The National Review editorial board used the murder conviction of Kermit Gosnell to push for an abortion ban it acknowledges to be unconstitutional that would outlaw all abortions after 20 weeks, even in cases when the health of the mother is at risk.
Gosnell was convicted on May 13 for murdering three infants while breaking Pennsylvania abortion laws and preforming procedures that bore no resemblance to legal women's health services. Despite these facts, right-wing media have repeatedly sought to use Gosnell's violent acts to attack legal and safe abortion procedures in the United States.
A June 11 National Review editorial took these efforts further by using the Gosnell conviction to promote legislation that would severely limit access to safe, life-saving procedures. The editorial board hyped a bill introduced to the House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) that seeks to ban abortions performed after the 20th week of pregnancy. The bill does not provide exceptions to the ban in cases when the health of the mother is at risk, or in cases of rape or incest, and only permits abortions in cases where the life of the mother is threatened. The National Review acknowledged that "the bill is at odds with current Supreme Court jurisprudence," but urged Congress to "fight" for it anyway, claiming the Gosnell conviction revealed current abortion laws are immoral.
The National Review's endorsement of Franks' bill by linking it to the Gosnell murders ignores the realities of legal abortion in the United States. As Media Matters has previously noted, the Supreme Court has become increasingly anti-choice, repeatedly limiting the rights of women to terminate pregnancies. Currently, the Supreme Court has ruled that abortions are "legal so long as the fetus isn't 'viable,' which is usually around 24 weeks," and abortions performed after that point are already severely restricted by law. The vast majority of states prohibit abortions after fetal viability or 24 weeks, and just a few provide an exception when the life of the mother is threatened or in cases of rape or incest. Abortions after week 21 are extremely rare, making up only about 1 percent of all abortions, and are very safe. A medical study published in 2012 concluded that "[l]egal induced abortion is markedly safer than childbirth. The risk of death associated with childbirth is approximately 14 times higher than that with abortion."
As Salon's Irin Carmon noted, many women went to Gosnell's clinic "because they felt they had no alternative." The Gosnell case revealed the need for women to have access to safe, affordable, and legal abortion services -- the same services that Franks' bill seeks to unconstitutionally limit and outlaw. Right-wing media's support for this legislation and continued demonization of abortion puts women's legal right to protect their health under threat.