“There Is No Gosnell Coverup”: Blame Existing Policies And Public Indifference To Low-Income Communities
This week, the right wing has been working the refs, demanding to know why the press has been allegedly silent on the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia doctor who allegedly committed horrific acts against his patients with impunity for years. Fox News’ Kristen Powers kicked it off with an Op-Ed in USA Today, claiming, “The deafening silence of too much of the media, once a force for justice in America, is a disgrace.” Michelle Malkin has helped spearhead a Twitter campaign. Breitbart.com calls it “a full-blown, coordinated blackout throughout the entire national media.”
And mostly, the campaign is working, generating a series of sheepish responses (and a near-instant BuzzFeed listicle). In an Atlantic piece headlined, “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s trial should be a front page story,” Conor Friedersdorf admits, “Until Thursday, I wasn’t aware of this story … Had I been asked at a trivia night about the identity of Kermit Gosnell, I would’ve been stumped and helplessly guessed a green Muppet.” Slate’s Dave Weigel congratulated the tweeters for getting his attention and then filed a piece sympathetic to the coverup claim, lecturing pro-choice people that “You really should read that grand jury report,” and concluding, “Social conservatives are largely right about the Gosnell story.”
No, they aren’t right about the Gosnell story. If you’ve never heard of the Gosnell story, it’s not because of a coverup by the liberal mainstream media. It’s probably because you failed to pay attention to the copious coverage among pro-choice and feminist journalists, as well as the big news organizations, when the news first broke in 2011. There would be something rich, if it weren’t so infuriating, about these (almost uniformly male, as it happens) reporters and commentators scrambling to break open this shocking untold story. You know, the one that was written about here, here and here, to name some disparate sources.
I can’t speak for big news organizations like CNN and the networks, but let’s think about this question another way: How often do such places devote their energies to covering the massive health disparities and poor outcomes that are wrought by our current system? How often are the travails of the women whose vulnerabilities Gosnell exploited — the poor, immigrants and otherwise marginalized people — given wall-to-wall, trial-level coverage? If you’re surprised that in the face of politicized stigma, lack of public funding or good information, and a morass of restrictive laws allegedly meant to protect women, the vacuum was filled by a monster — well, the most generous thing I can say is that you haven’t been paying attention.
But since you’re here, guys — welcome. Here are some important things to know about the tragedies committed in Gosnell’s clinic, based on the sources you missed. This week, as Virginia-based pro-choice activist Michelle Kinsey Bruns noted on Twitter, “Fitting that the right is trying to whip folks into a frenzy over
#Gosnell the same day VA is trying to put safe abortion care out of reach.” She’s referring to so-called TRAP laws, which are regulations aimed at abortion clinics that have nothing to do with safety — say, the size of parking lots — to seek to drive them out of business, and which are expected to go forward in a vote today. According to Tara Murtha, a Philadelphia-based reporter who has been covering the Gosnell case from the start, in the aftermath of Pennsylvania’s own TRAP laws, the state went from 22 free-standing clinics to 13. As Murtha puts it, “The bottom line is that politicizing abortion led to Gosnell. Their answer? Politicize it more.”
After all, the question is not just why the state failed to respond to the complaints of women and advocates who visited the clinic, although that matters hugely. It’s why women kept going there anyway: because they felt they had no alternative. Read this account from Jeff Deeney, a social worker from Philadelphia, who points out that the lack of public funding for abortion is a big factor leading desperate women to Gosnell: “It’s worth noting for outsiders that Health Center #4 which serves the same neighborhood is the best in town, providing quality care for the uninsured poor. But Health Centers don’t do abortions, and Medicaid, where a TANF mom’s insurance coverage would come from, if she had any at all, doesn’t pay for them. And for these women the cost of paying for an abortion out of pocket breaks the budget, leaving mom scrambling to make next month’s rent or possibly wind up on the street.” Cost is also how women often get past the legal gestational limit, as they struggle to save up enough money — and Gosnell’s willingness to break the law was what made him their last chance. To everyone who thinks his case was a reason for more abortion restrictions: What he did was already illegal.
A new abortion clinic opened up recently in Kansas, a rare event that itself directly pointed to why there are ever-fewer legitimate abortion providers. It’s housed in a clinic that once housed the practice of Dr. George Tiller, murdered by an antiabortion extremist. As RH Reality Check reported, the clinic’s new providers are already being threatened, and in a jailhouse conversation with Tiller’s murderer, another extremist said of the opening, “It is a reckless act. It is not the act of someone who values their own safety. It is a gauntlet thrown down, by someone who wants a fight.” How much have you heard about that?
