by Dr. Alveda King and Kevin Burke, LSW
In closing arguments at the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron highlighted graphic, shocking testimony of late-term abortions and gruesome procedures performed on his victims.
As we celebrate Mother’s Day, we remember another group of victims in this case who suffer silently in that poor Philadelphia neighborhood in West Philadelphia where Gosnell practiced …the mothers who had abortions at his “Women’s Medical Center.”
Cameron revealed a number of violations of Pennsylvania laws regarding informed consent and a 24-hour waiting period, enacted to give the mother time to properly discern what Cameron described as “a life-changing decision.” He shared that a number of these mothers later expressed pain and regret about the abortion of their child.
Through our work, we have heard the heart-breaking stories of thousands of women and men who come to regret their abortion decisions. Each loss is unique, but the stories of later-term abortions reveal this to be an especially traumatic procedure for the mother.
The manual used by psychologist and psychiatrist to diagnose their patients lists a key feature of psychological trauma:
- The person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.
- The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
The testimony from the Gosnell trial revealed that after the administration of drugs to cause “fetal demise” and open the cervix, these later-term babies were often born in the waiting room, in toilets or in procedure rooms. Many were born alive and had their necks cut to kill them, sometimes in the mother’s presence.
Mothers experienced the painful birth of their child and, together with medical center staff, were direct participants in the child’s death.
Read again the definition of trauma:
The person has experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with an event or events that involve actual or threatened death… The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
We know from our experience and the details of the Gosnell trial that these women were deeply traumatized by their abortion procedures and that the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder such as severe anxiety, flashbacks and nightmares about the procedure will wreak havoc on their personal and family life. Like other trauma victims, they will turn to drugs/alcohol and other addictions and self-destructive behaviors to repress the painful emotions and memories.
Gosnell served African -American and other minority women facing poverty, often with abuse and other trauma in their history. All these factors only make these vulnerable women even more susceptible to post- trauma symptoms, without the safety nets and psychiatric and healing services needed to recover.
As this trial draws to a close there is greater focus on the abortion issue, later-term procedures, regulations and laws. But we hear little of the countless women who gave birth to their children in Gosnell’s medical center. Each of these aborted babies had a mother. While they signed consent forms and agreed to the procedures, many of these women likely were exploited at a time of desperation and weakness and experienced great pressure and even violent coercion to abort.
Many of these poor women have other children. How are they going to process the traumatic emotions and memories of their child’s death and take care of their families? How do the fathers who pressured these women to abort or were powerless to stop them deal with their own guilt, grief and anger? Without healing we know there will be more dysfunction, unplanned pregnancy, addiction and death among communities that can ill afford another attack upon the family.
Whatever your position on abortion, we need to see that the Gosnell’s victims were not only the woman he is alleged to have killed out of medical malpractice, but also the thousands of mothers who experienced these later-term abortions.
Dr. Alveda King recalls that her two abortions and subsequent miscarriage were neither safe nor rare. “My first abortion was termed a D&C in 1970, performed by a physician who often referred his patients to Planned Parenthood for outpatient follow up services, such as free birth control and the like. My second abortion post Roe v. Wade was legal, but just as painful as the previous one. By painful, I mean physical, emotional and spiritual suffering. I later was able to see how the symptoms of my post abortion pain left untreated led to such suffering for me and my family. We have to reach out to these wounded women and men with hope and healing.”
The district attorney spoke passionately about women who testified they had “regret” about their abortions. This word does not adequately express the depths of emotional, physical and spiritual pain and trauma that can torture a parent years after such a procedure. For their sake, for their living children and spouses, it is our hope and prayer that local pastors and ministers of that community, as well as those committed to women’s rights and civil rights stand ready to reach out with love, compassion and without judgment for these women and men suffering after traumatic abortion loss.