The Kermit Gosnell Case: America on Trial
Each society and culture has its own barometer for measuring its psychological health, sense of priority, and collective wellbeing. The Maasai tribe of Kenya, for instance, use the traditional greeting, “How are the children?” when acknowledging one another. The expected response between tribesmen is, “All the children are well.” This exchange signifies that because the children are being protected, taken care of, and provided for, all else in their world is as it should be: peace prevails, and society is fulfilling its obligation by ensuring posterity and future survival. What of our country? Are all of our children well?
[Kermit Gosnell] regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy—and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. (Report of the Grand Jury used to indict Kermit Gosnell)
Something is happening in our midst right now that is almost certain to become a watershed moment in our history. Kermit Gosnell, a man who took a professional oath to keep his patients from harm, who is part of what we call “the healing arts”, and in whose hands women placed their medical wellbeing, is on trial in Philadelphia for murdering four live babies after failed late-term abortions and killing one female patient. Remarkably, many people still are unaware of this trial or the history of the Women’s Medical Society abortion clinic run by Gosnell for almost 40 years. This stunning lack of awareness is due primarily to the deliberate and intentional absence of national mainstream, and initially, even Christian, media coverage of the Gosnell proceedings. If CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS and their colleagues don’t want people to know what’s going on, and if even Christian media is reluctant to address the trial, we have to ask ourselves, “Why?”. Could it be that they all perceive the effect that honest, unbiased exposure of Gosnell’s reprehensible and illegal acts would have on the abortion debate? In the end, their reasons don’t change the fact that we cannot let media disregard of this story force us to miss what’s really at stake—the sensitivity and responsiveness of our individual consciences and the preservation of our country as a civil society.
Gosnell had a simple solution for the unwanted babies he delivered: he killed them. He didn’t call it that. He called it “ensuring fetal demise.” The way he ensured fetal demise was by sticking scissors into the back of the baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that “snipping.” (Report of the Grand Jury)
Sometimes it takes a jolt to the senses to snap us out of complacency and moral largesse. In 1963, during a critical juncture for the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and local leaders in Birmingham, Alabama decided to include children in a major planned protest, later dubbed the “Children’s Crusade” by Newsweek magazine. Ed Gilbreath, founding editor of UrbanFaith and author of the forthcoming book, Birmingham Revolution, describes how published media images of children being sprayed with fire hoses, and attacked by trained police dogs, brought added pressure both nationally and locally: “The campaign was faltering. As the nation began to see the images…the true spotlight was shone on Birmingham when the kids got out there. [President] Kennedy had been trying to placate Dixiecrats but he did have concern for civil rights. The images of the kids forced his hand [and] also put economic pressure on Birmingham merchants. Kennedy began to recognize the hypocrisy of us presenting ourselves as being against communism, but right here in our own nation we had this cruel apartheid, [contrary to and] against the virtues we preached.” A teacher resource covering the Birmingham civil rights campaign adds, “Shocking photographs that accompanied the nightly television footage helped stir the nation’s conscience and provoked critical comment around the world.” Will we allow our consciences to be similarly stirred on behalf of the children whose lives were snuffed out by Gosnell? Can we use this moment as a turning point of common allegiance and opposition against such brutality and indifference to human life?
Baby Boy A…was breathing and moving when Dr. Gosnell severed his spine and put the body in a plastic shoebox for disposal. The doctor joked that this baby was so big he could “walk me to the bus stop.” …Baby C was moving and breathing for 20 minutes before an assistant came in and cut the spinal cord just the way she had seen Gosnell do it so many times before. (Report of the Grand Jury)
Women of all faiths, political affiliations, and ideological positions should be appalled that another woman’s children were degraded and discarded in this fashion. This is a time to recover our communal lament over the condition of our nation as reflected in its sanctioning the brutal practice of abortion. The words of Jeremiah 9 ring true in this regard: Consider all this, and call for the mourners. Send for the women who mourn at funerals. Quick! Begin your weeping! Let the tears flow from your eyes. … For death has crept in through our windows and has entered our mansions.
Christians can’t allow media silence to silence us. Will we cooperate with the media’s attempt to harden our hearts and chill our souls as evil is ignored, justified, or blacked out? These were defenseless children, whom Scripture summons us to protect.
And what about Karnamaya Mongar, the refugee woman who was left to die after post-abortion neglect?
Karnamaya Mongar… received repeated unmonitored, unrecorded intravenous injections of Demerol, a sedative seldom used in recent years because of its dangers. … After several hours, Mrs. Mongar simply stopped breathing. When employees finally noticed, Gosnell was called in and briefly attempted to give CPR. He couldn’t use the defibrillator (it was broken); nor did he administer emergency medications that might have restarted her heart. … Doctors at the hospital managed to keep her heart beating, but…by that point, there was no way to restore any neurological activity. Life support was removed the next day. [She] was pronounced dead. (Report of the Grand Jury).
What does it say about us that there isn’t widespread alarm, shock, grief, and outrage over this trial and case? Have we finally been persuaded that protection of human life is secondary to a government-created “right”, and that killing innocent babies is ok?
Decency, regard for human life, dignity, and respect for the rule of law should be public values – even for those who do not claim Christianity. All of us together, believer and non-believer alike, must take stock of our tolerances because they foreshadow our societal trajectory: either upward toward grace, kindness, respect, restraint, and national honor; or downward toward violence, cruelty, rampant evil, and national reproach. Accepting the murder of live babies is just one point on a spectrum of debased behavior evident in other parts of our society—escalating violence against and among young people, sexual violation and humiliation of children and women, abuse, disregard, and neglect of the elderly, infirm, and disabled. We are becoming increasingly unmoved by even the most heinous and vile encroachments on human existence. We should be careful. Just because we might pretend not to see what’s going on doesn’t mean that God doesn’t see. And now we can’t say we didn’t know.