Some pundits and pro-life activists are pointing to the Kermit Gosnell case as evidence of the necessity for a late-term abortion ban because he killed babies, who survived the abortion procedure, by snipping the spine; pro-life Rep. Trent Franks (R, Arizona) invoked Gosnell when he introduced his bill last month in Congress that would ban abortion after 20 weeks. But Pennsylvania already outlaws abortion after 24 weeks and the prohibition did nothing to stop Gosnell’s vile killing spree.

While many abortionists probably abide restrictions on abortion, it is also clear from the Gosnell trial and numerous recent exposes that these restrictions do not work. A new Life Dynamics Inc. report describes the brutal way in which a Texas abortionist killed newborns with his bare hands, including babies who survived abortions carried out after the state’s 28-week limit for abortions. A gestational or other time limit restriction is simply not enforceable.

If abortions are allowed in some circumstances – in most cases, in fact, considering that according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.3 per cent of abortions are committed after 20 weeks gestation – then, without the most vigilant oversight, illegal late-term abortions can be easily committed. Because regulatory authorities cannot possibly monitor every abortion facility for every abortion, and because abortionists will lie in their paperwork (Gosnell was convicted of falsifying abortion reports to hide late-term abortions), there is no way to prevent abortions after any arbitrary deadline from being done. The only way to ensure late-term abortions are not carried out under cover of legal abortions, is to have no legal abortion.

It seems sensible and reasonable to ban late-term abortions. Even many so-called pro-choice voters endorse such a ban. But it is unreasonable to put faith in a law that is demonstrably flouted with impunity.