Kermit Gosnell, age 72, was convicted on Monday May 13, 2013 of first degree murder. He was found guilty of killing three newborn babies with a pair of scissors but testimony in court made it clear that his actions better fit the profile of a serial killer than that of a doctor.
Let me explain…
Serial killers are responsible for the deaths of more than two people and usually “specialize” in a certain type of victim. They also tend to keep trophies of their conquests and seem beyond a conscience. Like a serial killer, Gosnell was known to have kept jars of severed body parts in his clinic. Testimony shows he made dehumanizing comments about his victims describing one child he aborted as big enough to “walk to the bus”. In addition, Gosnell profited from the deaths of these children and made millions of dollars in “medical fees” and fraudulent prescription drug trafficking. All of these facts paint the picture of a drug dealing serial killer rather than a doctor specializing in “women’s health care.”
But unfortunately, in America today, Gosnell wouldn’t have been convicted of murder had these children simply had their hearts stopped before being delivered. If that had been the case he would have been hailed a hero, a “pioneering doctor” specializing in late term solutions to unwanted pregnancies for minority and poverty challenged women. This is how Gosnell characterized himself in a 2010 interview.
The jury felt differently.
But I wonder what “we the people” should take from this case? What does the Gosnell case tell us about our own culture?
What the Gosnell story really does is pull back the curtain on a worldview that cheapens human life into a hodgepodge of opinion, convenience and emotion. It takes away the shiny veneer of clean clinics with white robed doctors. This modern worldview of choice tosses around emotionally gratifying sound-bites that steer far from snipping spinal cords and dismembered human body parts. What the Gosnell saga does is pull away the pretense of a women’s right to choose – a sound-bite that sounds so reasonable and fair – to demonstrate for everyone to see what abortion is in all its blood stained reality.
Of course, both Pro-choice and Pro-life advocates have each tried to spin the story to their advantage. The editorial you are now reading is a case in point – while it is true that Gosnell was convicted of first degree murder, my opening paragraphs intentionally use language to accent the pro-life point of view painting Gosnell as a serial killer. A pro-life reader will likely affirm that characterization, but a pro-choice reader will likely have a very different reaction.
Consider this statement from Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero: “This verdict will ensure that no woman is victimized by Kermit Gosnell ever again. This case has made clear that we must have and enforce laws that protect access to safe and legal abortion, and we must reject misguided laws that would limit women’s options and force them to seek treatment from criminals like Kermit Gosnell.”[i]
So – Planned Parenthood cannot ignore the shocking truth about Gosnell’s clinic. Gosnell’s abortion clinic was filled with jars of severed infant feet, blood stained furniture and gruesome testimony about “snipping the spinal cords” of babies born alive. Instead of pretending these horrors didn’t happen, Planned Parenthood simply tries to spin the story as yet another reason women need “safe and legal” abortion.
But what makes the abortion procedure itself any LESS horrific just because it’s performed in a “safe and legal” setting?
Honestly – do “safe and legal” abortion clinics do anything less than Gosnell? After all, prior to about 24 weeks gestation “safe and legal” abortion clinics uses a bladed instrument to literally tear the human infant into pieces which are then vacuumed into a jar. Gosnell kept his jars of dismembered body parts – but Planned Parenthood simply disposes of its jars and the result is the same. Gosnell’s clinic had blood stained furniture – but Planned Parenthood cleans its stirrups and patient tables better. So what’s the difference? How is “safe and legal” any better just because it’s a nice sound-bite?
Gosnell also specialized in late term abortions but he “botched” them so that the babies were born alive. This is how he crossed the line. But why is it a “botched” procedure when a baby is born alive? Answer: because the goal of the whole procedure is to terminate a pregnancy (a nice sound-bite that can be translated “the goal of the whole procedure is a dead baby”!)
So how would a “safe and legal” late term abortion be anything less barbaric than what Gosnell did? Consider how a partial birth abortion is performed in a “safe and legal setting” – a medical worker uses drugs to first dilate the cervix (I intentionally hesitate to use the word “doctor” for such a procedure). Using an ultrasound, the worker then uses an instrument to grasp the baby’s leg and pull the child into a “breech” position. The legs are pulled into the birth canal but the head remains inside the uterus. A hole is then cut at the base of the baby’s head; the hole is widened to admit a suction instrument which then removes the brain causing the skull to collapse and the “fetus” is then removed down the birth canal.
Yeah – the word “fetus” and the “safe and legal” sound-bites are somehow supposed to make this all better!
