Pro-life movement shifts focus to women's health after Kermit Gosnell

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Politics,Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Abortion

The pro-life movement, long focused on the rights of the unborn, is shifting its focus to the health of mothers involved in the operation, believing the horrific Kermit Gosnell trial has opened the nation's eyes to the life-threatening hazards women face at abortion clinics.

House lawmakers and anti-abortion groups, stalled in their bid to overturn the Supreme Court's Roe vs. Wade abortion rights ruling, now believe that the best way to chip away at the 1973 decision is to draw attention to the sometimes debilitating health and psychological impacts abortion has on women.

That's because in Roe vs. Wade and other related cases, judges have suggested abortion can be limited if the health of the mother is endangered. "Science is on our side," said Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

The Gosnell case, in which the Philadelphia abortionist was convicted in part in the death of a female patient, has given momentum to the new focus on mothers and what they face in surgery. "That helped a lot," said Charmaine Yoest, president of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.

Her group is leading the drive to draw attention to women's health. They just inaugurated the "Women's Protection Project" to highlight the under-reported dangers to women undergoing abortion and how state and federal lawmakers can use those threats to write abortion-limiting laws. For example, they are pushing states to pass an abortion patients safety act that would boost standards in clinics and another that would require doctors to inform women what will happen during the procedure.

At a Capitol Hill briefing last week, her group hosted noted Dr. Byron C. Calhoun who produced studies showing that late term abortion is physically dangerous to women; the likelihood of psychological problems, including suicidal behavior, surges after abortion; and that women who've had an abortion are more likely in a subsequent pregnancy to have a premature baby.

Ovide Lamontagne, general counsel for Americans United for Life, told Secrets that the health of mothers is often ignored in the abortion debate that typically focuses on the right women have to an abortion. "Kermit Gosnell brings both of these issues into focus," Lamontagne said. "This will cause people to reconsider having one."