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Kermit Gosnell trial: Will it affect abortion rights?(+video)

The sensational trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell has shined a light on regulation of abortion facilities. Both sides of the debate point to the Gosnell case as evidence they are correct.

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In addition, Gosnell was reportedly offering his abortion services at cut rates, making his clinic a go-to destination for low-income women. And because he allegedly disregarded the law banning abortion after 24 weeks’ gestation, he attracted customers who, for a variety of reasons, were beyond that point in their pregnancies.

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Some women, for example, face delays as they save up money. State law prohibits public funding for abortion except when necessary to save the woman’s life or in cases of rape or incest. Women under age 18 must receive parental consent. The state also requires mandatory counseling and a 24-hour waiting period before undergoing an abortion. For some women, many of them single, low-income, and already with children, these hurdles can lead to significant delays.

NARAL Pro-Choice America gives Pennsylvania an “F” in its abortion-related laws.

“Gosnell’s clinic existed because desperate women are being pushed into an extraordinarily difficult place by the increasing regulations on access to safe and legal abortion,” says Tarek Rizk, communications director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

In an interview with the Associated Press, a former patient of Gosnell’s in 2001 said she went first to Planned Parenthood in downtown Philadelphia for an abortion but left.  

“The picketers out there, they just scared me half to death,” said Davida Johnson.

So she went to Gosnell’s clinic, the Women’s Medical Society, and was confronted by a horrific scene of dazed women and unsanitary conditions. She said she changed her mind about the abortion, but “they tied my hands and arms down and gave me more medication,” she told the AP.

Abortion opponents point to the Gosnell case as evidence that further regulation is needed to protect women, such as the new building codes for clinics in Virginia.  

“Since Kermit Gosnell’s ‘house of horrors’ clinic was discovered in 2010, several states have enacted measures to ensure women going into abortion facilities are treated with basic dignity and respect,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.

In its 2011 grand jury report, the Philadelphia district attorney’s office makes recommendations aimed at addressing problems that have arisen from the Gosnell case. One buttresses the case of the antiabortion side: that the Pennsylvania Department of Health should license abortion clinics as “ambulatory surgical facilities,” or ASFs.

“Had the state Department of Health not inexplicably declined to classify abortion clinics as ASFs,” the report said, “Gosnell’s clinic would have been subject to yearly inspection and licensing.”

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