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Policy: Law

Criminal penalties needed to protect babies born alive in late-term abortion attempts

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Opinion,Star Parker,Columnists,Abortion,Law

One year ago, on March 18, the trial of abortion monster Kermit Gosnell began in Philadelphia. Two months later, Gosnell was convicted of three counts of murder, 21 felony counts of performing illegal late-term abortions, and 211 counts of violating Pennsylvania's 24-hour informed consent laws.

Gosnell’s convictions really just reflected the tip of the iceberg of what was going on in that clinic. Until inspectors showed up in February 2010 as result of an investigation into suspected illegal drug prescription use, Gosnell’s facility operated uninspected for 17 years. According to the grand jury report, the last state inspection before the 2010 raid had been in 1993.

Anecdotes of those who worked there suggest the scope of murder, illegal abortions and abuse of women – mostly low-income minority and immigrant women – went far beyond what could be adequately documented to stand up to trial.

The years that Gosnell committed his atrocities with no regulatory oversight, and the challenges to get national media attention to his trial once it began, should provoke extra vigilance today to address the issues involved that still are not getting adequate attention and the extent to which similar abuses are occurring elsewhere.

My organization, Center for Urban Renewal and Education, has invited a coalition of leaders from black pro-life organizations and pastors to Washington this week to sit with representatives from national pro-life organizations and with congressional staff to assess where we are and what needs to be done.

At the conclusion of the Gosnell trial, the chairmen of the House Judiciary Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote to attorneys general and leading health officials in all the states.

The attorneys general were asked whether “state and local governments are being stymied in their efforts to protect the civil rights of newborns and their mothers by legal or financial obstacles that are within the federal government's power to address." State health officials were asked how they regulate and monitor abortion clinics to protect the health and safety of women.

We’d like to know the results of these inquiries and how this information can be used to create better policies for protecting women and children.

My colleagues found in their investigations around the nation that Gosnell was by no means one of a kind. There are more. And, to our dismay, irresponsible and inhumane behavior continues regarding the treatment of women, particularly low-income minority women, in these facilities.

The grand jury that investigated Gosnell speculated why he operated so long without getting attention: “We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.”

This problem persists.

We must ensure that the crimes Gosnell committed are prohibited in federal law because they are incompatible with the most fundamental principles of decency of this country.

The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act was signed into law by President Bush in 2002 -- after passing in the Democratic-controlled Senate unanimously. It outlaws the murder of infants born during late-term abortion procedures -- what Gosnell was doing.

But the law is basically symbolic. It is just a warning shot, because it invokes no criminal or civil penalties when violated. Yes, it’s hard to believe that although the federal government recognized, finally, the humanity of every child once he or she arrives in the world, there is no penalty if that child is not protected from death by murder or intentional neglect.

In the memory of the souls of babies killed by Gosnell and others, and in the name of the decency of this nation, this should be changed. The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act should be revisited and both criminal and civil penalties included for the intentional destruction of any newborn infant.

STAR PARKER, a Washington Examiner columnist, is an author and president of CURE, Center for Urban Renewal and Education. She can be reached at www.urbancure.org
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Star Parker

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The Washington Examiner