In the wake of the murder conviction Monday of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit B. Gosnell, a group of black clergy came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to demand congressional investigations and hearings into all abortion clinics — and especially those serving black communities.
“Abortion affects the whole nation. So I am asking that the Congress of the United States move immediately to investigate the abortion industry, where over 55 million babies have been slaughtered — and, I might add, that more than 17 million of them have been African-American,” the Rev. Luke Robinson of the Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Frederick, Md., said during a news conference at the National Press Club.
“Dr. Gosnell is not an aberration,” said the Rev. Arnold M. Culbreath, director of Protecting Black Life in Cincinnati. “There are many other unethical, unsafe, late-term abortionists in our communities who also need to be investigated,” he said. When these clinics are found, “we demand that they be shut down and driven out.”
On Monday, Gosnell, 72, was found guilty of murdering three newborn infants by “snipping” their spinal cords with scissors. He was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 overdose death of Karnamaya Mongar, who had traveled to his clinic from Virginia to get an abortion when she was 19 weeks pregnant. His filthy clinic, staffed with untrained assistants, was discovered in a police narcotics raid and later described by a grand jury as a “house of horrors.”
On Tuesday, prosecutors said Gosnell agreed not to appeal the verdict. This means he will not face the death penalty, but will spend the rest of his life in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday.
The several dozen pastors and pro-life supporters, who also held a legislative briefing on Capitol Hill, promised to push lawmakers of all political parties to address their concerns.
“I cry and I urge and I plead and I beg with Congress to investigate every facility, every facility in this land and country that’s carrying out abortions, that’s murdering babies and destroying women,” said the Rev. Alonzo Pressley, pastor at New Land New Seed Ministries in Augusta, Ga., which offers care to unwed women with crisis pregnancies. “President Obama and the entire White House: We need to come out of our offices and get involved in real life.”
Said Star Parker, founder and president of Center for Urban Renewal and Education: “We are not going to rest. As they didn’t rest during the civil rights movement until it was finished, as the abolitionists did not rest with that crime against humanity during slavery, we won’t rest. Not this one. Not on our watch.”
Pro-choice supporters have denounced Gosnell and his clinic but vigorously rejected efforts to make the case a referendum on abortion.
The Gosnell case “is a local crime story,” Irin Carmon wrote for Salon.
“He broke the law, and he is being punished,” she said. “In the meantime, there is no reason to think the case has changed much about the world outside Gosnell’s.”
Imani Gandy, senior legal analyst at RH Reality Check, a website on reproductive health and justice issues, criticized Ms. Parker and her allies for trying to “exploit” the trial of a black abortionist and “wring their hands and feign concern about the plight of black Americans.”
“Black genocide simply isn’t a thing that is happening in the United States, though this meme has been floating around anti-choice circles for years,” wrote Ms. Gandy. “[T]he answer to the black abortion rate is more choice and more access to quality care,” and “the answer to Gosnell is not fewer abortions, but better abortion care.”
At Tuesday’s news conference, the Rev. Walter B. Hoye II, president of the Issues4Life Foundation, said black women have far more abortions than most people realize.
Black women of childbearing age represent 3 percent of the U.S. population, but from 30 percent to 35 percent of all abortions are performed on black women, he said, citing data from the Census Bureau, Guttmacher Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Moreover, even though overall U.S. abortion rates are dropping, it has risen 4.1 percent from 2007 to 2009 for black women.
“The facts are clear and the numbers don’t lie. Abortion on demand in black America is a holocaust,” Mr. Hoye said.
Pro-choice supporters counter that black abortion rates are tied to high rates of unintended pregnancy and barriers to women’s ability to get birth control, reproductive services, education and economic opportunities.