But the problem is that now, a slew of unnecessary, expensive regulations have been imposed on clinics that were operating safely and lawfully. As a result, a number of them have closed, and the procedure may become more costly.
Such overkill doesn’t make abortion safer as much as it makes it more inaccessible. And inaccessibility means more women may be driven to dangerous means to end their pregnancies; that they might seek out another Gosnell.
As many did before abortion was legalized in 1973.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive issues, in the 1960s, almost one in 10 low-income women in New York City reported trying to end a pregnancy with an illegal abortion., while in 1962, almost 1,600 women were treated for botched abortions at Harlem Hospital.
Black and Latino women were more likely to die from illegal abortions, a fact that concerned Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, who ran for president in 1972. She cited a study showing that in New York, 49 percent of women who died from botched abortions were black, while 25 percent were white and 65 percent were Puerto Rican.
Which brings me back to Mississippi.
I think about how, if the last abortion clinic in a state with the largest percentage of black people closes, it could have a particularly disparate impact on black women seeking such services there. That’s because, as history shows us, shutting down clinics won’t end the practice as much as it will create a market for predators like Gosnell; a man who had such callous disregard not only for the fetuses that were born alive, but also for the black women who were too far along in their pregnancies to even be at his clinic.
So Gosnell’s house of horrors is, in a way, a look into a future that could take us back to a grisly past. Especially in a place like Mississippi, where there is a lot of regard for sanctimony.
And virtually none for whether women live or die.
Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her @tonyaajw. Or like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonyaajweathersbee.