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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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42 Responses

  1. Lynnsey
    Lynnsey January 20, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    I think it DOES say something about abortion, though…

    It says that restricting access to safe, legal abortion is not going to make it go away. Instead, it is going to force more women, especially poor women like those that this awful man preyed upon, to places like this. The accounts that I have read from this horrible place read like the accounts of women who have written about trying to get abortions prior to Roe v. Wade. While this situation is horrendous, it should be a wake up call to those who would deny contraceptives and legal abortions to women. The need for and desire to have abortions will always be there. Criminalizing it (instead of meaningful efforts to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies) will just lead to more situations like this.

  2. Florence
    Florence January 20, 2011 at 5:03 pm |

    It also says quite a bit about how important it is to give laws teeth. The laws were in place to prevent this from happening, but despite numerous complaints the state couldn’t or didn’t intervene. There’s got to be more going on here.

  3. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable January 20, 2011 at 5:17 pm |

    Thanks for writing this post. I’ve had anti-choice coworkers post articles about Kermit on facebook like it was a badge of how fucked up abortion is. No one with a moral conscience would agree with Kermit’s work – but I agree with Lynnsey. It’s reminiscent of pre-Roe v Wade days. If it were easy to access and affordable, this shit shouldn’t happen.

  4. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. January 20, 2011 at 5:34 pm |

    Yes, I often regulate other people lives on the basis of my feelings of ickiness. Which is why there are laws against chewing with your mouth open, deficating in public bathrooms, having high school reunions, eating dried cuddlefish, making jewelry commercials that imply there is a standard jewelry-for-sex mechanism, sneezing near me when you’ve got the flu, and calling children little princesses or little men before they can speak.

  5. Mary
    Mary January 20, 2011 at 5:35 pm |

    “I really wanted this baby but now it turns out that there’s a fetal abnormality incompatible with life, and if I continue this pregnancy I risk my own health and/or life to give birth to a baby that either will not live or will only live in extreme pain for a very short while.” Fun stuff like that.

    I doubt that very much. More like women with no access to health care, no birth control, too many kids, crushing poverty, drug addictions, prostitutes, etc. Women who *know* there is fetal abnormality would be under a doctors care. That’s not something you can simply guess. Women who get cheap, back alley, late term abortions need them, and that’s why this guy had a successful clinic for so long.

    “Can the conversation move forward?” Not until pro-choice advocates tell the real story, not play the disingenuous card of “fetal abnormality”. I very much agree this is a complex moral issue. Drag all the angles into the light and then we can work towards solutions.

  6. Lynnsey
    Lynnsey January 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm |

    @Kristen…That’s not nearly as effective as regulating other people’s lives based on your religious beliefs/superstitions. You should try that. ;)

  7. Think
    Think January 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm |

    The case is, at bottom, a comedy of horrors. The Grand Jury report is 281 pages. It is gory and insightful reading. One of the major issues it underscores is that all kinds of criminal behaviour can be undertaken against Black women–indeed, women of color–while the official and largely white health regulatory agencies turned their back and refused to prosecute this man (who had been operating in plain sight) for at least 30 years.

    It is not just a window into Roe. It is a window into the arrogance of doctors and the failure of a system to police what doctors do, the folks they hire, and the procedures they undertake.

    Americans, no matter what level of health care they seek, should now ask themselves what are the qualifications for the person who is doing XYZ to them? Does anyone know? Is the doctor’s office obligated to tell a patient that the person giving you a sedative has no certification and is not properly trained?

    The people who were in chrage of the health regulatory agencies in Philadelphia should be charged with murder as well. Taxpayers, in the end, will foot the legal bill for these incompetant individuals at the helm of the pertinant agencies.

    Moreover, that other women employees of this doctor could, day after day, engage in these barbaric practices against other women speaks volumes to the notion that people will do anything for money–even a little money.

    And I might add this: what is to be gained in the end if a woman who want to terminate a late pregnancy ends up dead, or malformed? Why not just give the baby up for adoption?

    Furthermore, what was the purpose of this doctor cutting off the feet of these babies as string them in jars? Or storing the remains in boxes, etc.?

    The report says that when white women came to his clinic that they were provided with a different level of care by this doctor than the women of color. It is there in black and white for anyone who has time to read the report.

    At the end of the day women of color have the right to make decesions about their own body; however, when you are poor and Black and nobody gives a damn about you–even a Black doctor–then the outcomes are not that great at all.

    The official health establishment knew about this and decided to do nothing about him. One wonders could he have operated the same clinic in a largely white neighborhood with a largely white female patient base and gotten away with it?

