After my presentation Saturday Evening with Kevin Ward, President Cape Cod Bus for Life and Life with Christ Radio; Marjorie E.Shivvers, and Edwin M.Shivvers recipients of the Culture of Life Award; Fr Ron Floyd, Chaplain St Francis Xavier Prep. What a blessing for me to be with these wonderful pro life faithful and help encourage and support the growth of Catholic Radio in the region and the growing outreach to bring residents, especially youth to the March for Life.
Archive for July, 2014
During the month of July we celebrate the birthday of our great nation. The writers of the Declaration of Independence presented their reasonable and just cause for separation from rule by the King of England.
However these wise men made it clear that not all revolutions are created equal:
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
Abolishing established order will come with a cost. This should not be entered into lightly or without careful discernment.
The Abortion Revolution
As we remember and celebrate the founding of these United States we would do well to pause and consider another still unfolding revolution that has unleashed unprecedented change on our nation.
Abortionist Kermit Gosnell was among the many feminists, professionals in medicine, law, psychology, politics, business and entertainment who were the early architects and pioneers of the social revolution which that led to the 1973 Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion throughout our land.
Abortion has polarized our spiritual, moral, political and social discourse. Nearly 60 million United States citizens were never born, changing the demographic of our country and altering our nation in ways we are only beginning to understand. The personal and social costs, while often hidden or ignored are life, family and community altering. Legalizing abortion has indeed been a high impact social revolution.
We will take a closer look at the life of one of those early pro abortion pioneers, Dr Kermit Gosnell. The notorious Philadelphia abortion doctor was convicted in 2013 of first-degree murder for killing babies that were born alive in his clinic. Gosnell was also sentenced to 30 years in prison for illegally dealing pain meds out of the same facility. We will examine the personal, social and especially the spiritual forces that produced what many consider a monster. Given some of the facts of this case, most reasonable people would agree that snipping the spinal chord’s of babies born alive and storing their little chopped off feet in a jar in your office…definitely earns you the title of monster.
But maybe that is our way of distancing and protecting ourselves from a more disturbing reality…he was not really a monster at all.
Steve Volk is a senior writer at Philadelphia magazine and author of Gosnell’s Babies. (I highly recommend reading Volk’s brief but informative e-book which contains a very revealing series of interviews with abortionist Kermit Gosnell.) Chapter one is entitled, The Monster Smiles. You will discover that Dr Gosnell was for a time a compassionate, well intentioned Physician who felt a special call to serve the poor. What went wrong?
By shining a brighter light on key aspects of Dr Gosnell’s life and evolution as a man and physician, we will find that he is not a monster but rather a man who remains convicted that providence chose him to to be a courageous abortion pioneer and serve the poor of his West Philadelphia neighborhood.
Gosnell Family Values
Part II of Volk’s e-book, is entitled the Man behind the Monster. This chapter presents an overview of Gosnell’s family background. It is remarkably positive.
Volk reveals that Gosnell is no cartoon evil villain, but rather a complex character; a gentleman doctor with a stately, even regal demeanor as some reporters described him in the courtroom during his trial.
Volk reveals that Gosnell was a well-liked and gifted young student:
…once a popular student at Philadelphia’s prestigious Central High School… earned a medical degree and come back to the West Philadelphia area where he was raised to start his health clinic and run a drug rehabilitation program in Mantua. How that illustrious beginning met up with this shambling end was hard to understand.
Gosnell’s father was a hard working handyman skilled in a number of trades and his mother a successful city employee. They instilled in their young son a strong work ethic and his mother especially stressed the importance of education. Gosnell explains he felt “tremendous pressure from his mother” who he says “lived vicariously through him.”
This sense of parental pressure is common among families struggling to raise their children to negotiate the challenges of racism, economic oppression and yet have the values and personal discipline to rise above these obstacles and succeed in life. Their hard work paid off. Gosnell was a gifted musician, athlete and a popular and high-achieving student.
Once he obtained his medical degree he decided rather than abandon his West Philadelphia neighborhood for greener pastures, he would instead stay and be of service to the needy people in the West Philadelphia community where he was raised. His parents must have been very proud indeed of their accomplished son.
