23 January 2011

Anti-choice protesting drives women to Gosnell-type abortions

At the risk of making this blog a one-trick pony lately:
When Davida Johnson walked into Dr. Kermit Gosnell's clinic to get an abortion in 2001, she saw what she described as dazed women sitting in dirty, bloodstained recliners. As the abortion got under way, she had a change of heart -- but claims she was forced by the doctor to continue.

"I said, 'I don't want to do this,' and he smacked me. They tied my hands and arms down and gave me more medication," Johnson told The Associated Press.

Johnson, then 21, had a 3-year-old daughter when she became pregnant again. She said she first went to Planned Parenthood in downtown Philadelphia but was frightened away by protesters.

"The picketers out there, they just scared me half to death," Johnson, now 30, recalled this week.

Someone sent her to Gosnell's West Philadelphia clinic, at the Women's Medical Society, saying anti-abortion protesters wouldn't be a problem there.
(MSNBC). Ms. Johnson says that she contracted an STI from Gosnell's clinic and has suffered four miscarriages since her procedure there.

When abortions are stigmatized, unsafe, expensive, far away, or illegal, women will still get abortions. Here, protestors who call themselves "pro-life" chased Ms. Johnson away from a safe, legal abortion with compassionate practitioners who would have let her decline the procedure when she changed her mind at the last moment. In the end, the protestors got exactly what they say they don't want: although she would have completed the pregnancy had she been given a choice, she ended up terminating it, instead. And it appears that her fertility was permanently damaged in the process. The conditions the "pro-lifers" drove her to are exactly the opposite of what happens when women have complete, peaceful access to fully self-determined healthcare.

Where were the protestors at the Women's Medical Society at 38th and Lancaster before it closed? I'll tell you where. In Philadelphia, the anti-choice regulars picket two of the safest, most compassionate clinics in the region: a Planned Parenthood in Center City and an independent clinic on the north side of Old City. But although the Women's Medical Society was google-able and was listed in the phone book, and although a minimum of research would have led protestors to find out about its practice in late-term abortions, it was never the focus of protests. Its location, about a block and a half from Presbyterian Hospital in West Philadelphia, is perceived as a scary, dangerous, and predominantly African-American neighborhood. (In truth, it's full of Drexel University students, homeowners who were "urban pioneers" countering urban blight 30 years ago, and hospital and university employees -- as well as African-American households.)

Why weren't anti-choice zealots protesting this clinic? If anti-choice protestors are truly "pro-life," why do they spend their time holding up offensively graphic posters at Independence Hall or attending the D.C. "March for Life" on every anniversary of Roe v. Wade? Why were they not outside the Women's Medical Society every night since PPSP v.Casey in 1992, or since the clinic opened in 1979? Is their goal truly to end abortion? Or is it something else?

Are they showing off their faith with their signs and chants (Matt. 6:5)? Are they really so stupid that they can't see what they're doing? How many other women did "pro-life" protestors drive to Dr. Gosnell?

As a staunch pro-choicer, I've been called a baby-killer. I've volunteered at abortion clinics and women's rights organizations for years, referring women to particular clinics and helping minor women obtain judicial bypass orders. But I never sent a woman to the Women's Medical Society. Can all of Philadelphia's "pro-lifers" say the same?

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