By Sister Mary Ann Walsh
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the former Philadelphia abortionist, has avoided the death penalty with a promise not to appeal his May 13 murder convictions in a Philadelphia courtroom. That’s good. The violence of the death penalty is not a way to end violence, even in dealing with the gruesome murders of the infants born alive during Gosnell’s late-term abortions. A grand jury reported that Gosnell ensured the demise of such babies by snipping their spinal cords. But just as abortions are heinous and do not elevate society, neither does the death penalty.
Reactions to Gosnell’s conviction were startling. I was afraid he’d get off on a technicality, given that if the babies had died in utero moments before he snipped life away, he’d only have been convicted of ending the child’s life too late in the gestational cycle. Even his third-degree murder charge for the death of a 41-year-old woman was reduced to involuntary manslaughter.
NARAL, a political action group that fights any restrictions on abortion, declared at the convictions that “Justice was served to Kermit Gosnell today and he will pay the price for the atrocities he committed.” That’s nice distancing from the notorious abortionist by a group that promotes abortion as far as possible and opposes any government restrictions on them.
NARAL added, “We hope that the lessons of the trial do not fade with the verdict.” There are lots of lessons to be learned from Gosnell, though they may not be what NARAL intended.
1. There is a misguided loyalty in the abortion industry. Fellow abortion promoters knew of Gosnell’s barbarism but did not report him. The National Abortion Federation, an association of 400 abortion providers nationwide, evaluated his operation and wouldn’t accredit him for membership because of his grossly substandard clinic. But it also didn’t share what it learned with civil authorities. The NAF evaluator saw broken equipment, lack of monitoring of sedated patients, unqualified staff sedating patients and other medical travesties. Noted the grand jury report: “We understand that NAF’s goal is to assist clinics to comply with its standards, not to sanction them for deficiencies. Nevertheless we have to question why the evaluator from NAF, whose stated mission is to ensure safe, legal and acceptable abortion care, and to promote health and justice for women, did not report Gosnell to authorities.” Good question.
2. Gosnell and abortionists like him prey on the poor, especially minorities. His clinic was in a gritty neighborhood. The average veterinary office is cleaner and more respectful of patients than was Gosnell’s if you believe the grand jury report. Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-Life Union, minces no words. As reported in the Washington Post, Gardner declared that “Kermit Gosnell is a racist of the worst kind, because he preyed on women and young girls of his own race.” Gardner added that “He got away with it because he could. Because no one really cares about poor black babies, do they?” The Post also reported that though Blacks make up less than 13 percent of the population, according to the latest statistics available, in 2008, 30 percent of abortions were obtained by African Americans.
3. It is unlikely that this abortionist stands alone. This Philadelphia story ought to drive health departments in every major city to investigate their clinics. If you can intentionally take an innocent life once, you can do so again and again. Financial incentives help. For Gosnell, an abortion of a six-week fetus cost $330. Late-term was about $1,625. The principle “Do no harm” meant less and less with each death (abortionists call it termination).Given the return on investment, gestational age became less significant. Gosnell raked in $1.8 million a year in cash working three nights a week, 8 p.m. to one a.m., the grand jury estimated. I guess that was the incentive to do massive harm.
Lessons here indeed.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh is media relations director of the USCCB.