We are Kermit Gosnell
Justin Donathan is a husband and father of two precious little girls. He is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary and the University of Oklahoma, and he lives in St. Louis, Missouri where he is currently working in the legal field as he pursues a call to pastoral ministry. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The details of the trial of abortionist and infanticidist Kermit Gosnell have been haunting me, and I’m sure many of you, for some days now. What this man did, and how he got away with it are so difficult to process on so many levels. I’ve felt anger, sadness, desperation, horror, and more reading the testimony and editorials. And then there are all the issues with the trial itself. The deafening silence of the major news media outlets. The empty reserved press seating at the courtroom. The silence of our political officials. The negligence of “oversight” agencies and the failure of individuals and institutions who knew what was taking place in Gosnell’s “house of horrors” to speak up. But none of that is what I want to talk about here. That’s all been discussed at length, and no doubt will continue to be. I link to some of the better examples of those discussions at the bottom of this post.
But I want to raise a different question. I want to raise the question of why we are so horrified? Why is it that killing a baby that is two weeks older than the 24 week limit (in Pennsylvania) is so much worse than killing a baby within that 24 week window? Why is it that if the child accidentally comes out of the womb before the “doctor” is done killing it we view it as an atrocity, but as long as it happens in the womb, safely out of sight, in a nice clean office, with professional looking staff in white lab coats with degrees hanging on the wall behind them we’re okay with it?
The most striking thing about the Gosnell case is how thoroughly it reveals our culture’s double-mindedness, nay schizophrenia, on the issue of human life, and the capricious attitude that we as a society have taken to the lives of innocent children. We arbitrarily decide who is and isn’t a person for legal, political, and even convenience reasons, devaluing human life to the point of recognizing it or not based on wholly contrived legal definitions and then act shocked when someone does what all abortion doctors do but with less poise and professionalism. We created the conditions for a practice like Gosnell’s when we decided that we would turn a blind eye to, and even sanction the slaughter of our children. We wrote the rules so as to allow monstrosities, and then we are shocked to find a monster playing the game?
The truth is that the Gosnell case is really just a particularly uncomfortable and disturbing picture of the reality of abortion. It’s vividness and the apparent callousness of Gosnell make it stand out, but it is not fundamentally different from what our politicians and leaders trumpet as support for women’s rights and reproductive health.
Was Gosnell’s practice racist? Sure, but look at the national statistics. It’s not just him. African American children are aborted at a vastly higher rate than whites in the U.S. Did he kill living babies? Yes, but that’s what an abortion is. Being outside the womb doesn’t change the equation in it’s essence. It’s a shift in geography, not a change in what or who the child is. Only the most absurd casuistry could make a person not a person because of where they were located. Did women suffer and die from Gosnell’s treatment? Yes, as do many women who receive abortions around the country and the world. Was Gosnell’s practice particularly unsanitary? Yes, by all accounts it was filthy and disgusting, but that is really a minor issue relative to the murders that were perpetrated there. I wouldn’t feel better about a murder if I was assured that it was carried out in a clean environment.
So, at the end of the day the Gosnell trial, and all the angst and horror it has and will engender, is really just the shining of a giant spotlight on our national hypocrisy and moral blindness. I certainly hope this case motivates some real reflection on what it means that we are a nation that kills 3,000 of our most helpless members, little girls and little boys, every single day. We are Kermit Gosnell.
If you haven’t read about the media black out, this is a good place to start, followed by this, and finally, this author comes to the same conclusion from a less enthusiastic perspective. If you aren’t familiar with the story generally, or just want to read one article that summarizes things very well, I’d recommend this from Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic. It is shocking and appalling but well written and includes substantial excerpts from the grand jury indictment