The unseemly Gosnell case
If the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell has taught us anything, it's that abortion is an ugly business.
As this is written, we don't yet know the fate of Gosnell, 72, who is on trial for killing four babies who allegedly were born alive. The jury began deliberations on Tuesday.
But we can say this: The Gosnell case is the abortion industry's worst nightmare.
From a grand jury report and witness testimony, the awful truth of late-term abortions is being laid bare.
Prosecutors said Gosnell performed late-term abortions by injecting a drug to stop the heart of the fetus. But once outside the womb, when the fetus jerked an arm, cried or drew breath, its spinal cord was cut with surgical scissors.
Jurors were told how Gosnell ignored both medical and sanitary standards, and his untrained and unsupervised staff administered large amounts of labor-inducing drugs, causing patients severe pain and making many prematurely deliver babies in chairs, on the floor and in the toilet.
Also, Gosnell reused plastic medical parts that were supposed to be tossed, as well as outdated drugs, according to prosecutors.
Gosnell's attorney acknowledged much of this, even that his client performed abortions beyond the state's legal limit of 24 weeks. But on the most serious charge -- murder -- he insisted prosecutors failed to provide proof positive that any of the four fetuses were born alive.
What allegedly occurred at Gosnell's abortion clinic would make any reasonable person recoil in horror.
But it has to be unsettling for abortion providers, as well. They likely are concerned that fallout from the Gosnell case could threaten their growth and continued profitability. (This doesn't even speak to the millions Gosnell made at his clinic over the years.) After all, abortion is big business to them.
Officials at Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider with 333,964 procedures in 2011-2012, have sought to separate themselves from Gosnell by characterizing him as a rogue practitioner.
They want people to believe that this sort of thing does not happen elsewhere. But how do they really know?
They argue against further restrictions on abortion, claiming tougher rules would drive more women to clinics like Gosnell's, places with unsanitary conditions and ill-trained staff.
But that argument is intended to distract. The fundamental issue is the taking of life, not whether the bedsheets were clean or the staff properly instructed.
The Gosnell jury may be out, but the case already has been made for tougher regulation of abortion in Pennsylvania and other states.
In a world after Roe v. Wade, it may be impossible to outlaw abortion entirely. But it should be severely restricted, with abortion providers held to the highest standards of health and safety.