Both sides on abortion applaud verdict

Posted: May 15, 2013

No one on either side of the intractable abortion debate was sorry Monday to learn that Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of first-degree murder.

And in their reactions to the verdict, both opponents of abortion and advocates for abortion rights agreed that the Gosnell case was indicative of a problem.

They defined that problem, however, in completely different ways.

Michael Ciccocioppo, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, said in an e-mailed statement: "For the sake of all Gosnell's victims, let us never forget the rampant disregard for life that was allowed to continue for decades in our state. We hope that in the future politics will not stand in the way of protecting the health and safety of women and newborns."

Praising Gov. Corbett and the state legislature for ramping up inspections and standards for abortion clinics, Ciccocioppo said: "This is really the most that can be done under the tragic U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which brought us abortion on demand and the unspeakable tragedy of Gosnell. It's time to take a second look at Roe - in memory of Gosnell's victims."

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said: "The guilty verdict on charges of killing babies following abortion shows that the law recognizes a point at which the 'right to choose' must yield to the right to life, and also shows that abortionists don't know where that point is. Such laws must be strengthened in every state."

Carol Tracy, executive director of the Women's Law Project in Philadelphia, said the verdict indicated that precisely the opposite public policy was needed.

"The tragedy here," Tracy said, "is that these women felt they had no other choice but to go to a doctor who turned out to be a butcher."

If anything, Tracy said, Gosnell's clinic was a reminder of how dangerous it is to continue thwarting women's attempts to end unwanted pregnancies.

"Gosnell represents what life was like before Roe v. Wade and he represents the future if any of these attempts to overturn Roe succeed," Tracy said.

Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, described Gosnell as a "rogue provider" and said that the organization - which had rejected his application for membership in 2010 after reviewing the appalling conditions in his clinic - had repeatedly condemned his practices.

"The important thing to remember is that Gosnell's practices are not representative of the quality abortion care available from the vast majority of abortion providers in this country," she said.

Lila Rose of Live Action, a group opposed to abortion, released a statement in nearly perfect contradiction: "We must remember that Gosnell is not an outlier within the abortion industry. We cannot allow these 'guilty' verdicts, welcome as they are, to make us complacent when it comes to the continuing abuses happening even now in abortion facilities throughout our nation."

Ashley McGuire, senior fellow of the Catholic Association, reiterated the point, saying "Gosnell is not an aberration within the abortion industry" and calling on Congress "to investigate all abortion centers and protect the weakest and most vulnerable among us."

Tracy, of the Women's Law Center, said, "I don't know if there are other Gosnells around the country who were as bad as he was, but I have no doubt that there are doctors who are preying on the poorest and the most vulnerable women the way he has."

Antiabortion advocates said they believe Gosnell deserves the death penalty, while supporters of abortion rights would rather that the jury sentence him to life in prison.

Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-Life Union in Washington, said: "I believe that in this case, the death penalty is warranted."

Tracy, of the Women's Law Project, said: "I have nothing but contempt for him, treating women like they were chattel. . . . He should rot in prison for the rest of his life."


Contact Melissa Dribben

at 215-854-2590, mdribben@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @dribbenonphilly.

Staff writers Marie McCullough and Joseph A. Slobodzian contributed to this article.

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