April 17, 2013
Gosnell Abortion Trial: "Pulling Back the Curtain on This Procedure"
Overthe last month, I (here), Rick Garnett (here), and others on Mirror of Justice have protested the news media's virtual black-out in covering the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, accused of murdering newborn babies who survived late-term abortions, as well as causing the death of women in his fraudulent medical practice.
Shamed into introspection, more or less candidly acknowledged, the news media have begun covering the horrific trial in Philadelphia. Now that attention finally is being paid, what will come of it?
Journalist Carl Cannon writes on realclearpolitics.com about "reproductive rights" as one of journalism's most "sacred cows," and then offers these thoughts on attention being drawn to the reality of abortion as a "procedure":
Gosnell’s actions pull back the curtain on this procedure and allow Americans to contemplate a disquieting prospect: that abortion itself is an inherently violent act, the grisly details of which remain hidden even from the patients in the operating room -- and that if those specifics were truly understood, public support for it would wane.
Is abortion an inherently violent act because the fetus is a person whose life is extinguished by the procedure or because it is bloody and gruesome? If the former, then you're right, but that's the very point of contention with which everyone is already familiar. If the latter, how is it different from all other invasive procedures?
Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Apr 17, 2013 5:16:15 PM
While other invasive medical procedures may result in the shedding of blood or exposure of an internal organ, which some may find gruesome, abortion at later stages certainly is unique in producing a dead body (or, in Kermit Gosnell's case, a body that is not yet dead but that is rendered so afterward). As outlined in the Gosnell trial, the "medical waste" produced by these procedures -- nearly-full-term babies, severed heads and limbs, etc. -- is certainly not comparable to any other medical procedure. Pulling the curtain away to show all that a human body is being discarded as the end result is important. If pro-choice advocates want to claim that the terminated fetus is of no more moral importance than removal of an appendix, then they should be prepared to let people look at a removed appendix laid next to a removed fetus and make that case. In a horrible way, a picture is worth a thousand words.
Posted by: Greg Sisk | Apr 17, 2013 5:24:26 PM
90% of abortions occur before the second trimester. Only 1% or so occur anywhere near viability. Gosnell does not represent an accurate look at what the typical abortion involves. This is what the typical reproduction rights entails. The same that involves not having an abortion, even if some think the pregnancy should end that way. Use scare quotes at your peril.
There was no "virtual blackout" by "the media" though underreporting harm to the disadvantaged (e.g., people maimed or killed in the production of our food) is rather common in the so-called MSM.
Gosnell's actions hopefully will show that safe reasonably priced medical care, including reproductive care, is an important public good and the alternative is having people like him take advantage of those in need. This occurs in general where abortion is illegal such as in Latin America. We will have more horror stories if abortion was illegal. This includes mistreatment of live infants.
Less unnecessary abortion restrictions or refusal to provide public funding so people can have the means to -- pursuant to their own health needs and private religious beliefs (but some like certain beliefs over others, so deprive them of the right to realistically make them) -- have abortions earlier in the pregnancy.
There will be a small number of abortions later in the pregnancy, generally very sad cases, where the fetus might be dead or have no chance of survival or the woman's health is at risk (pursuant to faithful medical judgment, not criminals like Gosnell) if they don't have the abortion.
These women repeatedly desperately want a baby but cannot have one. Gosnell hopefully will serve as an example of what not to do. People like the assassinated George Tiller provide safe care. Sweep this under the rug, since we don't want to think about it, don't want to dirty our hands by regulating something some are morally opposed, criminals like Gosnell will take up the slack.
Posted by: Joe | Apr 17, 2013 6:44:08 PM
"Safe care"? For the aborted children? Hardly.
Two quick responses:
First, given that pro-choice advocates tenaciously resist any restriction on abortion after the first trimester, responding that 90 percent of abortions occur earlier is not a satisfying answer. Even if we make the fallacious assumption that human dignity and value are missing before the end of the first-trimester, let's consider what those statistics mean in horrific reality. The abortion industry's Guttmacher Institute estimates 50 million abortions in America between 1973 and 2008. Thus, the ten percent of abortions that occur after the first trimester means at least five million abortions. And the claim that "[o]nly 1% or so occur anywhere near viability" also translates into an appalling atrocity. By a conservative estimate then, and assuming the consensus that at least near-viability babies are human persons, this means 500,000 dead babies since 1973. In America! We should not let casual use of statistics numb us to the death toll.
