Having sat in the Gosnell courtroom and followed this drama from the beginning, I am confident in saying that there is no outcome to the Gosnell case that is not sad and tragic. What is beyond dispute is that Dr. Kermit Gosnell has been deeply involved in an industry that is the most destructive and unregulated surgical industry in the nation, namely, the abortion industry. What is beyond dispute is that he killed babies, whether the circumstances qualify that killing as murder under the law or not. What is beyond dispute is that his facility — which is supposed to be serving women — has in fact harmed them. And what is beyond dispute is that babies continue to be killed and women continue to be killed and harmed in hundreds of abortion facilities across the nation.
Whatever the verdict in this case, the American people will be well served by taking from this case the following lessons and actions:
a) Abortion, even when carried out legally, is an act of violence against a living, human child. As medical textbooks verify, the procedure dismembers and decapitates those children. America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion, and this trial is the first time many are seeing it for what it is. The arguments in court were not about whether Dr. Gosnell killed babies. The arguments, rather, were about whether the methods and timing of that killing were within the bounds of the law. But they are still babies and it is still violent killing. Having made a request to the Medical Examiner in Philadelphia, I hope to obtain the bodies of the babies killed in Gosnell’s clinic and retrieved when the clinic was raided. Priests for Life wants to conduct a public funeral and burial for these children, so that the public can honor and reverence them, above and beyond any legal dispute about whether their killing was justified.
b) Making abortion legal has not made it safe. When Roe vs. Wade was handed down, all that happened to back-alley abortionists is that they took their name plate off the back door and put it on the front door. They reformed neither their methods nor their morals. The abortion industry remains the most unregulated and dangerous surgical industry in America. It does not serve women; it harms and kills them. Organizations like the one I run — Priests for Life — have been sounding the alarm for decades about how legal abortion clinics and their staff violate basic norms of medical practice and law in countless ways. Sad to say, nothing we have heard in the Gosnell trial has been new.
c) A practical corollary of these facts is that it is time to begin reforming public policy on abortion in ways that most pro-life and pro-choice people can agree on. For instance, large majorities of Americans favor bans on late-term abortion. Why should public policy continue to permit it in the second and third trimesters, on healthy babies of healthy mothers? Strong and swift public support and legislative action should occur in regard, for instance, to those laws that have already been passed in several states banning abortion after 20 weeks because of the ability of the child in the womb at that point to feel pain.
d) Moreover, clinic regulation laws, already in effect in many states, need to be enforced where they are in place, strengthened in their provisions, and introduced and passed where they do not yet exist. Few if any people would oppose measures that decrease the likelihood of conditions like those reported about Gosnell’s clinic. As the book Lime 5 outlines, there should be a “Contract with American Women” by which we all agree — and implement legislatively — that for however much longer abortion remains legal, it be conducted only in ways that maximize the safety of the woman. For instance, untrained staff should not be allowed to treat patients; emergency medical equipment should be on hand and standard protocols implemented to handle emergencies; women’s rights to sue and recover damages should be strengthened if they are harmed by abortion malpractice.
Having dealt with the abortion issue full time for over twenty years, I am fully confident in saying that Dr. Gosnell is not the exception; he is the norm. But it’s time for Americans to work across the pro-life-pro-choice divide to make him the exception.
e) Finally, we would do well to listen to the voices of those who know abortion from the inside: the growing and ever more vocal ranks of the women and men who have lost children to abortion. They testify, often as participants in the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, that abortion did not solve their problems, but only created new ones. Together, they are saying that ultimately, our nation must recall abortion — that is, remember its damaging effects, and withdraw it from the market, just as we recall products or services — including medical services — that prove harmful to those who make use of them. Using the insights in the recently published book Recall Abortion (by Janet Morana), this is a moment for the American public to express their conviction that women, their children, and our whole society deserve better solutions than abortion, and that the government should stop permitting a procedure that has brought so much devastation. To this end, you can sign the Recall Abortion petition at RecallAbortion.com.