  8. Ismone
    Ismone January 20, 2011 at 5:56 pm |

    It really bothers me that Saletan doesn’t seem to ever talk to women about abortion. Because if he did, if he just shut the hell up and listened, maybe he would learn something.

    I had a miscarriage at ~8 weeks that was discovered at 13. At that time, the embryo was 2.18 cm long. I had a D&C with the best drugs (fentanyl) although I did stay awake. I didn’t have to use laminaria. Basically, I had the best medical care available.

    And it hurt like fucking hell. I don’t know what it is like for every other woman who gets an abortion or has a spontaneous miscarriage and gets a D&C, but for me, it was incredibly fucking painful. I wanted it to stop so badly, despite having a pretty strong buzz from the opiate I was on.

    Most women who get abortions don’t get put to sleep, they don’t get fentanyl, in fact, many don’t get any anesthetic at all. Many women who have miscarriages or abortions are highly aware of the stage of development of the embryo/zygote/fetus they are carrying.

    So the idea that women who get abortions wouldn’t think about the reality of the procedure, or would get them repeatedly just as casually as they would use a condom, is complete bullshit.

    And as some others have said about this article, it isn’t like childbirth is all that pretty, either.

    Yeah, Saletan, abortion is icky. So is being pregnant. So is giving birth. So are cervical biopsies.

    But it isn’t your fucking body. And you can’t even be bothered to talk to the other human beings who inhabit those bodies.

  9. Tony
    Tony January 20, 2011 at 6:03 pm |

    PrettyAmiable: Thanks for writing this post. I’ve had anti-choice coworkers post articles about Kermit on facebook like it was a badge of how fucked up abortion is. No one with a moral conscience would agree with Kermit’s work – but I agree with Lynnsey. It’s reminiscent of pre-Roe v Wade days. If it were easy to access and affordable, this shit shouldn’t happen.  (Quote this comment?)

    Your coworkers are unintentionally highlighting how atypical this is. Dr. Gosnell was arrested and charged with murder under applicable statutes. The point is that this stuff is not legal under Roe v. Wade, and it is not “abortion”. His prosecution shows that the laws work, the problem is in enforcement and catching someone like him earlier, Florence said.

    If Saletan wanted to be fair, he could have pointed out that the reaction to Dr. Gosnell’s case shows that even ardently anti-choice people, when confronted with the real thing of infanticide, react much differently and with much more outrage than when confronted with everyday abortion, despite their claims that the two are the same thing. If they were really consistent, they would feel no differently, yet they do. Saletan also could have double checked to see if any of the people he quoted was actually defending Dr. Gosnell; but of course if he had, he would have had to write a completely different article that actually responded to pro-choice arguments instead of strawmen arguments.

  10. Nahida
    Nahida January 20, 2011 at 6:07 pm |

    It’s times like these when everyone who is still anti-choice should go read The Girls Who Went Away.

  11. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin January 20, 2011 at 6:40 pm |

    And, by contrast, this is no different from the demonstrators who hold aborted fetuses in their hands for shock value, or a person who beat up a woman to prevent her from seeking an abortion that she very much wanted.

    The extremes do not define us.

  12. Tony
    Tony January 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm |

    PrettyAmiable: Thanks for writing this post. I’ve had anti-choice coworkers post articles about Kermit on facebook like it was a badge of how fucked up abortion is. No one with a moral conscience would agree with Kermit’s work – but I agree with Lynnsey. It’s reminiscent of pre-Roe v Wade days. If it were easy to access and affordable, this shit shouldn’t happen.  

    They’re unintentionally highlighting how atypical this is. The point is that this stuff is not legal under Roe v. Wade, and it is not “abortion”. Dr. Gosnell was arrested and charged with murder under applicable statutes.

    If Saletan wanted to be fair, he could have pointed out that the reaction to Dr. Gosnell’s case shows that even ardently anti-choice people, when confronted with the real thing of infanticide, react much differently than when confronted with everyday abortion, despite their claims that the two are the same thing. If they were really consistent, they would feel no differently, yet they do. Saletan also could have checked to see if any of the people he quoted was actually defending Dr. Gosnell; none of them were or would.

  13. karak
    karak January 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm |

    I want to know what the hell happened to these women that they walked into a clinic described as “filthy” and went through a late-trimester abortion by someone clearly not qualified to use a band-aid. The fear and desperation that these women must have experienced is painful to even think about. And those who were killed or disabled have no real recourse–they sought out an illegal procedure.

