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Discussion Highlights Reproductive Health Rights

January 25, 2011

Amid outrage over alleged butchery in a West Philadelphia abortion clinic, professors David S. Cohen and Rose Corrigan led a discussion on Jan. 24 of the risks women faced prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v Wade.

The arrest of Dr. Kermit Gosnell on Jan. 19 on murder charges in the gruesome deaths of a patient and seven babies whose spinal cords were allegedly severed with scissors has ignited fresh controversy over abortion.

But while abortion opponents claim Gosnell’s case reveals abortion as a violent act, Corrigan said the traffic to his clinic reflected legal restrictions that hamper access to reproductive health in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

The 1997 Hyde Amendment bars Medicaid funding of abortion, and Pennsylvania is one of many states that has refused to help women pay for the procedure, Corrigan said, contending clinics like Gosnell’s "filled a bill."

Corrigan also discussed this topic in "Back-Alley Abortions in 2011: How Anti-Choice Zealots Force Women to Go to Dangerous Clinics Like Dr. Kermit Gosnell's" published online at

"When you limit abortions, there are women who will go to any lengths," said Tracy Tripp, a member of the board the National Network of Abortion Funds and a 2010 graduate of the law school.

The discussion followed a screening of the documentary film, Motherless, which features interviews with adult children still mourning the deaths of mothers who died from botched abortions decades before.

Cohen said the film’s grim glimpse of the pre-Roe era serves as a reminder of the stakes in the abortion debate.

"It could also apply today, because abortion for lots of women is inaccessible," Cohen said.