The Long Descent into Hell…Begins with a Single Step
Gosnell decided to specialize as an ob-gyn. A poor neighbor and her husband, feeling the stress of raising 3 children and limited financial resources asked Dr Gosnell to abort their unborn child. (Keep in mind this was prior to the Roe V Wade decision in 1973 legalizing abortion.) Fearing she might try to abort the baby herself, or choose the shady services of a non-medical abortionist, he performed his first illegal abortion on a 15 week old fetus and pocketed the cash they gave him. 
A desperate teenage girl and her grandmother were his next abortion case…and so it all begins.
It is clear that Gosnell shared these accounts with Volk to present the foundational mythology that is a cornerstone of Gosnell’s self-concept:
Gosnell, the compassionate and caring abortion doctor willing to sacrifice a lucrative suburban practice so he can remain in his West Philadelphia neighborhood and serve poor desperate families facing unplanned pregnancy.
We can imagine Dr Gosnell sincerely proclaiming, “See America, I am really a saintly heroic man…not a monster.”
This initial abortion case by Dr Gosnell is extremely significant because within it we have a very powerful and compelling element in the mythology of the compassionate abortion pioneer. This would prove to be a very influential element that would draw many women and men to embrace the revolution to legalize abortion. They were often individuals of good will, compassionate and interested in improving the lives of women and families, especially those facing poverty, and racism.
Let’s look more closely at Dr Gosnell’s first abortion case because within this story lie the seeds of all that would corrupt the heart, mind and soul of our gentleman-physician…and in time our entire nation.
The Physician-King: Above the Laws of Man…and God.
Dr Gosnell has his initial taste of assuming the role as a type of above the law Physician King with this young desperate couple in that very first procedure he performed. This was the first instance of Gosnell playing fast and loose with the law. Since abortion was not legal at this time in Pennsylvania, he violated the law by performing this abortion. This was the beginning of his tendency to stretch and/or violate the law outright if his wise discernment deemed it necessary.
As Volk indicates in Gosnell’s Babies, he was not alone placing himself above the law for the greater cause of the abortion revolution:
Breaking abortion law amounted to a form of political insurrection. People who could provide safe abortions were considered heroes of good conscience…feminist activists actively encouraged illegal activity…
Another key concept in Gosnell’s identity… he did not choose to be an abortionist, but rather in reference to those first few poor troubled neighbors that came to him for abortions Gosnell says…“abortion chose me.” This indicates a sense of being anointed, chosen for a special mission to the poor.
Based on Volk’s interviews, we can safely imagine the inner thoughts of Dr Gosnell:
I know the messy reality faced by the poor in this neighborhood. I am an enlightened and skilled physician. It would be cruel and wrong to deny this poor couple my professional services. The technical interpretation of existing laws is a luxury for those with more resources in better neighborhoods…I am willing to take the heat for doing the dirty work to save these desperate poor families from falling deeper into poverty and suffering.
Lead us Not Into Temptation: The Conception…of Self-Deception
The compassionate Physician-King and abortion revolutionary is not bound by burdensome legal restrictions. But he faces an even greater temptation that is at the very heart of the abortion rights revolution…playing God.
At first glance, many, perhaps the majority of our fellow citizens (without an understanding of the after effects of abortion) would likely hear the facts of Gosnell’s initial abortion case, and agree that performing the procedure was the compassionate thing to do. Within this scenario we find the seeds of a very sophisticated temptation and the original rebellion against the Providence of our Creator as revealed in the book of Genesis.
Unfortunately the modern mind quickly dismisses the familiar bible story of Adam, Eve, the snake and that apple as an entertaining but antiquated fairy tale or simply Middle Eastern mythology…only fundamentalist loonies still take this stuff literally.
Tragically this is a dangerous mistake. Perhaps at no time in human history, apart from that initial rupture in the relationship between God and our early human ancestors, has the deeper truths of this story had more significance…and serve as a prophetic warning. (I would invite even the non-religious or agnostic reader to consider that there are crucial truths and important lessons about the human person contained in what you may view as Middle Eastern creation mythology.)
