Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here: A Descent Into Hell and Trauma at the Gosnell Trial

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here: A Descent Into Hell and Trauma at the Gosnell Trial

I spent April 18th 2013 inside a Philadelphia Courtroom with the notorious late term abortionist Kermit Gosnell along with lawyers, jurors, court personnel and witness Kareena Cross who worked at Gosnell’s “medical center.”  Ms Cross presented the majority of the testimony of that day.

Based on that experience, I am recommending that a warning banner be posted above the entrance to the courtroom with the chilling words the poet Dante placed at the entrance to the gates of Hell in his epic Divine ComedyAbandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.  Dante’s epitaph would also have been well placed at the entrance to the Gosnell Women’s Medical Center in West Philadelphia as an impassioned plea to dissuade all the unfortunate mothers and their unborn children from entering this place of darkness.

To call Gosnell’s abortion business a medical center is like calling Auschwitz a health spa.  It was a place of trauma and death, not only for the unfortunate children butchered there, but for the desperate mothers and staff that entered into this pit of hell.

Gosnell employee Kareena Cross spent much of the day April 19th on the witness stand (warning graphic material coming.)   She shared how countless women with advanced pregnancies were given a drug to open the cervix so the unborn child would “precipitate”, (a medical term they used to describe the baby descending into the birth canal to its brutal death.)

Cross shared seeing one such baby “precipitated” right into a toilet bowl by her mother, alive and squirming in the waters of the bowl.  In this incident the baby was taken out of the toilet with the mother present as the “medical assistant” punctured the baby’s neck with scissors to “snip” the spinal cord.

Everyone involved in this and other hellish procedures at this center, (live births and abortions with breathing moving babies were not uncommon here) experienced direct and intense psychological trauma…including the medical staff.   The employees may be numb by repeated exposure to this barbarity practiced under the direction and authority of their boss Gosnell.   (This traumatic numbness I saw reflected in the flat affect and blunted emotions of Cross on the witness stand.)

But Gosnell’s employees were being repeatedly traumatized by their witnessing and participating in the “procedures” at that clinic.  If I were to sit down and interview the employees involved in this center we would surely find drug abuse, sexual and relational dysfunction, nightmares and insomnia, depression, anxiety…these are natural symptoms in response to such atrocities.

None of this relieves these employees of the moral and legal responsibility for their actions.  But it is important to see that Gosnell used his considerable authority as medical expert and boss as he led his employees to engage in barbaric and traumatic actions that not only destroyed babies, and injured their mothers but deeply wounded his employee’s own souls and psyches…many who were African American women from that west Philadelphia neighborhood…many who I assure you had abortion, sexual abuse and other trauma in their backgrounds making them vulnerable to engage in such horrific acts under Gosnell’s spell.

I want to focus not only on some of the shocking testimony I heard, but how this trial impacts the jurors, and court personnel. How does hearing this deeply disturbing testimony, and seeing some of the graphic pictures of aborted late-term and full-term babies on a regular basis over the last 6 weeks effect them?  Based on my own professional and personal experience with victims of trauma, I wondered how these people process this powerful material…how might it impact their sleep, emotions, and relationships in the days and months ahead long after the trial ends?

The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice  studied the effects of jury service especially with the type of graphic horror found in the Gosnell trial on a daily basis.  In their conclusion the authors had this to say:

These results from this first exploratory survey from the UK confirm that jury service can be a significant source of anxiety and for a vulnerable minority, can engender moderate to severe clinical levels of stress and in the longer term, lead to symptoms associated with PTSD. Trials involving crimes against the person are more likely to induce a stressful reaction than those involving property crimes. Women as a group appear to be more vulnerable than men, especially when the trial touches upon a past traumatic event that has been personally experienced. As regard sources of stress, those most widely shared were linked to the deliberative and decision-making phases of the trial. Dealing with repellent and horrific evidence was also highlighted as a significant area of concern… (The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice Volume 48, Issue 1, Article first published online: 20 NOV 2008)

We know that trauma victims, and those who experience vicarious trauma, can often turn to drugs, alcohol and other self-destructive behaviors to cope with the symptoms that emerge.  Based on this study, we see the expanding circle of victims that Gosnell continues to leave in the wake of his destruction.

I hope that the jurors lawyers and other court personnel receive the counseling and support they need to process this traumatic material, and find healthy strategies to deal with any symptoms.  Some of them no doubt have experienced their own abortions.  In this case they would be experiencing traumatic triggering on a regular basis and have to process not only the traumatic material of the trial, but their own emotions and memories of a personal abortion.

How do the mothers exposed to this horror process the memories and feelings of participating with Gosnell in the desecration and destruction of their unborn?  Without expert faith-based intervention , it is impossible.  Surely more death and destruction, abuse and more abortions will follow in their tragic lives.  The poor and minorities targeted by the abortion industry are by far the most vulnerable.  (Keep in mind almost half abortions are repeat procedures, a symptom of unresolved trauma.)

During the trial at breaks, sometimes right after a particularly gruesome picture or story was shared there would be some good natured joking and laughter…it was striking to me as a visitor.  (I have not been subjected to this traumatic material on a daily basis as they have.)  This is not because the court personnel and jurors were insensitive to the death and horror.  They were merely trying to escape for a moment from the darkness they were immersed in on a daily basis.  The judge, though very much in charge of his courtroom and the proceedings, seemed weary and eager for the proceedings to move to conclusion.

Gosnell has seemingly “mastered” whatever trauma he experienced in those first late term abortions he performed many years ago as a young doctor.  During the day’s proceedings he remained calm, composed, even at times smiling…looking quite the kind, elderly gentleman physician.  But under this calm exterior, there is surely a darkened soul and mind.  If there were ever any positive values and noble motivation early in life that led him into medicine and later performing abortion procedures, this man has had the light of human decency and respect for human life extinguished from his mind and soul.

Like those doctors in German concentration camps performing “medical procedures”, it is this calm and measured participation and accommodation to the death of the innocents, the jokes and normalization of torture and killing evident from comments made by Gosnell during procedures that is most disturbing.

Kareena Cross testified that In one later term abortion of a living, breathing baby Gosnell joked “this one’s big enough to walk to the store.”   Of all the gruesome details of the day, it is that casual and joking accommodation to the barbarity he practiced, that is most chilling.

Those that support abortion rights will look at Gosnell and say “see, this is what will happen if enemies of choice get their way and outlaw abortion!  You will see more Gosnells!  We need to clean up these unfortunate aberrations and keep abortion safe and legal.  The Gosnell case proves that rather than restricting access to abortion, we need to expand government funding for abortion  especially in poor and minority neighborhoods so they have equal access to safe, professional abortion services. ” 

A clever argument…but tragically and fundamentally misguided.  Ross Douthat in a NY Times Opinion piece reveals the challenges the pro abortion forces face in this attempt to shift the focus away from the horror  of what abortion does to an unborn child, especially evident in later term abortions, but really no less ghastly at earlier stages.  But there is a much deeper level of the human heart and soul that is the real foundation of our struggle as a society to come to terms with abortion.

The bible story of our first parents in the Garden of Eden is instructive here.  They were warned by God that if they try to gain control over things that belong to the province of the Creator, such as the life and death of humans, all hell will break loose.  Genesis tells of how the Serpent deceived our first parents tempting them; “God doesn’t want you to be happy or share his power with you…that is why he forbids you from eating of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.”

It is out of  love and care for his people that God warns us that if we eat of this tree’s fruit, we will be unable to control the forces that will be unleashed upon our hearts and souls and on all of humanity…and the depth of depravity that  we are capable of under the powerful influences of those forces.

Abortion is just such a fruit.  We think we can make abortion safe, sanitary, and less traumatic to the parents and clinic staff if we contain some of the excesses of the Gosnell Center and have better standards and training for abortionists and their staff.  A comforting and deceptive lie.

Once we begin to participate in the dehumanization, desecration and destruction of unborn life and any stage of development, no matter how sanitary and professional the medical center, we unleash those forces that over time eat away at the humanity of all who participate in that death…but also attacks the heart and soul of our communities and our nation.

The fruit of legal abortion is Gosnell…he is the natural progression of our accommodation as a society to the desecration of unborn human life that is abortion at any stage.

10 thoughts on “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here: A Descent Into Hell and Trauma at the Gosnell Trial

  1. Kevin – Thank you for sharing your thoughts. To bad you couldn’t get interviewed by the mainstream media.
    Jodi & Ron Miller
    Authors of: A Voice to the Inner Pain: A Path to Faith, Hope and Grace

  2. Thank you Kevin. Is this trial open to the public? I find it tragic that its not getting the media attention that Arias and Casey trials have

    1. Yes trial is open to public Victoria:
      The Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice
      1301 Filbert Street
      Philadelphia, PA 19107

  3. Kevin,

    Thank you for your coverage of this horrific trial. I’d like to specifically thank you for recognizing the effect this despicable and heartbreaking story has on post-abortive women and men. It’s been particularly saddening to see how many people fighting against abortion can forget that their comments and postings are being read by those who are struggling to find hope and healing after an abortion or abortions they deeply regret.

    Again, thank you for your understanding.

    Joan Canning
    Ohio Regional Coordinator for Silent No More Awareness Campaign

    1. Joan I appreciate so much your comments – the trauma initiated by Gosnell goes out like ripples in a pond-or more accurately trauma tidal waves-bring destruction and suffering to all it touches. These stories speak as much about the desperate need for healing as they do the need to end the madness of legalized abortion.

  4. Great article Kevin. So true. When I worked in rehab some counselors would often joke after case conferences There was no way they really thought anything they had heard was funny, but it was a way to relieve the tension of what we were dealing with day after day.

    I often think with this Gosnell case that there is no difference from what happened to these babies then what happened to my son in a saline abortion, except that mine was hidden in the womb.

    It is amazing how we have allowed such evil…praying the light of truth truly pierces many hearts..going to try to get this article out there more.

    1. Thanks Theresa, agreed. Thanks for all you do to share the good news of healing and recovery from abortion with those who are suffering.

  5. When you suggested that Gosnell may have initially had noble motivations that were extinguished it reminds me of the character Weston from CS Lewis’ Perelandra. “The forces which had begun, perhaps years ago, to eat away his humanity had now completed their work. The intoxicated will which had been slowly poisoning the intelligence and the affections had now at last poisoned itself and the whole psychic organism had fallen to pieces. Only a ghost was left – an everlasting unrest, a crumbling, a ruin, and odor of decay.”

    Like Weston, our society is “bent” on lower goods (choice, autonomy, privacy) to the exclusion of God’s greatest laws, but his and Gosnell’s tragic path is not ours! “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

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