    This event doesn’t somehow convince me third trimester abortion is bad. It convinces me that greater access needs to be allowed for first and second trimester, and that there is a great need for LEGITIMATE third trimester abortion doctors.

    Note that anti-abortion activists often use the line that they’re “thinking about the women”, but I don’t see even a throwaway line in this piece acknowledging the horror that these women went through (unless you count the one where he mentions it killed one of them).

    This is a horrorshow on so many, many levels.

  14. Kyra
    Kyra January 20, 2011 at 7:57 pm |

    Killing a baby after it’s born and has taken breaths? Is not abortion.

    This. Baby out of uterus? Problem solved.

  15. notemily
    notemily January 21, 2011 at 12:21 am |

    I agree with Lynnsey @1. This is what happens when you stigmatize late-term abortion so much that people who practice it get murdered by terrorists: there’s a lack of safe, legal options for women who need late-term abortions. People like Gosnell can take advantage of that lack, because they know these women have nowhere else to go.

  16. Miranda
    Miranda January 21, 2011 at 12:37 am |

    I’d just like to take issue with the statements that birth and pregnancy are ‘pretty gross’ or ‘icky’. Painful, uncomfortable, strange, yes. Even undignified – although this is less a function of the experience itself than of the attitudes of those involved.

    The idea that the process of having a baby is something a bit disgusting that is best rushed through as quickly as possible is disempowering for women giving birth and demeans one of the most powerful things women can do. It also helps to encourage women to allow pregnancy and labour to be taken out of their hands and left in that of doctors who are often more interested in protecting their own liability than in the integrity and self-determination of the woman.

    I would draw a link with the idea that menstruation is something dirty and embarrassing that should be concealed and sanitised as much as possible.

  17. Miranda
    Miranda January 21, 2011 at 12:39 am |

    Just to add – I agree completely with your points regarding abortion. Clearly ickyness should not be an ethical criteria!

  18. Lady Catherine
    Lady Catherine January 21, 2011 at 1:15 am |

    To be completely honest: I am pro-life but I am also pro-choice. I personally think that getting an abortion for selfish reasons(read: for reasons not linked to health or emotional issues(like being a rape survivor)) is morally wrong. But, I realize that I can’t force others to share my values, and therefore support choice. What this “doctor” did was terrible, and is exactly an excellent reason to have better clinics.

  19. Ismone
    Ismone January 21, 2011 at 2:40 am |

    Miranda,

    I found being pregnant very unpleasant. Giving birth involves blood, and often defecation. That was the point I was making. I don’t think women should be rushed through delivery, though.

  20. Medea
    Medea January 21, 2011 at 3:17 am |

    Think: And I might add this: what is to be gained in the end if a woman who want to terminate a late pregnancy ends up dead, or malformed? Why not just give the baby up for adoption?

    Because “just” giving the baby up for adoption can be more painful than having an abortion, and perhaps some women don’t want to produce a child that may not ever receive adequate care? Not all unwanted children are immediately adopted into loving families.

  21. Sonia
    Sonia January 21, 2011 at 4:24 am |

    @Miranda and @Ismone

    I agree with Miranda here. The idea that childbirth is icky or unpleasant is very rooted in prudish western society and causes enormous harm to to-be-mothers. As Sheila Kitzinger said,

    ‘In Jamaica I discovered that the West Indian peasant woman rarely feels discomfort in the perineum, or minds the pressure of the baby’s head as it descends. But from the case studies of English middle-class women it appears that many of them worry about dirtying the bed and are often shocked by sensations against the rectum and vagina in labour – sensations which they may find excruciating. They feel distressed, in fact, at just those sensations that the peasant woman meets with equanimity’

    ‘Some women find relaxation of abdominal wall difficult, and especially so when they experience any pain. They have been taught to “hold their tummies in” and it goes against the grain to release those muscles.’ (Sheila Kitzinger, The Experience of Childbirth). She adds that women with prolonged labours tended to be inhibited, embarrassed by the processes taking place in their bodies, ladylike in the extreme, and endured what they were undergoing stoically as long as they were able, without expressing their anxieties.

  22. Lynnsey
    Lynnsey January 21, 2011 at 8:47 am |

    I think another big issue that people who ask why they didn’t “just” give the baby up for adoption (in the majority of cases…not this instance where they were very close to the end of their pregnancy and there weren’t necessarily catastrophic fetal defects) is that it ignores the physical and emotional demands of approximately 40 weeks of pregnancy. Adoption is NOT the opposite of abortion, it’s the opposite of parenting. In the best of circumstances, pregnancy is tough. In the worst, it’s potentially life-threatening.

