America's abortion industry and its supporters in Congress introduced federal legislation recently that would ensure that butchers like Kermit Gosnell, the notorious late-term abortionist convicted of murder in May, enjoy the prerogative to set up shop anywhere in the country and ply their grisly trade without interference or oversight from state officials and without accountability to the women they harm. The legislation prioritizes abortion-industry profits and provider convenience over women's health and safety and allows a self-interested abortion industry to set its own "standards" of practice without regard to prevailing, medically appropriate standards of patient care.
Sadly, while claiming to condemn Gosnell's atrocities, supporters of the proposed legislation, the Women's Health Protection Act, will actually enable future tragedies. Just as significant, this scandalous legislation would single-handedly eradicate hundreds of common-sense state regulations and restrictions on abortion, including limits on dangerous late-term abortions, informed-consent requirements, and mandated health and safety standards for abortion clinics.
It would prioritize mere access to abortion above women's health, and mean that abortion restrictions and regulations would not be enforced if they "interfere with an abortion provider's ability to provide care and render services in accordance with his or her good-faith medical judgment."
In other words, abortionists like Gosnell and abortion-industry bureaucrats at Planned Parenthood would have unfettered control over how they run their deadly businesses. The standard of care will be based on what is in the abortion industry's — not women's — best interests. The victimization of women will continue, and state officials will be almost powerless to protect them.
Along with fictitious and politically motivated assertions that this legislation will advance women's health, abortion advocates conveniently ignore one of the most important lessons learned from Gosnell and his West Philadelphia abortion "house of horrors." As the Gosnell grand jury emphasized, to prevent future abortion tragedies, we "must find the fortitude to enact and enforce the necessary regulations. Rules must be more than words on paper."
In direct contrast to ongoing congressional efforts to empower the abortion industry at the expense of American women, Americans United for Life is championing the Women's Protection Project. Through expertly crafted model legislation, this initiative provides the legal blueprint for protecting women and their children from a largely unregulated, unrestricted and unrepentant abortion industry.
For example, documenting the myriad potential complications from abortion and citing medical studies demonstrating that a woman's risk of death increases exponentially with later-term abortions, the project includes legislation limiting abortions after five months of pregnancy.
In direct response to recent evidence of abortion-industry misconduct, other featured legislation protects women from dangerously substandard conditions in abortion clinics, requires compliance with U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved protocols for abortion-inducing drugs, and ensures that clinic personnel do not facilitate the ongoing abuse of minors by failing to report suspected sexual crimes.
This package provides something new — a tool for enforcing lifesaving laws, putting women's lives and health over abortion-industry interests.
This innovative component of the project contains legislative language providing meaningful criminal, civil and administrative penalties for violations of state abortion-related laws. It provides responsible state officials — and, when state officials fail to act to protect women, then individual women and their families — with the legal tools necessary to ensure that the abortion industry is held accountable for its increasingly dismal track record of safeguarding women's health and safety. In just the past five years, dozens of abortion providers in at least 29 states have been investigated and cited for violations of state abortion laws or for otherwise compromising women's health and safety. Importantly, given the abortion industry's refusal to address concerns over its clinics and practices, this number likely represents only a small fraction of a large and growing problem.
Regrettably, the nonsensical response of the abortion industry and its allies in Congress to these lamentable and incontrovertible facts is to introduce federal legislation designed to sweep aside the very laws that abortionists already callously and routinely ignore to the detriment of the women they claim to serve.
The appropriate response to abortion industry malfeasance is not the eradication of laws designed to protect women, but the proper and consistent enforcement of these laws.
During its exhaustive review of the evidence against Gosnell, the grand jury found fault with repeated failures "to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical-service providers," specifically noting that even nail salons "are monitored more closely" than abortion clinics.
Americans United for Life's Women's Protection Project, unlike the disingenuous Women's Health Protection Act, actually seeks to remedy this glaring problem, while also protecting women from the risks inherent in both surgical and chemical abortion procedures and addressing the abortion industry's growing problem of substandard care. American women deserve more than the abortion industry's false promises that mere access to abortion guarantees their health and well-being.
After all, Gosnell's squalid clinic provided mere access to abortion. Women paid the price for this access with their lives, with their fertility, and with their future physical and mental health. That price — and the increased price that would be demanded if the federal Women's Health Protection Act were enacted — is too high for American women and their families to bear.
Denise M. Burke is vice president of legal affairs at Americans United for Life.