Second, Robby George's recent post here on Mirror of Justice responds to the myths about the world pre-Roe v. Wade: http://mirrorofjustice.blogs.com/mirrorofjustice/2013/04/naral-recycles-the-old-myths.html
Posted by: Greg Sisk | Apr 17, 2013 7:14:20 PM
Abortions will occur, including for those cases that were legal even pre-Roe. They should be provided safely. Over 90% occur long before viability. If you are saying even one week embryos are "children," fine [the average person will disagree], but still, abortions will occur, and they should be safe.
Pro-choice advocates (that's a label, so I'll have to generalize; I'm a pro-choice advocate, but maybe I'm not representative enough for you) support applying basic regulations to abortion services. These are "restrictions." For instance, a doctor has to perform it. Certain procedures have to be provided. etc. Likewise, to be licensed, clinics and personnel have to meet various requirements. Pointless and discriminatory regulations are opposed. Forced ultrasounds. Unnecessary waiting periods that delay abortions. TRAP laws that single out clinics with provisions not applied to other medical services. etc.
I'm not here to debate first trimester abortions per se. I am here to note that trying to make what Gosnell did representative of the average abortion is a lie. As to the other numbers, second trimester abortions are allowed because the fetus is not viable. Live infants aren't involved there either, so Gosnell isn't that. The true number there is the 1% or less. And, there we generally have tragic cases where the women's health is seriously at risk or the fetus has no chance of surviving. Quite tragic and repeatedly they desperately wanted to have the baby but could not. They deserve safe care. Gosnell didn't give it to them and as my link shows "the media" reported it to show that, even if it is not the media that meets the line you are promoting.
I'm not going to play competing partisan advocate here as to "myths." People can read up on the history, including that abortions still occurred in sizable numbers, but doctors and others were often arbitrary gatekeepers, resulting in a more dangerous and unjust situation. Since many states now by state law protect abortion, looking at history isn't that useful. Why examine how things are in countries like Latin America where it is illegal now? Where the Church tries to block even young girls from having abortions?
Posted by: Joe | Apr 18, 2013 11:26:47 AM
For another effort at "pulling back the curtain on this procedure," try Abby Johnson's book "Unplanned." Johnson was the director of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. She details her personal journey from ardent supporter of abortion rights (including her two abortions) to pro-life advocate. She also provides a convincing case about how abortion is serious business (no pun intended) for Planned Parenthood and its financial bottom line.
Posted by: Bill Collier | Apr 18, 2013 11:27:17 AM
It seems to me that it's ironic that so many pro-life advocates seem to be outraged by what went on in Gosnell's clinic, since it is the pro-life position that birth is not a significant enough milestone in human development to argue for a moral difference when it comes to killing a fetus/infant before rather than after that point. They stand side by side—in a certain sense—with those who would advocate infanticide since both groups claim that there is no moral difference between killing a human being a few hours after conception, a few days after conception, a few weeks after conception, a short time before childbirth, or a short time after childbirth. Of course, one believes there is no moral difference because killing before or after birth can *never* be justified, whereas the other side believes it *can* be justified.
Our visceral reaction to a late-term abortion may be more intense than to an early abortion. But don't at least most in the pro-life camp consider them morally equivalent? Gosnell would not be on trial for murder today if he had given intra-cardial injections of potassium chloride to stop the beating hearts of the infants he was about to abort. In some ways, it might be a better tack for pro-life advocates to ask, "Why do so many people, even those who are pro-choice, consider Gosnell a monster when he would have been just another abortionist if he had taken the precaution of killing the fetuses *before* he aborted them?"
Certainly the lesson of the Gosnell trial for most people is that there should be regular inspections of abortion clinics, and complaints against abortion clinics should be thoroughly investigated. The lesson also might be that there should be tighter controls on late term-abortions. But the Gosnell case can't reasonably be used as an argument against all abortions, much as many pro-life advocates seem to want it to be. The Gosnell trial isn't even primarily about abortion. It is a murder trial, and if Gosnell did what he is alleged to do, he is a murderer.
Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 18, 2013 3:33:45 PM
"Pro-choice" journalists and other elites don't consider Gosnell's actions monstrous, until we shame them into admitting it. Normal people do, and naturally connect the dots with abortion, if they would only be informed about it by the media. That is why "pro-choice" elites don't, on their own, consider Gosnell's actions monstrous or bother to discuss them, because they know the ordinary practice of abortion is monstrous and includes lots of Gosnells and Finkels and other abuses. It is also why Planned Parenthood and the President took the position in legislatures that protecting children born alive would threaten the abortion right, and continue to take the position against any regulation of abortionists. The funny thing is when "pro choice" commenters advise prolifers how to be more effective.
Posted by: Matt Bowman | Apr 18, 2013 4:41:52 PM
I don't think I understand your comment. I get the sense from the tone of your comment that you think that you've caught pro-lifers in some kind of hypocrisy or inconsistency, but I can't see your point.
For your first paragraph, I don't get the irony. Are you saying pro-lifers shouldn't be upset at Gosnell's infanticide but should stand side-by-side with infanticide advocates who think it's okay? That doesn't make sense. Are you saying that pro-lifers are unusually upset about Gosnell's infanticide, and that's ironic since they aren't normally as upset with partial-birth, late-term abortions? I don't see that -- it seems to me pro-lifers are just as upset with partial-birth, late-term abortions. (And that's setting aside the fact that there is a reason to be more upset with Gosnell than your "average" abortionist, due to Gosnell's unusual depravity and disregard for human dignity. It's not illogical to be more upset with the serial killer who beheads his victims and cuts their feet off for souvenirs on display in jars in his office, than with the killer who gives his victims lethal injections and then gives them dignified burials.)
For your second paragraph, you ask "But don't at least most in the pro-life camp consider them morally equivalent?" The answer is, "yes, they do." And then you say "it might be a better tack for pro-life advocates to ask, "Why do so many people, even those who are pro-choice, consider Gosnell a monster when he would have been just another abortionist if he had taken the precaution of killing the fetuses *before* he aborted them?"" They are saying this --- I've seen lots of people make this point. And I've seen honest pro-choice commentators wrestle with this same point. For the pro-choice camp, this is the most glaring and challenging aspect of the Gosnell case. It's undoubtedly the main reason for any reluctance by pro-choice media or journalists or advocates to think about the case in the first place. So, again, I'm not sure what you're getting at.
Finally, in your last paragraph, you say that "the Gosnell case can't reasonably be used as an argument against all abortions, much as many pro-life advocates seem to want it to be. The Gosnell trial isn't even primarily about abortion. It is a murder trial." Well, I suppose, technically, it's a murder trial. But the Gosnell case is obviously about abortion and obviously can be used as an argument against abortion---in fact, you just made the argument yourself in the previous paragraph! Gosnell's actions would have been legal if he kept the human entities in the birth canals before killing them, and yet most people, including pro-choice advocates, recognize that what Gosnell was doing was inhumane and immoral. That's an argument for the humanity of the unborn human entity and against abortion, and I've seen pro-choice commentators struggle with this.
(This is a good example of what I'm talking about:
Posted by: Thales | Apr 18, 2013 5:37:23 PM
My point, to clarify (I hope) is that pro-life advocates and pro-infanticide advocates share one view in common that most others disagree with. That view is that birth marks the moment when a fetus becomes a person. Pro-life advocates generally would say personhood begins at conception. Pro-infanticide advocates would argue that a fetus doesn't become a person until some time after birth (for example, when it develops true self-awareness). Yet pro-life advocates often seem to give the impression that they believe late-term abortions are more objectionable than early abortions. And although they believe that killing an embryo or fetus at any point is morally equivalent to killing a newborn baby, they react much the same to Gosnell's crimes as many who are pro-choice and would say early abortions are generally acceptable, late-term abortions are troubling, and killing newborns is murder (infanticide).
