Barbara Kay: Abortion “House of Horrors” reflected pro-Choice views on ending life
National Post - Tuesday March 19th, 2013
A notorious West Philadelphia abortion provider has come to trial on charges of killing one woman (3rd degree murder) by an overdose of anaesthetic and seven babies allegedly born alive in illegal late-term abortions (1st degree murder).
The case promises to be emotive and controversial – not only because abortion, especially late-term abortion, is inherently a morally fraught issue (one of the babies was allegedly born at 30 weeks gestation, full term being 39 weeks), but because the 72-year-old defendant, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, is black and the women he operated on were poor, young and black. Gosnell’s lawyer has already accused city officials of “a prosecutorial lynching.”
Dr. Gosnell himself grew wealthy from the estimated 16,000 abortions he performed or oversaw over his 30-year career. Nobody disputes that. Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore revealed that police had found $250,000 in cash during a 2010 search of Gosnell’s home.
And nobody disputes the fact that Gosnell’s abortion methods were unorthodox. Most abortion providers kill the unborn babies in utero. Gosnell’s patients were allegedly drug-induced into labour and the babies killed upon delivery, the usual technique being the snipping of the spinal cord with scissors.
A lawyer defending a Philadelphia abortion provider on murder charges accused officials of “an elitist, racist prosecution,” as the death-penalty trial opened Monday.
Lawyer Jack McMahon also accused city officials of “a prosecutorial lynching” of his client, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is black.
Gosnell, 72, is accused of running a rogue clinic that ignored the state ban on third-term abortions and 24-hour waiting periods. Prosecutors say he also maimed desperate, often poor women and teens by letting his untrained staff perform abortions and give anesthesia. And they say he got rich doing it, by performing a high volume of substandard abortions.
Gosnell’s “staff” consisted of unlicensed medical school dropouts, while the “anesthetist” was a sixth grade dropout. A 261-page 2011 grand jury report called the clinic a “house of horrors,” citing unwashed instruments spreading venereal disease, cats defecating where they pleased, a padlocked emergency exit and floors sticky with placental and fetal remains.
Gosnell’s gruesome practice was no secret, but the Pennsylvania Department of Health – thanks largely to pressure from NARAL, the U.S. “pro-choice” lobby – had decided to stop inspecting abortion clinics because “officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women seeking abortions.’” And so Dr. Gosnell was free to pursue his Mengle-esque path to wealth without any regulatory oversight whatsoever – all in the name of “women’s right to choose.”
At his arraignment two years ago, Dr. Gosnell was described by one observer as “a little befuddled.” He understood the charge for the dead woman, but didn’t seem to comprehend that killing live babies was morally wrong. Pro-choicers in Canada often say the medical profession could never produce such a monster here. But why couldn’t it? Where did Dr. Gosnell get the idea that as long as you call it an abortion, killing live babies is a morally neutral activity? Surely from the cultural air he breathed.
Dr. Gosnell at least realized he was breaking a law, which forbade late-term abortion in his jurisdiction. Canada does not even have such a law.
Is the cultural air in Canada so much purer in this regard? Are doctors not human beings like the rest of us? After all, Dr. Gosnell at least realized he was breaking a law, which forbade late-term abortion in his jurisdiction. Canada does not even have such a law. Absent the filth and the uncredentialed staff in Dr. Gosnell’s clinic, a Canadian doctor imbued with the same notion of a woman’s right to choose that caused the Pennsylvania Department of Health to turn a blind eye to that house of horrors, might take the same jaundiced view: that even live babies, under certain conditions, are non-persons.
This is an appropriate moment to recall the words of the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson. Nathanson was the American Henry Morgantaler, an ardent pro-choicer who made a fortune from an extensive abortion practice, in which he oversaw 75,000 abortions (he performed 5,000 personally, including one on his own mistress).
Ultrasounds were an epiphany for Nathanson. Watching an abortion on ultrasound in real time stayed his hand forever. He directed and narrated the powerful film, The Silent Scream in cooperation with the Right to Life Committee (which President Reagan screened at the White House to the fury of liberals). Nathanson (until then a secular Jew) converted to Catholicism in 1996, and wrote a book, The Hand of God, about his theological journey, in which he wrote: “I know every facet of abortion…I guided it through its adolescence as it grew recklessly out of control.”
It was Nathanson who blithely invented the myth of “back alley abortions,” for in fact they were exceedingly rare. In short, he confessed, “I am one of those who ushered in this barbaric age.” Dr. Kermit Gosnell was arraigned just weeks before Nathanson died, a fitting testimonial to Nathanson’s cause for remorse.