By all means, be up in arms about Kermit Gosnell. But blame existing policies and public indifference to low-income communities.
By: Irin Carmon, Salon, April 12, 2013
uesday morning, on a tip from American Bridge 21st Century, a liberal PAC that conducts opposition research on Republicans, I clipped and posted videos for Slate’s Double X blog demonstrating some of the paranoid flights of fancy and routine misogyny that have peppered Todd Akin’s speeches on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Akin, who is challenging Democrat Claire McCaskill for her Missouri Senate seat, became infamous after he said that, based on no science whatsoever, pregnancies rarely happen in the case of “legitimate rape.” That remark was hardly out of character; he is indeed every inch the misogynist and denier of reality that his comment suggests.
The videos prove that Akin is wholly the product of the movement conservatism that controls the Republican Party. While he may be a bit freer of tongue than many Republicans, his basic premises don’t differ from theirs: Feminism is evil. Reality can be denied if it conflicts with ideology. Conservatives are the real victims of this shifting, politically correct America, not the various groups of people they oppress and demonize.
In one of the clips, Akin goes on at length comparing abortion providers to terrorists:
The terrorist is a terrorist, and what does that mean? Well, it means he wants to compel you into doing something because you’re so afraid of him. That’s not very similar, is it, to what we believe, that God gives people the right to life and then the right to liberty. The right to liberty is to be able to follow your own conscience without being terrorized by some opponent. So it is no big surprise that we fight the terrorists, because they are fundamentally un-American. And yet we have terrorists in our own culture called abortionists.
Akin is right that terrorists are people who use violence and the threat of it to try to bend people to their political will. The FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Of course, his accusation that this is what abortion providers do makes no sense. Abortion providers don’t commit acts of violence to get their way. They don’t try to intimidate or coerce anyone. They simply hang out a shingle and invite women who want abortions to come to them. Abortion providers, after all, work in the service of choice.
That doesn’t mean the abortion debate is free of terrorism or other forms of harassment and coercion by those who want people to comply with their political demands. Except that Akin has the roles reversed. Far from being the terrorists in this equation, abortion providers are the victims. Every week, providers in this country have to endure crowds harassing them in front of their clinics under the guise of “protest.” Many providers are stalked by anti-choicers. Their homes are targeted by picketers. “Wanted” posters with their pictures and identifying information have been distributed among anti-choice activists. One doctor who indicated that she planned to provide abortion in the future faced death threats. Clinics are vandalized, broken into, and set on fire. A clinic landlord had to deal with anti-choicers stalking his daughter at her middle school. Doctors have been injured and killed at the hands of right-wing terrorists, most recently in 2009 when George Tiller, one of the few doctors in the country who performed late-term abortions, was shot to death at his church in Kansas.
Such coercive actions unfortunately work. Tiller’s clinic shut its doors after he was assassinated. Just this week, a Brooklyn abortion clinic closed because the harassment from anti-choice obsessives had become too much for both the workers and the patients. A study published this month in the journal Contraception demonstrates a correlation between anti-choice harassment and state legislatures passing abortion restrictions. While no causal relationship has been determined, the study does show that aggressive street tactics contribute to an overall atmosphere that makes it hard for providers to operate. As Akin noted later in his remarks, the number of abortion providers has declined in this country. It’s not because they are terrorists, as Akin supposes. It’s because they’re terrorized.
Akin cannot be unaware of this. He has admitted to being arrested for illegally blockading a clinic and trying to physically force women not to exercise their legal right to abortion, which means he was using unlawful force. The victims? Abortion providers and their patients. In 1995, Akin openly praised the 1st Missouri Volunteers, who were headed for a time by Tim Dreste, an anti-abortion activist who led a series of invasions of abortion clinics in 1988. There’s no reason to participate in and support aggressive and often illegal actions against abortion providers unless your intention is to scare them out of business.
Akin’s move of flipping the role of victim and oppressor may sound extreme, but it’s another example of what has become one of the most common rhetorical strategies on the right. In the topsy-turvy world of right-wing rhetoric, billionaires are hapless victims mercilessly abused by the working class. White people are victimized by affirmative action and black people demanding “reparations.” Men are marginalized by evil “feminazis,” and gay people aren’t asking for rights but are trying to destroy “traditional marriage.” In the funhouse mirror of reality that is the conservative worldview, why not just take it to the next level and reverse the role of the terrorist and the victim? The problem with Akin is not that he’s an extremist but that he’s a fine representation of the Republican Party of today.