The Gosnell case isn't "technically" a murder trial. The charges against Gosnell include seven counts of first-degree murder. Gosnell isn't being tried for performing abortions. He isn't even being tried for performing late-term abortions. He is being tried for killing "real" babies—babies that were born alive because labor was induced, could have survived, and were deliberately and directly killed because they were not wanted. That is not abortion. That is killing babies.
You say: "Gosnell's actions would have been legal if he kept the human entities in the birth canals before killing them, and yet most people, including pro-choice advocates, recognize that what Gosnell was doing was inhumane and immoral."
It sounds like what you are describing here is "partial birth abortion," and that is not legal. People may be troubled that an abortionist (in some states) may kill a viable fetus before aborting it but not after, but I think most people who are pro-choice would nevertheless make a distinction between killing in the womb and killing a child that has been born. That is because most who are pro-choice (if I am correct) see birth as a very significant dividing line.
Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 18, 2013 11:25:49 PM
You say: "It is also why Planned Parenthood and the President took the position in legislatures that protecting children born alive would threaten the abortion right, and continue to take the position against any regulation of abortionists."
Can you tell me any state where it is legal to kill viable born-alive infants, or even to deliberately kill (rather than allow to die) pre-viable infants that are born and destined to live only briefly? Was it legal to kill born-alive infants in Illinois when Obama opposed the various versions of the state Born Alive Infant Protection Act?
Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 18, 2013 11:34:33 PM
For your first paragraph, I still don't see the hypocrisy or irony. As I said earlier, there is nothing illogical with thinking that infanticide/depraved corpse mutilation is more heinous than an early-term abortion, or with being more outraged with infanticide/depraved corpse mutilation than an early-term abortion, even though both acts are the killing of an innocent human being. Take any two different instances where an innocent human being is killed: the two killings can often be distinguished by the differing levels of depravity of the method taken to kill the human being, the differing levels of respect for (or disrespect for) the dignity of the human being while alive and for the corpse when dead, and the differing levels of culpability for the one doing the killing.
For the rest of your comment, we must be talking past each other. I know it's a murder trial. But your first post seemed to be making the point that the Gosnell case is not about abortion and is not an argument against abortion. Your point (as I read it) doesn't make sense, because the Gosnell case -- despite being a murder trial -- is obviously about abortion and presents an argument against abortion... because his actions would have been legal abortion if he had done them inside the mother's body.
Let's not quibble about partial-birth abortion, (which many abortion advocates think should be legal, but set that aside for now.) I'm talking about legal late-term abortions.
You say: "People may be troubled that an abortionist (in some states) may kill a viable fetus before aborting it but not after, but I think most people who are pro-choice would nevertheless make a distinction between killing in the womb and killing a child that has been born. That is because most who are pro-choice (if I am correct) see birth as a very significant dividing line."
I agree. **And that is why the Gosnell case presents such a troubling challenge to the pro-choice side.** For a thoughtful pro-choice advocate bothered by Gosnell, there is a good chance that he or she is going to start to find that the birth-dividing-line position is an unsatisfactory rationale and may even come to see that it is an illogical rationale.
Posted by: Thales | Apr 20, 2013 12:55:25 AM
One of DN's favorite tactics is to dodge a point he can't deny by asking a different question.
Posted by: Matt Bowman | Apr 20, 2013 3:03:35 PM
You say: "One of DN's favorite tactics is to dodge a point he can't deny by asking a different question."
Let's take a look at what I was responding to.
You said: "'Pro-choice' journalists and other elites don't consider Gosnell's actions monstrous, until we shame them into admitting it."
How can people be shamed into admitting what they don't believe? I skipped over that because it simply made no sense.
You said: "Normal people do [consider Gosnell's actions monstrous], and naturally connect the dots with abortion, if they would only be informed about it by the media."
So pro-choice journalists and "other elites" are not "normal people." Does this kind of argument work in court—categorizing people as normal and not normal?
The dots to connect are that Gosnell is charged with seven counts of first-degree murder and that he is an abortionist. Of course, what pro-lifers *want* "normal" people to do is say to themselves, "Gosnell is a murderer. Gosnell is an abortionist. Therefore, abortionists are murderers." This is similar, in my opinion, to those who would like to see Americans turn against immigration reform because the brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon are immigrants. (Greg Sargent in yesterday's Washington Post: "Foes of immigration reform pounce on Boston bombing.")
