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NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)– Will Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Posnell have a long-term effect on abortion policy in the United States?
As Posnell’s trial entered its fifth week that was the question circulating in the media.
Pro-choice activists on Twitter were saying the case offers an argument for safe, affordable, accessible abortions.
“Gosnell conflated to + all abortion providers, but his victims are ignored as what happens when women can’t access healthcare,” wrote one participant in an April 17 Twitter forum organized by the New York-based Women’s Media Center.
“#Gosnell didn’t happen because abortion is legal, it happened because abortion isn’t accessible #sheparty #fem2,” tweeted another participant.
“The whole American society safety net in dire despair. Women who fall thru are vulnerable to #Gosnel predators. Need to fix it.#sheparty,” wrote Women’s Media Center.
Gosnell is accused of killing seven late-term fetuses by snipping their spinal cords after they were born and murdering a woman who overdosed on sedatives while waiting for an abortion.
Former employees of the clinic have described a filthy workplace, where as one witness testified, “it would rain fetuses — fetuses and blood all over the place,” The Business Insider reported April 17.
Gosnell routinely performed abortions after 30 weeks of gestation, the grand jury report alleges. Pennsylvania law bans abortion after 24 weeks, when a fetus is considered viable outside the womb, The Christian Monitor reported.
Anti-choice activists see the case as an opportunity to underline the lack of regulation and oversight of abortion clinics while pro-choice advocates say stricter laws on abortion clinics will be a backdoor ban on safe, legitimate abortions.
“[It] has started a really important conversation about what abortion looks like, and about how women deserve better than what Gosnell wanted to give them,” said Alison Howard, communications director at Concerned Women for America, a conservative anti-choice group, The Business Insider reported.
Republican states have passed several laws over the last three years to restrict access to abortion, including legislation to ban abortions after 12 weeks and so-called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider (TRAP) laws, which increase restrictions on abortion clinics and providers, notes the Business Insider.
The HillThe Hill also reported that the trial is slowly gaining national attention as GOP lawmakers criticizing the press as unwilling to cover an uncomfortable story about abortion.
Members of Congress such as Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), a longtime abortion opponent, took to the floor last week to deliver a series of speeches about how Americans would have changed their minds about the procedure if Gosnell’s case had attracted sufficient publicity, The Washington Post reported.
“Again I ask, ‘When will the media blackout stop?’ Will America ever be told about the brutality of abortion and the violence that is commonplace inside the abortion industry?” Smith asked. “Or will the media continue to censor this trial of the century, because it exposes an all too inconvenient truth that not only are unborn children destroyed in these killing centers, but that even babies who survive the abortion can’t escape the deadly hand of the child predator.”
However, some congressional Republicans sounded unlikely to push new regulations of abortion clinics.
“I don’t know if we should necessarily regulate clinics at the federal level,” said Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Scott Perry. “States have their rules in place for their reasons.”
States have traditionally governed the regulation of abortion clinics, with state-to-state variations on the maximum number of weeks at which an abortion can be performed, The Hill reported.
So far, the White House has said little. President Obama declined to comment specifically on the trial but cited former president Bill Clinton in saying abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare” USA Today reported April 17.
Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa. Follow her on Twitter @H_NAILI
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