The trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell captured national attention for the especially grisly nature of his crimes, and it ended Wednesday when he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. The doctor was convicted of murdering a baby born alive in an abortion gone wrong, as well as a charge of involuntary manslaughter for the death of a woman after a procedure in his clinic. He was also charged with two counts of conspiring to kill two babies.
Anti-abortion activists hoped the high-profile case would change the national conversation on abortion and demonstrate the dangers the procedure poses. They praised the guilty verdict in Gosnell's case, saying he was a perfect example of why abortion shouldn't be legal. National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said any abortion performed ought to be condemned, not just those carried out in such a dangerous environment:
Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murder for severing the necks of just-born babies, but those babies would have died just as painfully if he had killed them inside the womb, as most late-term abortionists do. The result is the same for the baby whether it meets its end in a shabby clinic like Gosnell's or a brand new Planned Parenthood facility – a painful death.
Pro-abortion rights activists also condemned Gosnell and his conduct, but for different reasons: they say it demonstrates why access to safe, affordable abortion is a necessity. They argue that legal barriers to abortion don't prevent women from seeking out the procedure, and as a result they resort to abortions performed in more dangerous environments. Planned Parenthood Vice President for Communications Eric Ferrero said:
The jury has punished Kermit Gosnell for his appalling crimes. This verdict will ensure that no woman is victimized by Kermit Gosnell ever again.
This case has made clear 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.
U.S. News's Anson Kaye, meanwhile, argued that the trial didn't ignite the national debate on abortion that conservatives desired because "the facts were too extreme and, no matter how much some would like you to think otherwise, unusual":
For many conservatives, the Gosnell case must have felt like confirmation of something they had long suspected: that abortion providers operate secret carnivals of death behind closed doors.
But maybe the reason the rest of us weren't plunged into soul searching by the case was that it actually didn't tell us much of anything about abortion, or the controversy surrounding it, at all. The facts were too extreme and, no matter how much some would like you to think otherwise, unusual. And then there was that rather stubborn fact sitting right at the center of the case: Gosnell's a psychopath.
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