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Monday, January 24, 2011



The important question is whether the State of Pennsylvania actually changed the regulation requiring inspection of abortion cinics, or whether they just created a culture in which it was acceptable to ignore the regulations and look the other way. While I have not seen any facts, my sense from the stories that have emerged in the news is the latter - the powers that be in Pennsylvania simply thumbed ther noses at the regulation. If this is the case, the legal accountability for the mass murder that ensued in this guy's clinic has to extend to the elected and unelected officials whose negligence (or willful non-compliance) allowed this to take place.

The hue and cry over how the Tucson shooter could have fallen through the cracks, even though there are no regulations that appear to have been violated that should have caught him, should pale in comparison to the uproar we should be hearing over how this man killed far more people unknown to local authorities who had a very clear mandate to keep on top of him.


My sense is that BillW is getting at the core of the problem while you, KB, are using a horrific example of what can happen to tacitly support those championing regulations that could actually inspire more Dr. Gosnells.

From what I have been able to glean from the snippets of stories on the Inquirer's web site, there is no evidence that "state officials" exercised anything even remotely akin to a "vigorous defense of late term abortion". The real problem here is that those officials did almost nothing.

You site the grand jury's conclusion inspections were halted for "political reasons" though there is no clarity as to exactly what that means. Was there concern that regulators themselves were or could become politicized regarding inspections of abortion clinics--that doctor/patient privacy guarantees might be violated for example? If so, the state certainly chose the wrong solution. But, that does not mean they did so for any nefarious reasons or out of a desire to promote abortions.

In fact, states walk a very fine line when trying to regulate abortion clinics "if" they try to appease both sides of an emotionally-, religiously- and intellectually-charged issue. And the result of following policies advocated by anti-choice forces can lead to exactly the kind of situation Gosnell exemplifies. This also from the Inquirer:

"Gosnell was known for performing abortions without questions and working on the cheap. Patients traveled from other states for his treatment.

Sadly, threats, protests, and even the murder of doctors who perform abortions have forced many good physicians out of the abortion business, leaving others to fill the void."

So what might we learn from the case of Dr. Gosnell? Certainly not that women who seak abortions or those working in agencies that regulate medical practices must "think through" abortion issues--that assertion smacks of condescension and is without merit. You KB and other anti-choice advocates are not the only people who take this issue seriously and strive to think it through. And perhaps the most we can learn from this specific case was also summed up be the Inquirer:

"This case raises a broader issue regarding how doctors with dubious histories are allowed to remain in practice. State medical boards are often slow to respond. Even when they do, the penalties often amount to little more than a wrist slap.

Federal and medical-industry databases do not contain full, complete, or publicly available records detailing physicians' backgrounds. That leaves patients at a loss to determine if a doctor has run into problems.

Allowing bad doctors to stay in practice undermines the quality of care and raises the costs for everyone. In an extreme case like Gosnell's, it may result in a patient's needless injury or death."



"Now we can see in grisly detail what no limits abortion looks like." True enough but that is not the story here. We are seeing what abortion with limits look like when government officials are allowed to ignore those limits when they personally do not agree with them.

In the bigger sense, we should be very concerned with the sheriff of Cook County, IL arbitrarily deciding not to evict people following court certified foreclosures, the sheriff of Pima County, AZ refusing to enforce the Immigration Act, and the regulatory agencies in Pennsylvania refusing to audit and take action regarding abortion clinics.

What good are limits, laws and regulations when those charged with enforcing them are allowed to choose which ones they agree with and which they don't for enforcement? How will abortion limits change anything when regulators with opposing views are allowed to ignore them without repercussion?



Right! Because what's really appalling here is not that a a doctor snipped a live infant's spinal cord in two. It's that someone dared to suggest that women who are planning on ending a life think the matter through beforehand!

You say this reeks of condescension. But it is not much different than the progressive view that teenagers ought to receive instructions on safe-sex. If we can assume that teens do not automatically think through the consequences of unsafe sex, then surely we cannot assume that they will automatically understand the consequences of abortion. Neither view is necessarily condescending.

Dr. Blanchard:
Thank you for writing this piece and for your defense of the unborn. This is, in my opinion, one of the finest pieces posted on this blog.


What I said Miranda is that it is condescending to assert women seeking abortions don't "think" about what they are doing and that society therefore must force them to do so. That implies they are all self-centered little simpletons who abort fetuses with the same sort of forethought as given to scheduling a pedicure. While a scant few may be that shallow, that is simply not the case for the vast majority who consult with others and agonize over their decision long before reaching a clinic and hardly need another 24 hours or whatever to "think it through".

As for Dr. Gosnell, I don't recall saying what he is accused of doing is not appalling. But I did imply--with the help of quotes from the Inquirer--that anti-choice policies and threats can help create "practitioners" like him. So when I "think" about the issue of abortion, I balance any positive effects a given restriction may have against negative consequences such as driving the practice underground--as before Roe v Wade.


A.I.: I would be very interested in seeing the statistics that you are basing your assertion off of.

It is true that you did not excuse Dr. Gosnell, but neither did you voice any sort of abhorrence to his behavior. Instead, you reserved your objections for the perfectly reasonable suggestion that people ought to think through a life and death decision before carrying it out.

In my view your assertion that "anti-choice" policies somehow create Dr. Gosnell is flawed.
They create him as much as anti-murder laws create hitmen.


Dr. Blanchard's argument that women should think through things thoroughly before considering an abortion is much like the argument that people should have the right to due process.

We understand the necessity of ensuring that juries take the time to consider a case thoroughly before handing out verdicts. The 14th amendment is not condescending, rather, it is prudent. So, I think, is asking women to think about what they do when the life of another human being is in their hands.

Ken Blanchard

A.I.: I can imagine a lot of reasons that public officials might fail to shut down a clinic that was maiming and killing women and babies. I can't imagine any "political reasons" other than a reluctance to shut down any abortion clinic. I guarantee you that will turn out to be the meaning of the innocuous phrase.

I do not presume to put myself in the position of a woman considering an abortion or even a public health official trying to decide whether to step in in such a case. I was speaking, as I think it clear from the context, of those who insist on a right to late term abortions. Those are the people who have to think it through.

Consider this scenario: an infant born premature is, at least after his or her head exits the birth canal, a legal person. To "snip" such a person is plain murder. Is there any doubt about that? Then what about a healthy fetus who, a few weeks later, has her skull crushed by forceps in utero? I know from experience that most of those who advocate a right to late term abortions won't talk about this. In assuming they haven't thought it through, I was being charitable.

Ken Blanchard

Miranda: thanks for your kind words about my post. Oddly enough, I agree with you.

As I said above, I wasn't thinking of a woman dealing with an unwanted pregnancy when I wrote about "thinking it through." However, contrary to what A.I. says, 24 hour waiting periods do not assume that women considering abortion are "self-centered little simpletons" anymore than a waiting period for a gun purchase assumes that prospective buyers are homicidal maniacs. Such legal devices assume only that people sometimes make decisions under pressure in haste. They are designed to facilitate deliberation. When Missouri was allowed to require such a waiting period for abortions, the number of abortions dropped significantly.

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