How Did the Gosnell Trial Bring Guns and Abortion Together Like This?

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Human beings, being pattern-seekers, like to mush things together no matter how well or poorly they fit. Today, those things happen to be abortion and guns. It turns out to be a bit of a stretch.

The reason abortion is in the news is not only because it always is. The trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell in Philadelphia has enraged political conservatives both for its horrifying content and for the perceived lack of media coverage of them. This latter argument is silly for a lot of reasons, many of which are wonderfully explicated by our own Dashiell Bennett. But it is primarily silly because outlets have been covering the story for a long time, from Gosnell's initial arrest in January 2011 to the start of the trial last month. Apparently, though, it was the 24th day of the trial that was the one everyone was supposed to focus on heavily. Lesson learned.

Gosnell's alleged crimes really are horrible: Working with an untrained staff including high school students, he performed abortions in a poor section of Philadelphia, often mishandling or ignoring the need for anesthetics. Seven of the eight counts of murder with which he's charged center on babies that had been delivered and then killed, in at least one occasion when Gosnell cut its spinal cord with scissors. It was inevitable that he should become a focus of the abortion debate. Today's the day it happened, walking through a weird back door of media critique — and right into the middle of the on-going debate over increased gun safety measures. 

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The gun-abortion overlap is one many found hard to resist. On the less comprehensible end of the scale was Representative Steve Stockman (previously). Stockman took advantage of the serendipitous firestorm to unveil a new campaign bumper sticker.

"If babies had guns, they wouldn't be aborted." This is presumably trying to link two conservative arguments — that fetuses are defenseless and that guns are useful for defense — but it frankly introduces more questions than it answers. For example: Is a baby's eyesight in utero so good that it can aim a handgun through a cervix?

CNN contributor Dana Loesch went a different direction in a column also at RedState. She quotes the president's statement at Sandy Hook ("If there’s even one thing we can do, if there’s just one life we can save, we’ve got an obligation to try"), then writing:

We need sensible abortion control. Think of how many classrooms of children lost their lives at the hands of Gosnell. The difference between Gosnell and some other abortionists is that Gosnell was caught. Gosnell didn’t use an AR-15 to snuff out the lives of these live infants. He assaulted them with scissors.

If Loesch is suggesting that there be criminal repercussions for Gosnell's allegedly killing a series of infants with scissors, that's hard to disagree with. In fact, the state of Pennsylvania appears to have somehow read this column and then retroactively arrested and put Gosnell on trial for seven counts of murder for doing exactly that about 24 days ago. Say what you will, but Dana Loesch gets results.

Jim Treacher (on Twitter: @JTLOL) at the Daily Caller took another tack. "If President Barack Obama had a son, would he look like any of the babies Kermit Gosnell beheaded?" This is a tasteful allusion to the president's March 2012 comment that the shooting death of Trayvon Martin had particular resonance given the racial dynamic. And scene.

Sometimes a horrible crime is just a horrible crime. Sometimes there is an object lesson. Sometimes there is not. If Gosnell is found guilty of the crimes with which he is charged, he deserves punishment. But those charges say little about legal abortion and say nothing at all about gun control or media bias. Sometimes there's no pattern to be found.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.