  23. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage January 21, 2011 at 8:59 am |

    If that guy is a doctor, I’m an electrical engineer.

    This is a clear failure of both the Pennsylvania medical regulatory system and restrictive societal attitudes toward abortion. I could indict the American system of health care coverage and accessibility as well if I had the time, alon with the misogynist positions of the forced-birthers and the resulting consequences, though we have our own issues up here in Canuckland so I won’t throw stones at this moment.

    What an asshole, and Saletan is an asshole for using an obvious case of criminal incompetence to attack all people who think women should get to choose what happens inside their own bodies.

  24. Odin
    Odin January 21, 2011 at 9:09 am |

    @ Sonia

    If by “very rooted in prudish western society” you mean “is a very widely-held belief in prudish western society”, then that’s fine. But if you mean “is substantially caused by western society being prudish”, then I’m going to have to disagree. Prudish Western Society with its privileged access to medical care has all but forgotten about childbirth resulting in fistulas, and we also don’t have common sayings like “a pregnant woman has one foot in the grave.”

    In general I agree that society shouldn’t view pregnancy, childbirth or menstruation as inherently gross, but I also think it’s not okay to tell people who found/find the experience unpleasant or icky that they shouldn’t be saying so because it Demeans The Experience, or that what they experienced was mostly/only due to Prudish Western Society.

    I also think it’s quite reasonable to point out that childbirth is icky as a way to answer claims by anti-choicers that abortion is wrong because it is icky. We should also, as the OP did, point out that other medical procedures can be icky – like open-heart surgery and knee replacement.

  25. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable January 21, 2011 at 9:11 am |

    What? Western narrative is the reason women who have experienced child birth can’t talk about their birthing experiences if they were negative?

    Maybe I’m about to lose my feminist street cred, but I am in NO way looking forward to child birth. I expect it to be both icky and unpleasant. I may even have a hasty c-section. Does that mean that other women aren’t entitled to consider their experiences positive or to demand the care they want (i.e. NOT have a hasty c-section)? Of course not. But pretending like blood and viscera in this context must be enjoyed because they are special baby blood and viscera is kind of ridiculous.

  26. Crickets « Is This Blog On?
    Crickets « Is This Blog On? January 21, 2011 at 9:16 am |

    [...] ? Well, you see what Dr Gosnell was doing wasn’t abortions. He wasn’t an abortionist. According to Femiste this is about something else. What Kermit Gosnell tells us about late-term [...]

  27. Friday Goodness | Rachel Bunting
    Friday Goodness | Rachel Bunting January 21, 2011 at 10:37 am |

    [...] Philly nightmare, let me just counteract that link to the Slate article up there by also including this link to the Feministe response to Slate. Yay [...]

  28. Kermit Gosnell, William Saletan, and the reality of late-term abortions

    [...] if true, they’re pretty heinous crimes. But the first thing I thought when I read this story was what Jill at Feministe said: If this doctor delivered these infants, live infants that were breathing and then killed them? [...]

  29. debbie
    debbie January 21, 2011 at 11:46 am |

    @Sonia

    You know, I really like a lot of Sheila Kitzinger’s work, but massive generalizations about how “West Indian peasant women” and labour. There’s a lot of gendered/racialized stuff to unpack in those statements.

  30. “Feminists” & the Gosnell case: Babykilling is different when it happens outside the womb « Sister Toldjah

    [...] this tell us about abortion? Oh, “absolutely nothing,” says staunch abortion proponent Jill at the Feministe blog: Absolutely [...]

  31. “Feminists” & the Gosnell case: Babykilling is different when it happens outside the womb | Conservatives for America

    [...] this tell us about abortion? Oh, “absolutely nothing,” says staunch abortion proponent Jill at the Feministe blog: Absolutely [...]

  32. Miranda
    Miranda January 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm |

    Sorry to have derailed the thread slightly…

    I would like to clarify that I do not mean to dismiss others’ experiences, and nor would I suggest we have some kind of duty to enjoy childbirth (‘enjoy’ is NOT the word that comes to mind for my own experience!).

    My point was rather that treating women’s normal and healthy biological processes as icky is, to me, a part of teaching women that their physicality is offensive and dirty. I am completely in favour of women having control over their own labours, from free birth to C-section, but as we know only too well choice is not free in a society that tells us what to think of our bodies.

  33. Sonia
    Sonia January 21, 2011 at 3:58 pm |

    Well, maybe I am cut from a different cloth but I find heart surgery, or almost any surgery as totally fascinating and not at all icky.

