THE JURY is still deliberating on the Kermit Gosnell case, and anticipation of the verdict is high.
Deliberations began earlier this week on the gruesome case of the West Philadelphia abortion doctor who performed third-trimester abortions in a medical practice that the grand-jury report called a "filthy fraud."
The stark language of the 2011 grand-jury report conveyed the horror and disgust that most of us feel over this case: "This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimesterof pregnancy - and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. . . . Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it."
The Gosnell story is at the extreme dark end of the abortion issue - to say nothing of the darkest end of humanity.
Both sides of the abortion issue have taken the Gosnell case for their own arguments - to illustrate the evils of all abortions, or the evils of limited access to safe, legal abortions.
We're on the latter side. That's why the outcome of bills in Harrisburg related to reproductive rights are more compelling than whether Gosnell is put to death.
The measures are described as "protections." They're anything but.
The first is House Bill 818, which would ban abortion coverage from state health exchanges. That means that the people who buy health insurance from the soon-to-be-created health-care exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act will not be able to purchase insurance that includes abortion coverage, nor be able to pay for such coverage out of their own pockets.
That will remove coverage from lower- and middle-income people who are not covered by employer health insurance - even to protect the health of a woman.
This exemption is allowed by the federal government, and so far at least 17 states have enacted laws to restrict coverage for abortion in insurance exchanges.
That means that low-income women will have a harder time accessing safe, legal abortions. How do lawmakers continue to justify making abortions harder and harder to get without driving desparate women to butcheries like Gosnell's?
But it gets worse: The chairman of the Pennsylvania House Health committee, Matt Baker, wants to limit the availability of contraception, too. Baker has authored a three-bill package that he calls "Rights of Conscience," which would require insurers to offer plans that don't cover birth control, opt out of federal coverage for birth control and ban insurance plans from covering contraceptive methods unless the subscriber requests coverage.
There is one bright spot in this madness. Last week, Democratic state Rep. Brian Sims addressed the House in an attempt to derail the abortion ban. He said:
"Each of us put our hand on the Bible and swore to uphold the Constitution. We did not place our hands on the Constitution and swear to uphold the Bible."
More lawmakers should take those words to heart.