Quick Hit: Gosnell’s clinic and the cost of dignity in health care

As we’ve already mentioned, the conservative claims of a liberal media “blackout” surrounding the trial of Kermit Gosnell are totally ridiculous. Feminist bloggers and journalists, including us, have been covering this terrible story from the beginning. Our own Lori wrote an article in the Grio two years ago on the racial segregation of Gosnell’s clinic and what this story says about safe abortion access for low-income women of color.

It’s a point that’s echoed in this excellent piece by Erin Grant:

But this case is about more than just a practitioner who did bad things. His case embodies the “off-the-grid” abortions we can expect to see in states like Mississippi and North Dakota, where anti-choice harassment and regulations purposefully pass to close all clinics providing legal, safe abortion care mean only one clinic is left in each state, and even those are under threat of being shut down.

Gosnell’s “Women’s Medical Society” was not an unknown entity. In fact, it was surrounded by well-known and respected hospitals and clinics. But because they adhere to safe abortion care practices and because health care is expensive generally, the cost of care at these clinics was often out of reach to women who, without public assistance, don’t have and cannot afford regular health care of any kind.

Gosnell’s operation bears no resemblance to safe abortion care. His entire “practice” was illegal: There were untrained medical “assistants” and abortions performed at viability without medical cause. His “clinic” was unsanitary and unsafe and what Carole Joffe has referred to as a “chamber of horrors.”

Moreover, in a gruesome quid pro quo, Gosnell charged on a “sliding scale” for anesthesia; you got more anesthesia the more money you paid, so the poorer you were, the more pain you suffered. Women who went to Gosnell may have known of other places to receive abortion care, but they were either beyond the legal time limit when they could get an abortion in the state, or they could not afford safe abortion care.

What this case reveals is that the cost of dignity in health care has risen, and the attack on poor women intensified.

So if conservatives suddenly want to talk about Gosnell, let’s definitely talk about it. Let’s talk about why people living in a country in which abortion is supposedly a legal right would seek illegal care from an unlicensed, dangerous quack. I can think of a few reasons.

And let’s talk about why Gosnell was able to carry on for so long without being stopped. The Grand Jury report has one idea: “We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color.”

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