You said: "That is why 'pro-choice' elites don't, on their own, consider Gosnell's actions monstrous or bother to discuss them, because they know the ordinary practice of abortion is monstrous and includes lots of Gosnells and Finkels and other abuses."
Again, this scarcely makes sense. Pro-choice elites don't consider Gosnell's actions monstrous because they know the ordinary practice of abortion is monstrous, but if they know the ordinary practice of abortion is monstrous, then it would seem to me they know monstrous when they see it, and would consider Gosnell's actions monstrous. What you appear to be trying to say—I think—is that Gosnell doesn't strike them as newsworthy because they know Gosnell is not atypical. It's not a matter of what they consider monstrous or not. You can't seem to figure out what they consider monstrous. But you seem to be saying they don't think of Gosnell as an outlier. You seem to be implying it is common to do late-term abortions, botch them so that the babies are born alive, and snip their spines. But this is simply not factual. Late-term abortions are rare, and late-term abortion providers are few. Less than 2% of abortions are performed at or later than 21 weeks. The kind of thing Gosnell did simply can't be typical or common.
You said: "It is also why Planned Parenthood and the President took the position in legislatures that protecting children born alive would threaten the abortion right, and continue to take the position against any regulation of abortionists."
The question I asked in response to this statement is, I think, quite relevant. Is legislation to protect born-alive infants actually necessary. Was it legal in Illinois for abortionists to kill born-alive infants before the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act was passed? Does Florida really need its new proposed born-alive bill because without it, it would be legal to kill born-alive infants? It seems to me that some pro-lifers have been hammering away at Obama for years now for opposing the born-alive bills in the Illinois legislature when those bills changed nothing. It was just as illegal to kill a born-alive infant in Illinois before the bill eventually passed as it was after the bill passed. So I will repeat my question. Is it legal anywhere in the United States to kill a born-alive infant in case of abortion, miscarriage, or premature birth?
Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 20, 2013 5:09:52 PM
Even Washington Post has now belatedly given Obama four Pinocchios for denying that he opposed the law protecting children born during abortion. He and PP both say they oppose those laws because the laws threaten Roe. So to them Roe includes death sentences for those kids--sentences Gosnell merely carried out. You are worked up against prolifers regarding this monstrous situation because it threatens your pro abortion viewpoint. And you have every reason to worry.
Posted by: Matt Bowman | Apr 20, 2013 6:19:01 PM
You say: "Even Washington Post has now belatedly given Obama four Pinocchios for denying that he opposed the law protecting children born during abortion."
First of all, the column that Robert George dredged up from the Washington Post and featured in his April 14 MOJ post misleadingly called "Four Pinochios for Obama on infanticide . . . five years too late" is six months old. He cross posted it on First Things, and revised his comments there when Elizabeth Scalia pointed out the date on the column (and the fact that it was published *before* the presidential election, not after, as George had claimed), but for some reason George made no changes in the MOJ version of the post.
Second, it may be a quibble, but the Washington Post did not give Obama Four Pinocchios, it said, "The evidence suggests we could have awarded Four Pinocchios to the former Illinois senator for his comments to the Christian Broadcasting Network, but that interview is several years old now, and it’s not the focus of this particular column." By the way, there is no question at all that Obama was not telling the truth. As the Washington Post notes, PolitiFact had clearly demonstrated back in October of 2008, before Obama was elected president, that his comments on the Christian Broadcasting Network the previous August were false.
Third, you say Obama denied "that he opposed the law protecting children born during abortion." This is not accurate. Obama's record is clear that he opposed all versions of the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act. What Obama falsely claimed was that he *would* have supported the law had it contained the same "neutrality clause" as the federal bill. The first two times the bill came up in the Illinois senate, it did not have the "neutrality clause." However, the third time (in 2003), it did.
Fourth, as you know by now, I do not consider it accurate to call the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act a "law protecting children born during abortion." For one thing, all the law did was declare born-alive infants to be considered persons when applying any other Illinois law or regulation containing the words "person" or "persons." Born-alive infants were *already* protected under Illinois law. Also, in considering the federal version of the bill, Jerrold Nadler said the following:
Today we consider legislation reaffirming an important principle which is enshrined in the laws of all 50 States already: that an infant who is born and who is living independently of the birth mother is entitled to the same care as any other child similarly diagnosed, regardless of whether labor was induced or occurred spontaneously.