By: Amanda Marcotte, The American Prospect, October 2, 2012
Remember that bill in South Dakota a year ago that would have redefined “justifiable homicide” in a way that could have made killing abortion providers legally defensible? South Dakota had the good sense to shelve it, but then Nebraska brought it back. Now it appears the Cornhusker State is at it again.
RH Reality Check flagged the revival of the bill, which was debated in the Nebaska Senate judiciary committee this week:
Senator Mark Christensen introduced the legislation. He stated in committee that the bill would “make it clear that an individual may use force to protect an unborn child under the same circumstances that an individual may use force to protect any third person as currently provided under the law.”
The piece also quotes from the statement of state Sen. Brenda Council, a member of the committee. She noted that in the 2009 incident in which an anti-abortion extremist killed Kansas doctor George Tiller, the assassin attempted to use exactly this type of “justifiable homicide” argument:
Under your amendment, a person who believes that someone who was assisting a woman to obtain an abortion is threatening the life of the unborn child and would use that as a self-defense argument I am certainly aware of the case where that argument was made by an individual who shot and killed a doctor who was known to provide abortion services. And his self-defense argument was: I was protecting the unborn child, and I have a right if I believe that unborn child’s life is being threatened.
By: Kate Sheppard, Mother Jones, March 1, 2012
Like many people who have come forward to speak or write about the Tucson massacre, I know and adore Gabby Giffords. It is virtually impossible not to adore her. She has a presence and graciousness that light up a room.
That she survived a shot from a semi-automatic at close range is remarkable. Yet the trauma she has endured — psychologically and neurologically — is not one that ever leaves a person untouched. The only question at this point is how much of that radiant light anyone who knows her has seen in her eyes and her smile will return. And for that, we can only hope, pray, and wait for her brain to heal itself.
We know little about the events that led to her shooting, to the deaths of at least six people, and to the massacre that left 14 others injured on the ground. But we do know three things.
The first is that the man witnesses have identified as the shooter, who did everything he could to destroy the brains of his victims, was likely himself the victim of a damaged brain. Even before reporters started to interview his professors and college classmates who were frightened by his erratic behavior in class last fall, the three YouTube videos he left as testimony to his mental state left no doubt that he is delusional and probably in the midst of a psychotic episode (a fancy way of saying that his brain is no longer functioning so that he can tell reality from unreality — even by Tea Party standards).
We know a great deal more about illnesses such as schizophrenia than we knew when our laws on “insanity” evolved. Perhaps most importantly, we now know that the kind of conceptual and linguistic incoherence in Jared Loughner’s YouTube videos is the result of a broken brain — more “madness” than “badness,” although we do not yet know enough about him to know how clear the line between them is, in his case.
Allowing someone who is clearly paranoid, delusional and incoherent — in the midst of a psychotic episode — to have a semi-automatic weapon in his hands is like putting a car in the hands of someone in the midst of an epileptic seizure during rush-hour traffic. Should Loughner turn out to be psychotic and brain-diseased, as appears to be the case, he will be no more genuinely culpable for the acts he has committed, regardless of what the law says, than a person who had his first seizure while driving through a crowded Tucson intersection. Less can be said for our political leaders — a point to which we shall shortly return.
Second, the fact that the shooter is mentally ill does not mean that his mind and brain exist in a vacuum. When Bill O’Reilly and his ilk on Fox began their attacks on “Tiller the Killer” — George Tiller, the physician who provided legal abortions until he was gunned down in his church in the name of Jesus — they fired the first shots in the uncivil war that has just claimed six more lives. To make the claim that the constant propagandizing against Tiller by a television network — including the publicizing of his whereabouts — played no role in the events that led an assassin to choose him as his target would be as psychotic as Loughner’s YouTube diatribes. Surely a deranged killer could have found someone else to target among the over 300 million people who call this country home.
But the fact that the causal link between Fox’s jihad against an American citizen and his ultimate assassination at the hands of a religiously motivated terrorist never became a topic of widespread discussion except on a couple of evening shows on MSNBC, that it prompted no change in the way the right-wing propaganda machine has vilified American citizens, and that it prompted little more than one or two brief written statements from our top elected officials, is a profound indictment of both our media and our political system.
And now we have seen the same thing play out again.
The quasi-delusional rantings of media personalities such as Glenn Beck and the cognitively impaired candidates and elected officials we have come to accept as part of the American political landscape in the 21st century, like the hate-mongering of Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, are part of the political and psychological air a psychotic shooter like Jared Loughner breathes.
