Closing arguments are expected next week in the trial of Dr.
Kermit Gosnell, the late-term Philadelphia abortionist. As the
trial nears conclusion media coverage of the gruesome testimony
in the case has intensified.
A coordinated effort by pro-life bloggers and citizens on
Twitter managed to break through a mass media cone of silence,
and now commentators across the political and pro-life/pro-
choice spectrum are offering their perspectives.
Some of those perspectives are startling. So, too, are some of
the omissions about the entire chain of events � 40 years long
and counting � that Gosnell represents.
Among the startling responses is the claim that anti-abortion
policies produced Gosnell�s depredations.
In a piece for Slate magazine�s �MoneyBox� blog, Matthew
Yglesias declares his sympathy with the view that Gosnell is the
logical residue of a legal and business culture in which there
are few late-term abortion providers: �Making it difficult to
establish an above-board competitive marketplace with multiple
legal providers of late-term abortion facilities ensures that
the demand for the procedure will be pushed into low-quality
channels.� (A rare example, by the way, of a liberal
commentator embracing a robust health care marketplace and
linking quality to it.)
Apart from its cold calculus, this perspective on Gosnell
overlooks the more basic reason why there isn�t a thriving
marketplace of doctors willing to kill babies nearly or fully
capable of living outside the womb: The practice itself is in
no way one of the arts of medicine.
Few are drawn to it because few people with rarefied medical
skills see the fulfillment of their years of training in
wrenching apart a baby limb from limb.
For mothers and babies alike, the stories emerging from the
Gosnell trial are dark, bloody and remorseful, a repudiation of
what health and happiness should be.
Put more simply, what Gosnell was doing was objectively wrong
and obviously hurtful.
Moreover, lawlessness � and not a set of pro-life laws � is what
gave birth to Gosnell�s crimes, and that spirit of lawlessness,
of no limits and no scruples, dates back to the period before
Roe. v. Wade.
Tim Carney of the Washington Examiner has laid out in detail how
Gosnell vaulted into public view in 1972 through his involvement
in another gruesome episode, the �Mother�s Day Massacre.�
In full view of public television cameras, Gosnell brought 15
poor Chicago women to Philadelphia to undergo second-trimester
abortions induced by inserting a mass of razor-sharp plastic
coils into their wombs.
The so-called �super coil� method was the invention of Harvey
Karman, an ex-con with a diploma-mill Ph.D., who was a darling
of International Planned Parenthood.
That Gosnell was able to participate in a highly publicized
event that left nine of its 15 �subjects� with major medical
complications and suffer no penalty was a harbinger of the path
he would take over four decades.
Legal abortion resembles the back alley because the two
overlapped to an overwhelming degree.
In the early days of legal abortion, Mary Calderone, at the time
national medical director of Planned Parenthood, reported an
estimate that 90 percent of illegal abortionists pre-Roe were,
in fact, physicians. Then-Planned Parenthood president Alan
Guttmacher�s estimate was 80 percent.
The miracles of modern perinatology, the ability to save the
lives of babies born as early as 24 weeks� gestation, the
marvels of fetal surgery that have inspired specialties at
children�s hospitals across the country, including
Philadelphia�s pioneering unit � these are the spires and sinews
of medical progress.
The Gosnell trial is a stark reminder of another fact. The
women who entered the infernal portal of 3801 Lancaster Ave
suffered from an array of debilities, chief among them the
absence of hope.
In a sex-saturated society availed of an arsenal of pregnancy-
preventing and �destroying drugs, devices and, yes, abortion
clinics, they turned to a facility that should have shocked and
repelled them from the moment they saw its battered and blood-
Some would argue that their neighborhoods lack enough family
planning centers; more importantly, they lack enough families.
There is a relationship poverty that runs deeper than any other
kind. Low expectations can be a hard form of bigotry.
Despite this, in the neighborhood of Kermit Gosnell there were
advanced hospitals, Catholic pregnancy and adoption services,
and two pregnancy care centers: clean, well-lit places where
they and their children would have been valued and cared for.
Do we need more such centers, more highlighting of their work,
more funding? Yes, and we need more obstetricians as well, and
reform of a tort law system that is driving out quality
physicians by the hundreds and leaving in place some whose
victims are too impoverished and too ashamed to sue them.
Incredibly, part of the agenda of NARAL is to drive pregnancy
care centers out of business or block their advertising. They
label them �fake clinics.�
Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues to pursue its over-
the-top �preventive services mandate,� fully aware that one of
its primary effects may be to close religious hospitals that
care for millions of America�s poor and hundreds of thousands of
Building multiple late-term abortion clinics in search of a
bazaar of absolute choice is the last thing our nation�s poor
We would do well instead to seek a new birth of compassion,
reinvestment of time and energy in the Hippocratic ideal of
�doing no harm,� and the affirmation of the equal value of every