“I don’t know why you want to know all this; just do it.”
– Clinic worker in the Bronx, answering questions about late-term abortion from a woman who was 23 weeks pregnant.
An antiabortion activist appears to have videotaped a counselor at a Bronx clinic laughingly advising her not to trouble herself with the particulars of the late-term abortion that the woman, who was 23 weeks pregnant, said she wanted. What if the baby were born alive at home once the process was set in motion? “If it comes out, then it comes out; flush it,’’ a counselor at the Dr. Emily Women’s Health Center answered the undercover activist on the tape. She’d been working at the clinic for nearly 11 years, she said — since she was only 16.
Since a grand jury first drew us a picture of his “house of horrors” clinic two years ago, abortion-rights activists have argued that that’s what happens when there are too few legitimate clinics, and no federal funding for abortions for poor women.
But if the overarching goal is first, last and always protecting women’s health, why didn’t the National Abortion Federation inspector who turned down Gosnell’s membership application report the unsanitary conditions and safety violations she saw there? If what she observed — a padlock on an emergency exit in a part of the clinic where women were left alone overnight, for example — was so far outside the norm, then why didn’t it inspire a single phone call to the state, according to the grand jury report? Instead, the gruesome Dr. G was only shut down after investigators were tipped off that he was over-prescribing OxyContin.
Other such criminal clinics have only made the news as local stories, while most mainstream abortion coverage details threats to abortion rights rather than to women themselves. Even when a New York woman died after a third-trimester abortion performed in Maryland in February, the coverage questioned not the care that led to her death, but the breach of privacy she suffered when antiabortion activists publicized the case.
Where’s the coverage of extreme views at the other end of the spectrum? Of, for instance, the jaw-dropping testimony of Planned Parenthood official Alisa LaPolt Snow? When asked by a Florida lawmaker what kind of medical care the organization thinks a child who somehow survives a late-term abortion should get, Snow suggested that even then, the child’s fate is a woman’s right to choose.
That’s how our president voted as an Illinois state senator, too, even after his stated concerns about the “born alive” bill were addressed. Though there is a lot of room for disagreement on when life does begin, most of us think viability is a pretty clear, bright line.
Not Planned Parenthood, though, which hasn’t disavowed anything Snow said. And not the Bronx counselor caught on tape, who warns the woman sitting in front of her that no matter what happens, she mustn’t go to the hospital, where if she were to give birth to a live child, that baby might be given medical care.
While in campaign mode, Obama purported to respect diverse views on the abortion issue. But I detected no such sensitivity in his Friday remarks at Planned Parenthood, where he spoke of “those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st century. And they’ve been involved in an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back basic rights when it comes to women’s health.”