The sensational trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell has shined a light on regulation of abortion facilities. Both sides of the debate point to the Gosnell case as evidence they are correct.
As the murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell enters its fifth week, national media attention is ramping up. And that, in turn, raises the question of whether the sensational trial will affect the debate over abortion rights raging in some states.
Already, in recent weeks, several states have moved to impose new restrictions on abortion, such as a new rule in Virginia that requires abortion clinics to upgrade to hospital-style building codes. Opponents of abortion say they are meant to protect women. Abortion-rights advocates say the new rules are aimed at driving the clinics out of business.
In North Dakota and Arkansas, new laws ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, effectively banning the procedure altogether. The laws are being challenged in court, setting up potential Supreme Court challenges to the Roe v. Wade precedent that legalized abortion nationwide in 1973.
Enter the Gosnell trial. The allegations against the abortionist – who was not a gynecologist or obstetrician, according to a 2011 grand jury report – are gruesome. The doctor stands accused of delivering seven preterm infants alive and then murdering them. He is also charged with murdering a Nepalese woman who overdosed on sedatives while awaiting an abortion.
In the trial, former employees of the clinic have described a chaotic, filthy workplace with clients who were predominantly poor and minorities. Gosnell routinely performed abortions after 30 weeks of gestation, the grand jury report alleges. Pennsylvania law bans abortion after 24 weeks’ gestational age, when a fetus is considered viable outside the womb.