  34. Abortionist: Around the Web | PAWaterCooler.com

    [...] @ Feministing What Kermit Gosnell tells us about late-term abortion Absolutely [...]

  35. Henrietta G. Tavish
    Henrietta G. Tavish January 21, 2011 at 6:13 pm |

    Ace of Ace of Spades has a fairly on target critique of your analysis, particularly your point about why women get late term abortions:

    http://ace.mu.nu/archives/311053.php

    I recall that you used to volunteer for an organization that housed out-of-state women seeking late-term abortions in New York. Certainly you know that fatal fetal abnormalities were not the reason that they sought to terminate, not even in one case. They came to New York to terminate healthy late-term pregnancies precisely because they could not obtain such a diagnosis and needed the benefit of New York’s liberal approach.

  36. Ismone
    Ismone January 21, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    Henrietta,

    Ace’s entire critique would be avoided if he realized that by abortion, Jill is referring to legal abortions. Because all the things that the Doctor did that were bad were not legitimate abortions, late-term or otherwise.

    And I don’t buy his blog as a source for why you think women terminate late pregnancies for other than good reasons.

    As I explained, upthread, even the earliest term D&C is very, very paintful. The longer you wait to get an abortion, the more difficult, risky, and painful the procedure. Also, pregnancy is not a cakewalk. So, acting as if women who have abortions don’t think about these things as Saletan does is pretty idiotic. And raising a moral panic about a sort of abortion that is less than 1% of all abortions is even worse.

    You guys argue at the extremes, because you don’t have good arguments to address the majority of abortions. Which are no sadder than the majority of miscarriages.

  37. karak
    karak January 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm |

    @Henrietta G. Tavish

    I fail to see how it’s “on-target”.

    Also, if you’re going to link an article, it would be nice to warn us about the commentors, cause it’s really cool to scrool down comments and see words like, “cunt” “bitch” “whores” “dildos” and “twats” being flung about. I also like the comments about how Jill and the readers over here need to “get fucked”.

    Nothing says rational analysis like misogynistic pontification.

  38. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable January 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm |

    karak: I also like the comments about how Jill and the readers over here need to “get fucked”.

    How do they think we’re having hasty abortions all over the place if we’re not getting fucked? Comprehensive sex ed: it’s not just for the “liberal elite.”

  39. Humanity Card: Revoked « Radical Bookworm

    [...] only: because they feel like it. In an attempt to refute what Jill of Feministing wrote about the horrific Kermit Gosnell case Ace states: I think that almost all of the women in question just showed up for a late-term [...]

  40. Azalea
    Azalea January 22, 2011 at 7:23 pm |

    So allow me to bold enough to say menstruation is icky, so is childbirth, so is pregnancy and after being present at one so is abortion. Lots and lots of blood and gore. It doesn’t surprise me that women of color were treated worse than white women, that has been a regular staple of society since..well…ever! It doesn’t surprise me that these women had no place else to go, I mean why else go to this guy if you had other options? What surprises me is the idea that women would have a MEDICALLY NECESSARY reason to have an abortion AND not have any other choice but to go to someone who is NOT licensed to practice medicine to help them with medical care. That isn’t making a ping of sense to me, this issue needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed ASAP. I don’t want that to continue being an afterthought of this kind of discussion. You’ll always see this result if you never get to the root of the problem.

  41. Odin
    Odin January 23, 2011 at 6:29 pm |

    @Azalea:

    It doesn’t surprise me that these women had no place else to go, I mean why else go to this guy if you had other options? What surprises me is the idea that women would have a MEDICALLY NECESSARY reason to have an abortion AND not have any other choice but to go to someone who is NOT licensed to practice medicine to help them with medical care. That isn’t making a ping of sense to me, this issue needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed ASAP.

    I think your first sentence there explains what you don’t understand: These women didn’t have anywhere else to go for medically necessary because, as you note, they didn’t have anywhere else to go.

    Or do you mean, you don’t understand why women who have medically necessary abortions can’t get them legitimately? Well, for starters, plenty of people can’t get medically necessary care of the non-reproductive-health variety. Maybe they don’t have insurance, or their insurance doesn’t cover it. There is at least one documented case where an insurance company refused to cover the treatment that their policy said they would cover, and the patient died untreated as a result.

    Not to mention, the most extreme anti-choicers have been fighting tooth and nail to get rid of health exceptions in laws addressing abortion. Classic example: the “partial birth” abortion act, which had no exception for the health or life of the mother.

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