U.S. News

05.14.13

Planned Parenthood on the Real Lessons of the Kermit Gosnell Case

Gosnell ran a criminal enterprise, not a health-care facility, write Dayle Steinberg and Eric Ferrero of Planned Parenthood.

By now, most Americans have heard about Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted in Pennsylvania for three murders, one case of involuntary manslaughter, and a slew of other charges. It is a shocking and gruesome case.

The indictment against him laid out nearly 300 pages of brutal crimes against desperate women who came to him seeking medical care, including safe abortion, and were instead subjected to unthinkable conditions.

For years, we’ve said that his crimes were appalling and that he should be fully punished. The jury’s verdict does just that, and Planned Parenthood believes it is a just verdict. Gosnell had many victims—the verdict ensures that no one will be victimized by him ever again.

It’s obvious to anyone looking closely at this case that Gosnell ran a criminal enterprise, not a health-care facility. Indeed, Gosnell’s trial showed clearly that his operation was in violation of existing laws and regulations in the state of Pennsylvania.

But that hasn’t stopped opponents of safe and legal abortion from seizing on the case in the hope that it would fuel their agenda of restricting access to abortion—and ultimately banning it outright.

If there's one thing everyone observing this case can agree on, it's that all women, regardless of means, deserve access to high-quality health care delivered by licensed health-care professionals who adhere to the most rigorous professional standards, including providing emergency care. That clearly did not happen at Gosnell's facility.

The truth is that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in America—and also one of the most heavily regulated.

Where we disagree is with our opponents’ false attempts to connect Gosnell to lawful abortion providers—when the truth is that the two couldn’t be more different.

It bears repeating (if only because opponents continue trying to make a connection) that Planned Parenthood has never been affiliated with Gosnell and was not aware of the atrocities happening in his facility until he was arrested.

The truth is that abortion is one of the safest medical procedures in America— and also one of the most heavily regulated. Nearly 99 percent of abortions in the U.S. take place before 21 weeks’ gestation. Fewer than 0.3 percent of women undergoing legal abortion procedures sustain a serious complication.

Health centers that provide abortion are subject to oversight from multiple government agencies, including licensing boards, health departments, human services divisions, and others. All health-care providers—including those who provide abortion—should be regulated to ensure high standards of care. Those regulations should be based on health-care needs—not on politics.

Ultimately, the lesson of the Gosnell case is that we must have and enforce laws that protect access to safe and legal abortion, and we must reject misguided laws that would limit women’s options and force them to seek treatment from criminals like Kermit Gosnell.

Dayle Steinberg is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania. Eric Ferrero is the vice president for communications of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.