It has never been clear to me why we need to legislate that which most Members of Congress and the general public already assumed and knew to be the law. But if the majority’s interested in a belts-and-suspenders approach and in restating the law, so be it.
Here is the late Nat Hentoff, pro-life himself, commenting on and quoting Nadler,
Judiciary Committee member Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, rebutted the opponents and supported the bill, even though he described himself as being “as pro-choice as anybody on Earth.”
I can attest to that, because Nadler represents the district where I live in New York. Nadler said unequivocally that, under long-established legal principles, “if an abortion is performed, or a natural birth occurred, at any age, even three months, and the product of that was living outside the mother, and somebody came and shot him, I don’t think there’s any doubt that person would be prosecuted for murder.”
You say: "So to them Roe includes death sentences for those kids--sentences Gosnell merely carried out."
I notice you say "to them." You don't actually claim Roe permits infanticide, do you? Jerrold Nadler (who also happens to be my congressman) who claims to be “as pro-choice as anybody on Earth” most emphatically doesn't consider Roe to permit infanticide. And I believe it is only in your imagination that Planned Parenthood and Barack Obama believe Roe permits infanticide.
You say: "You are worked up against prolifers regarding this monstrous situation because it threatens your pro abortion viewpoint."
I am sure you will not believe this, but I don't consider myself to have a "pro abortion viewpoint." My viewpoint is that a tremendous amount of what we get from the pro-life movement is badly argued, inaccurate, oversimplified, and overemotional. When it is, it deserves a response.
Posted by: David Nickol | Apr 21, 2013 4:33:22 PM
Obviously it was legal in IL to deliver babies early and allow them to die afterward, since it continued to happen while Obama was senator aggressively opposing the Born Alive bills. The law on the books Obama referred to when defending his votes supposedly covering these these infants had loopholes big enough to drive a truck through - obviously weren't protecting infants. Why would an abortionist claim an abortion surviving infant viable and in need of medical care when he just delivered it to die?
What Obama argued was the babies delivered by therapeutic abortion weren't persons under law because they weren't viable -- of course they weren't since abortionist paid to kill them said they weren't. They were delivered early enough they would supposedly die during the birth process - but some didn't. Some had APGAR scores indicating promise, nevertheless set adside to die until federal BAIPA was passed. These were babies with survivable conditions like Down's and Spina Bifida. Obama's exact point was the babies weren't "just coming out limp and dead, but with a little movement" didn't mean they were "viable" -- even if they took hours to die afterward.
What a cruel test of personhood put to our youngest members. Pull them early from the womb and then claim their gasping for breath and struggling for hours to take hold of life doesn't warrant medical care because they don't measure up to full human status.
We would not have Born Alive laws if Obama had his way -- indeed read his version of FOCA he promised to pass, which ends all limits and legal challenge to abortion.
As to the point of "only one percent" of babies aborted late term - that's 10,000 babies a year. The number is irrelevant anyway. If pro-choice want to defend that as "not enough to matter" -- which of course they do -- they are defending the indefensable. Even one dead infant is one too many.
As for "moderate" abortion supporters who don't like late term abortion? Then where would you draw a line, or are the numbers of small sacrifices too few to even bother drawing a line at all? Planned Parenthood, NARAL and Barack Obama vehemently fight every abortion limit as a manipulation to overturn Roe -- this logically includes insisting live breathing babies surviving initial abortion attempts must be killed. Calling them a person destroys the flimsy statement in Roe that if personhood were established for the fetus the whole ruling would collapse.
So birth is the magical transformation from fetus to human being? Then pro-aborts: stop cheating the unborn's chance to join the human race by killing them in the womb or just after induced early labor. Their lives are as precious as yours. You are borrowing a debt from the future we can never, ever hope to repay. Stop defending what no humane, sane thinking adult would ever try to justify.
Posted by: Mlane | Apr 28, 2013 1:14:15 AM
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