Anti-choice people have, as I predicted, taken to mentioning the Gosnell trial currently taking place in the United States in an attempt to undermine the pro-choice campaign for safe and legal abortion in Ireland. They use the case where Kermit Gosnell, a physician in Philadelphia, is on trial for – among other things – performing unsafe and illegal abortions and for a number of counts of murder, as a way to try to promote their anti-choice stance. The trial is brought up time and time again in discussions – including on TV talkshows – as anti-choice people not-so-subtly imply that if abortion is legislated in Ireland, the country will somehow be overrun by people like Gosnell.

Of course, this is a ridiculous link to make. And while abortion opponents continue to throw around this trial as if it somehow supports their opinions, they seem to forget (or willfully ignore) the fact that women went to Gosnell to seek abortions because of their “pro-life” campaigning.It’s known that unsafe and illegal abortions occur more regularly in countries where abortion is illegal, and in countries where it is legal, protests take place regularly outside medical centres and clinics where the procedure is performed.

While called “sidewalk counselling” by protesters, the real aim of such protests is to stop women having an abortion, by harassing them and guilting them. Protesters pressure women into changing their minds and leaving the clinic often by sheer numbers, but also by displaying disturbing pictures of abortions. It must be noted though, that protesters show images of late-term abortions to try to shock women, instead of showing images of early-term, medical abortions, which is the most common type of abortion. There are plenty of photos of protests using these images on the Internet, but I won’t link any here.

Protesters at the recent opening of the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast

So, what does all this have to do with Gosnell, I hear you ask?

Well, thanks to ongoing protests such as this, as well as numerous violent attacks on doctors and staff – some of whom were murdered by anti-choice protesters – clinics all over the United States were forced to close. Clinics like this not only provide abortion services, they also provide contraception and family-planning advice to women. By forcing clinics to close, anti-choicers were, in fact, denying women and couples to contraception in the first place.

Why do women in America opt for abortion? One of the biggest factors is economics: they cannot afford to raise a child. While raising a child might not be a problem for a family with money, women on low-incomes are not only unable to raise a child, they can not use federal money to get an abortion, thanks to the Hyde Amendment. Therefore, they must use their own limited money, and often have to opt for the cheapest provider they can find.

If you’re a pregnant woman living in an area where anti-choice protests are shutting down clinics, where anti-choice amendments force you to find a cheap abortion provider, you don’t have many options.

Can you guess what affordable and accessible abortion provider fitted the bill in Philadelphia? That’s right: Kermit Gosnell.

Through a variety of actions over the years, including forcing 9 out of 22 safe and legal abortion clinics to close in Pennsylvania in the last two years alone, forced women to visit a house of horrors where people were murdered. How many other dangerous providers are operating out there, killing women and infants, thanks to the activities of so-called “pro-life” activists?

Abortions, whether legal or illegal, safe or unsafe, have always taken place and will continue to take place. What’s important is that we must now stop forcing women to take unsafe abortion pills or visit dangerous backstreet providers so that their lives are not at risk. We have to stop forcing women to gather thousands of euro at very short notice to fly to the UK to get the medical care they need.

The only way to stop the likes of Gosnell, and to stop women dying unnecessarily, is to legalise abortion.