Of course at this point the emotional objections rend the air in all their violated fury – “You anti-abortion people don’t care about the plight of poor women. You don’t care about the medical needs of teenage victims of incest and rape. You don’t care about the horror of unwanted or abused children.”
We certainly do care about these issues – but our solution isn’t to kill the children.
You see, we also care about the stories we have heard on countless occasions of the psychological and, dare I say, spiritual destruction women have experienced who have had abortions. They bought into the culture which told them their unwanted pregnancy wasn’t fully human, was just developing tissue or wouldn’t feel pain. They submitted to the procedure only to find themselves decimated, alone, horrified and haunted by their choice. As a minister I’ve been called upon to help these damaged souls find forgiveness, healing and comfort in our faith. It is tragic and heart breaking – a story Planned Parenthood doesn’t want you to hear because, like Gosnell, they make millions from “safely and legally” performing abortions.
The truth is there are always going to be social challenges in any society but it is dangerous to submit to the worldview that social problems are best solved by the “safe and legal” termination of human life. Where will it end? Partial birth abortions are banned in the United States today – but laws can be changed.
In fact, without the standard that human life is sacred at every stage of life (from conception to old age) the opinions, conveniences and emotions of the majority can transform in the blink of an election. Those who know history can attest to this truth.
The opinions and emotions of the majority in Germany during the Nazi era led to legally defining certain groups, including the Jewish people, the mentally retarded and others as “sub-human”. The truth is there can be no doubt that Hitler and the Nazi’s used legal and scientific arguments to justify the murder of millions.[ii] In fact, the Nazi’s legally euthanized tens of thousands of mentally retarded children in “safe and legal” hospitals long before the actual holocaust began.
But this dangerous idea isn’t confined to some dark chapter of Nazi history. It is creeping back into western thinking at an alarming rate.
For example, today in the Netherlands, voluntary Euthanasia (Doctor assisted suicide) is already legal for anyone 12 years and older. The Netherlands is also the home of the “Groningen protocol”. The protocol allows for doctors, in a committee and with parental consent, to end the life of a seriously ill newborn baby.[iii] The Groningen protocol has already been followed at least twenty times and it is nothing short of Gosnell’s actions in more medically sanitized clothes.
So – how long will it be before opinions, convenience and emotions will change to legally define the mentally retarded, the disabled and the elderly as only “potentially human?” Hopefully, the Gosnell case will pull back the veil on this procedure so far that voters and activists will be compelled all the more to press for the protection of every human life.
In the meantime, Gosnell agreed to a plea bargain. He will spend the rest of his life behind bars and will avoid the death penalty. None of his victims were able to make a bargain for their lives. We would do well to remember them…and their 55 million siblings who have died since 1973.
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Patrick C Marks is the author of the suspense novel “Legend” (Kindle price $1.99, http://amzn.to/uwHATL), a Christian apologetics, non-fiction book about evolution and creation called “Someone’s Making a Monkey Out of You” (Kindle price $2.99, hard copy $15.95, http://amzn.to/snubN1) and a humerous short story called “The Far Frigid North” (kindle price $.99, http://goo.gl/OhzWQ). He is also a husband, father, pastor, and a poor excuse for an oil painter – but he likes getting his fingers colorful anyway.
[i] Fox news internet article. Accessed May 14, 2013. http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/05/13/jury-split-on-2-counts-in-trial-abortion-doctor-kermit-gosnell/#ixzz2TK3OZcn7
[ii] Morris et al. The Modern Creation Trilogy, vol 3. Master Books 1996, P. 90. “Eventually, in the eyes of Nazi evolutionary scientists, those “unfit to live” came to include not only people who were mentally ill or physically handicapped, but also Jews, Negroes, gypsies, and any others who did not have “pure” Teutonic genealogies. All of this was considered to be in the ultimate interest of the evolutionary advance of – as Darwin had put it – “the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.” Hitler continually emphasized this concept of evolutionistic struggle in his own writings. In fact, the very title of his definitive book, Mein Kampf, meant “My Struggle.” Hitler and his Nazis were the true evolutionists, in the fullest sense.”
[iii] Jim Holt, The New York Times, July 10, 2005. Euthanasia for babies? Accessed 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/10/magazine/10WWLN.html?pagewanted=all. “Two physicians practicing in the Netherlands, the very heart of civilized Europe, this spring published in The New England Journal of Medicine a set of guidelines for what they called infant ”euthanasia.” The authors named their guidelines the Groningen protocol, after the city where they work. One of the physicians, Dr. Eduard Verhagen, has admitted to presiding over the killing of four babies in the last three years, by means of a lethal intravenous drip of morphine and midazolam (a sleeping agent).”