Kermit Gosnell Case Shifts Abortion Debate, But How Much?

The case has shifted the focus to late-term abortions.

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But a Gallup poll this month suggested these anecdotal changes might be just that – anecdotal. The survey found that the case hadn't significantly altered public opinion, with 48 percent of respondents calling themselves "pro-life" and 45 percent of saying they were "pro-choice" – close to the same numbers as 2012. Only 25 percent of Americans told Gallup they had paid close attention to the case, while more than half said they had paid no attention at all.

[OPINION: Gosnell Trial Is a Wake-Up Call on Abortion]

And Hannum at the Philadelphia Women's Center says that while patients in that clinic are asking different questions than they previously had, that's not happening nationwide. "The primary question continued to be where they could get an abortion," she says.

Dannenfelser is staunch in her belief that the Gosnell case changed things – at least outside the clinic. "In the conversation about what actually happened, it's a recoil. When there's a recoil there is a moment," she says. At a recent screening of "3801 Lancaster" on Capitol Hill, a number of Hill staffers visibly recoiled at graphic scenes or covered their eyes.

Abortion rights groups contend that the recoil is because Gosnell was a monster, a criminal, an outlier – not a doctor Americans see as representative of nationwide abortion care.

But as the two sides continue to debate what Gosnell meant, it's possible the effects of his case on the rest of the country haven't yet been seen. "The verdict was just returned," says Ilyse Hogue, who runs abortion rights group NARAL. "If we're talking about long-term, sustained opinions on abortion, well, this just takes a long time."

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