’s cheaper and easier to buy a condom (if a man will use it) or go to a clinic (if there’s one available) and get a method. An abortion can be painful, emotionally devastating, expensive, and make small-minded people think you’re the worst person on the face of the earth.
Since the Religious Right keeps yelling the Bible says abortion is murder, maybe we should wait until the baby’s born. After all, Psalm 137:9 says: “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.”

9:38AM PDT on Jul 23, 2013

Thanks

9:26AM PDT on Jul 23, 2013

Evelyn M., I really DO NOT care if you choose to live in some fantasy world where men control you like his cattle but I DO care that YOU in YOUR fantasy world try to make laws based on your fantasy. I can ASSURE you that not enough of your money is being spent on any woman's health care for you to complain about. In fact most PRO-CHOICE people would be glad to have THEIR tax dollars now being handed over to the 2% and to war and death spent on AMERICANS in NEED. You are right about one thing, there are people waiting to adopt that nice newborn baby with NOTHING wrong with it but when the child gets older and in great need they disappear.They also will spend a great deal of money and travel to other countries to adopt leaving those "American" children still in need. Stay in your fantasy world but keep your stupid laws there as well.

http://www.adoptamericanetwork.org/waiting-children/

Despite the fact that we live in one of the most fortunate nations in the world, there are 130,000 children in the U.S. foster care system waiting to be adopted. Adopt America Network specializes in finding homes for the most difficult-to-place children.

http://www.adoptuskids.org/meet-the-children

Each year more than 20,000 children age out of the foster care without being adopted. Today there are 104,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted ranging in age from less than a year old to 21.

9:52PM PDT on Jul 22, 2013

Oddly, I have never heard stories of women performing these sort of abortions (although it may have happened). I suspect they are more likely to provide abortion-inducing substances. Just a thought. Anyway, all women should have free access to birth control. That's the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies before they happen. As for the rest, Plan B, a quick and inexpensive route to adoption (for both sides) and ultimately, safe medical abortions should be available to anyone who wants/needs them. The alternative is unwanted, mistreated, neglected, abandoned or downright abused children. Take your pick.

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