Senate Democrats Challenge Right Wing Hysteria Over Kermit Gosnell

Kermit Gosnell (Credit:

Over the past several weeks, abortion opponents have been tripping over themselves to attempt to link Kermit Gosnell’s horrific crimes to legal abortion providers, attempting to leverage the outrage over the Philadelphia abortion doctor’s murder trial into concrete legislation to restrict abortion access. Of course, much of the hysteria over Gosnell is misleading, since his illegal clinic is not necessarily representative of the larger state of abortion care in the United States. Fed up with the ongoing misinformation campaign, Democratic lawmakers are countering the current obsession with Gosnell with some legislative initiatives of their own.

This week, a group of Republican senators invoked Gosnell’s name to put forth a resolution calling for more investigation into legal abortion clinics across the country — ultimately, a thinly-veiled effort to encourage states to impose unnecessary, burdensome regulations that will force those clinics to shut down. In response, Democratic senators have introduced their own resolution to condemn all illegal medical acts, not just those that occur within the context of abortion services.

The Democratic-sponsored resolution (PDF) — spearheaded by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Barbara Boxer (CA) and Jeanne Shaheen (NH) — calls on the Senate to investigate, condemn, and ultimately work to prevent “all incidents of abusive, unsanitary, or illegal health care practices.” It’s a pointed statement that, despite the right wing’s attempts to construe all abortion clinics as dangerous, Gosnell’s crimes don’t actually mean that abortion itself is an inherently unsafe medical practice. Instead, the abortion doctor simply serves as an example of the criminal medical behavior that is evident in other areas of the health care sector — as well as the persistent economic and racial inequality that contributes to health disparities.

Some most recent examples of medical malpractice include the Nevada-based health care company that put thousands of people at risk for hepatitis and the Oklahoma dentist who infected at least 60 patients with HIV and hepatitis. Of course, there hasn’t been the same widespread right-wing outrage about the situations that led to those crimes — revealing an inherent double standard when it comes to abortion.

The Senate rejected the Republican resolution on Gosnell on Thursday afternoon. “It is difficult to imagine why anyone would object to a non-binding resolution calling on Congress to investigate these alleged disturbing, horrific and illegal abortion practices committed by Kermit Gosnell and others,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who sponsored the resolution, said on the floor. But Blumenthal pointed out that the Democratic resolution is more accurate because it applies to broad health care abuses without singling out Gosnell.