Dr. Kermit Gosnell awaits a verdict in his trial for running an abortion clinic where women were treated in unsanitary conditions by unqualified personnel. Employees reveal that infants were born alive and killed in the clinic. “Snipping” the infants’ spinal cords with scissors after birth was a routine procedure for some time before becoming a merely common procedure and that hundreds of children were likely killed this way. District Attorney R. Seth Williams, details the crimes of the doctor and staff. (http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/PDFs/GrandJuryWomensMedical.pdf)
Since learning of Dr. Gosnell’s practices, there has been no public outcry to try to make sure there are no other Dr. Gosnell’s out there or to make sure that no more clinics such as his operate. Maybe it is easier not to think about clinics such as this one in Delaware (http://townhall.com/tipsheet/guybenson/2013/04/10/revealed-another-abortion-house-of-horrors-n1563819) or these in Pennsyvania and Alabama (http://www.lifenews.com/2013/04/09/gosnells-house-of-horrors-abortion-clinic-is-not-an-exception/) or this one in Florida (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_back_alley/2011/02/thesunshinestate.html) In any profession, no matter how noble, there is occasionally a member who dishonors that profession. With little oversight of the abortion industry, we are supposed to assume that abortion providers are unique in that none are susceptible to human frailties or error, just as we were to assume Dr. Gosnell was not susceptible to such before he was caught by accident.
Because of the Judeo-Christian tradition upon which our nation was founded, many of us cringe when we learn of rituals or customs of other peoples that seem barbaric to us. Brutality, human sacrifice, and indifference to some human life has been common throughout much of the world throughout much of history. It seems unfathomable that a newborn with a birthmark would be considered cursed and thrown into the ocean. Or that humans, whether infants or virgins or members of a conquered people, would be sacrificed to some god. Or that people of means would step over dying beggars, not noticing their plight or their humanity. But in our own time, within our own borders, we tolerate, and a few even celebrate, the sacrifice of of our most innocent and defenseless, and some vilify those of us whose consciences are offended by that practice, even in its most extreme forms.
In a modern American city, a doctor openly operated a prominently located house of horrors for decades, apparently unafraid, and no one stopped him, day after day, for all those years. He wouldn’t have been stopped to this day had police not raided the facility to investigate whether the doctor was selling prescriptions and noticed the disgusting conditions. When he was finally stopped, there was little interest in his story.
The obvious assumption by abortion opponents has been, “Members of the press and other abortion supporters just don’t want to make their side look bad.” That’s undoubtedly true, and it’s easy enough to understand that. And it’s certainly probable that champions of abortion might be hesitant to publicize proof of a situation many of them have characterized as very rare or nonexistent. Melinda Henneberger explained the difficulty this story posed for many members of the press. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2013/04/15/why-kermit-gosnell-hasnt-been-on-page-one/)
Is there something more troubling involved in the choice of many in the media to look away? For a few, the problem may not be that they do not want to let people know that “their side” did something terribly wrong, but that they do not really believe that it was so wrong. Or equally unsettling, for some, it may not be that they do not really believe that it was wrong, but that they do not care whether or not it is wrong. After all, a representative of the National Abortion Federation visited the Gosnell clinic in 2009 and knew of Dr. Gosnell’s irregularities group. According to the Williams report, she turned Dr. Gosnell down for membership in the group, based on the conditions at the facility, but she kept the doctor’s secrets and did not report and put an end to what was happening in Philadelphia. We might wonder why she made that decision.
One of Doctor Gosnell’s employees claims that she did not know it was wrong to kill infants born in the facility. AdrienneMoten admits killing ten infants by the usual method. Asked if she realized that it was wrong, she said, “At first I didn’t.” Eventually Ms. Moten was bothered by the death of a particular baby killed after being born well past viability.
Why didn’t Adrienne Moten know that it was wrong to routinely and violently take so many lives at first? And why didn’t she leave and report the clinic when she figured out that it was, as employee Kareema Cross eventually did? Perhaps some of the other employees also didn’t know that what was happening was wrong. Perhaps some of them did. Maybe the desperate women that Dr. Gosnell “served” didn’t know either or were too frightened to care. Regardless, we have failed to instill in our people reverence for life, and some of us do not understand that it is wrong to kill a newborn human being. And some know that it is but are willing to look away when it is done. A society that produces very many people like that can not truly deserve to be called civilized.
Is it any wonder that Adrienne Moten didn’t understand that murdering babies is wrong? Abortion has been presented to her as a constitutional right all her life, and its opponents have been portrayed as rather bizarre individuals with no legitimate concerns. The president of the United States is not conflicted on this subject. (http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/audio-obama-says-fetus-or-child-was-just-not-coming-out-limp-and-dead_650611.html) And Planned Parenthood’s spokesman, fighting against a law requiring care for newly born abortion survivors, maintains that we should not concern ourselves with infants such as those whose fates we left in the hands of Dr. Gosnell. (http://joemiller.us/2013/04/1270-babies-born-alive-in-failed-abortions-in-us-risk-planned-parenthood-infanticide/)
Perhaps Adrienne Moten knew about the work of late-term abortion provider Dr. George Tiller. The now martyred doctor is a hero to many. Dr. Tiller considered allowing a baby to be born alive “sloppy” and “reprehensible.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpr_sN04j_0) But why would it be reprehensible? To the murdered Dr. Tiller ‘s supporters, killing a baby is heroic so long as the baby does not emerge alive prior to it’s demise. It is not hard to see how Adrienne Moten might have been confused about the difference between a “hero” and a monster. http://www.prochoice.org/tillerblog/2009/06/remembering-naf-member-dr-george-tiller.html)
So, was it wrong or not to kill babies, often viable ones, born alive? It was illegal under Pennsylvania’s law, but was it wrong? Was it really morally wrong? Do we care when a doctor rips an unborn child from the womb, piece by piece (the legal alternative to the grisly “partial-birth abortion)? Does it really matter whether a child is killed by decapitation after birth (by a Dr. Gosnell or staff) or delivered except for her head before her brains are suctioned out (by a Dr. Tiller)? If some babies had not “precipitated” before Doctor Gosnell or his employee acted to end their lives, would we be relieved of our moral discomfort? Morally, pro-lifers and the most enthusiastic of those who favor abortion on demand will agree that these differences don’t matter very much.
Most of us, including most who favor abortion, probably know through our consciences that what happened to the women and children in Philadelphia is wrong. Most of us would probably like to ensure that such abominations are not condoned even if we would prefer not to think about it. The majority of people are uncomfortable with late-term abortions, even those performed legally. In fact, in some surveys, majorities label themselves “pro-life.” (http://www.gallup.com/poll/154838/Pro-Choice-Americans-Record-Low.aspx)
But, we are not, as a people, with one voice, committed to the very basic moral imperative, the protection of all innocent human life. We do not universally share the belief that each life is precious and irreplaceable and uniquely valuable. We do not, as a people, cry out against what we refuse to call evil. We do not, as a people, mourn the deaths of healthy, nearly full-term infants lost not only in Dr. Gosnell’s clinic, but in others where children perish. Some of us may be tired of the bitter argument and find it easier to stay out of it and ignore it all. But our moral confusion has consequences. People who don’t know better may do the kinds of things that Adrienne Moten now regrets.