Did prominent personalities like Brewer (or Sarah Palin, who literally put Gabby Giffords in her “crosshairs”) cause this attack? No, any more than Bill O’Reilly and Rupert Murdoch caused the jihadist attack on a physician who had violated a terrorist’s religious sensibilities — or, for that matter, any more than jihadist Web sites that publicize the “blasphemies” perpetrated by the United States cause alienated young men to become suicide bombers against us or our allies.
Did Beck, Brewer and crew contribute to the conditions that created the latest assassinations, irrespective of the prayers and pieties they and Republican politicians like John Boehner are now lavishing on the people they have encouraged their fellow citizens to hate (those with their “job-killing” and “baby-killing” agendas — which they apparently pursue when they aren’t setting up “death panels”)? Try reading alleged shooter Loughner’s rants about government, the terrorists who have seized control over it, and what they are doing to our Constitution and argue that he was not breathing in Foxified fumes and Brewer’s bigotry.
Third, although the political context was different, we have seen this movie before in yet another sense. Columbine, Virginia Tech, countless shootings in schools and churches — what do they share in common? Deafening silence from those who call themselves our leaders.
Since the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy in that terrible summer of 1968, over a million Americans have died at the wrong end of a firearm.
This was not the first time Gabby Giffords — or countless other lawmakers, candidates and elected officials, including President Obama — was confronted at a campaign rally or town-hall meeting by gun-toting bullies, whose primary goal — at least until this time — was intimidation. That bringing a weapon (in Arizona, concealed) within that proximity to an elected official could be legal in the world’s longest-lasting democracy is both surreal and shameful — and now it threatens that democracy.
Whether they are owned and operated by the NRA, too cowardly to take on the NRA for fear of being defeated in the next election, or misled into believing that the average American is as psychotic as the man who opened fire in Tucson (i.e., that most Americans can’t tell the difference between hunting deer and hunting people, or between a hunting rifle and a semi-automatic), our leaders have either faithfully served the interest of Smith and Wesson and the gun lobby or failed to oppose them. The result is that the country has shifted to the right on gun safety, which is what naturally happens when the right is vocal and the left is frightened and silent.
But even today, if you simply speak to ordinary Americans in plain English, they do not believe in the NRA’s interpretation of the Second Amendment. Americans are, if nothing else, strong believers in common sense, and the same people who willingly walk through metal detectors at airports and other settings understand the importance of metal detectors for protecting their elected officials — just as they support them for protecting their kids if there’s any chance they could be harmed at school.
Consider a message colleagues and I tested with two large national samples of registered voters, which beat a tough conservative anti-regulation message on guns by 20 points with both the general electorate and swing voters:
Every law-abiding citizen has the right to bear arms to hunt and protect his family. But that right doesn’t extend to criminals, terrorists, and the dangerously mentally ill… We need to use some common sense in deciding what kind of weapons we want on the streets. I don’t know any hunters who keep stockpiles of munitions in their basements, and I don’t think the Founding Fathers had AK-47s in mind when they wrote the Second Amendment.
Another message beat the conservative message by 40 points with Independent voters, by beginning with a simple statement of principle with which voters across the political spectrum agree if they simply hear it enunciated:
My view on guns reflects one simple principle: that our gun laws should guarantee the rights and freedoms of all law-abiding Americans. That’s why I stand with the majority who believe in the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns to hunt and protect their families. And that’s why I also stand with the majority who believe they have the right to send their kids to school in the morning and have them come home safely.
Or consider yet another message, which began as follows:
“Every law-abiding American has the right to own a gun to hunt and protect his family… But you don’t need an assault weapon to hunt deer, and if you do, you shouldn’t be anywhere near a gun.”
Americans get it, if you just speak to them like adults.
None of these messages is a “hard left” message on guns — a message that might better fit the sensibilities of (and be more appropriate for) New York City, Connecticut, Massachusetts, or much of the West Coast. But these are messages that win all over the heartland — and even win in some unlikely places, like the Deep South and the West — because they aren’t about taking away the rights of law-abiding gun owners. They are about protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens, whether they own a gun or not.
We used to be the arsenal of democracy. With the events of this weekend, our arsenal has been turned against our democracy.
If our elected officials are in the pockets of those who would allow the shooting of their colleagues with semi-automatic weapons with no legitimate civilian uses — while mouthing platitudes about their concern for their colleagues — it’s time to call their bluff.
Guns don’t kill people. Cowards and lobbyists do.
By: Drew Westen, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Emory University-AlterNet, January 10, 2011