Enter the Garden
Let’s take a closer look at the Garden of Eden. The scene here is of harmony between man and women in their spiritual relationship with their Creator both individually, as a couple, and with God’s creation. That harmony and the goodness of God’s creation are reflected in their one-flesh union, where they share in the great gift with God of conceiving and bringing forth new life into the world.
But there is a mysterious and powerful force also lurking about the Garden, which we learn in Luke’s Gospel, has its origins in a pre-creation cosmic rebellion against God:
Jesus said, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke, 10-18.)
This malevolent force is reflected in the Genesis account as a snake. However in this context, the Hebrew word for snake can also be understood as a menacing serpent… a cunning and diabolical evil force and a formidable adversary.
Adam allowed the Serpent entry into the Garden and access to his partner. Adam and Eve were then vulnerable to his cunning and powerful temptations to embrace Satan’s rebellion against God’s providence. The Serpent uses the prohibition against eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that God warned would bring death as the area to tempt our first parents:
But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who know good and evil.
The Fruit of the Tree of Abortion
This is the very temptation faced by Dr Gosnell (and all abortionists) in his initial abortion case. This first procedure led Gosnell to embrace his role as a chosen Physician King. In this vocation conferred upon him by a type of abortion providence, he is above the law and liberated to play God as he assumes the power to take the life of an unborn child…if his wise discernment justifies fetal termination.
Just as in the Garden of Eden, this conception of self-deception planted the seeds of interior corruption and moral blindness that would over time bring forth not the enlightened fruit of god-like knowledge and power as promised by the Serpent, but the expanding fruit of death in Gosnell’s personal and professional life.
The Silent Scream and the Compassionate Late Term Abortionist
Author Steven Volk points out in Chapter 4 of Gosnell’s Babies that at a certain point in the doctor’s life as he continued in family medicine and performing abortions there “begins a narrative that splits in two, with one track spanning a routine of good deeds and another leading to indictments…and 200 criminal counts.” As we will learn, that split makes perfect sense when you understand the spiritual and emotional costs of directly taking the life of unborn children in the womb.
Kermit Gosnell, even after initially falling to the temptation to abort unborn human life still had the work ethic, and values instilled by his parents. While the darkness slowly grew in his mind and soul he still maintained some standards of decency and humanity. Volk shares that many of Gosnell’s neighbors held him in high esteem…even after his convictions still expressing love and affection for the “good doctor.” We find in this complex personality a father who loved his children, and a physician that while clearly misguided, was at times a compassionate and caring doctor.
In 1986 Gosnell saw the film The Silent Scream. Silent Scream captures an ultra sound of an abortionist attempting to apply a suction instrument called a cannula to dismember a fetus in the womb.
Volk shares this account of Gosnell viewing the film:
…Gosnell simply took in what he saw: The fetus moves and to try and avoid the cannula until finally the suction locks on. At this point, the mouth opens in what the producers called a “silent scream”…over the following weeks, he arranged to do a few abortions while filming the ultrasound screen. He saw the same thing he’s witnessed on TV.
Now you would expect that at this point, a compassionate and merciful physician like Dr Gosnell as he personally witnesses the fetus experiencing panic, recoiling from his suction instrument that will tear it apart…might at the very least pause to question if abortion is still an ethical and humane response to an unplanned pregnancy. Instead we find that Gosnell has been thoroughly corrupted by playing God with unborn life.
Gosnell slips into the typical pro abortion propaganda to buttress his massive denial. He shares about viewing his own version of Silent Scream on the ultrasound as he performed abortions:
I didn’t regret what I had done…The greater sin is the pain of carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term…and the ripple effects that has on the rest of her family and the child, and society.
One can have the most noble of intentions, and yet be the most arrogant and ignorant of men. The wise Physician King must decide, what is the greater sin? An unborn child recoiling in horror as it is about to be ripped apart…or the real burdens that the poor face when confronted with unplanned pregnancy.
You see, the enlightened, chosen leaders of the abortion revolution must assume the burden of making such complex, and troubling decisions. As the last century taught us, those possessed with revolutionary fervor see themselves as chosen agents of history and above the laws of God and man…and so become the greatest criminals in the history of mankind.
The “Compassionate” Origins of the Baby Spinal Snipping Procedure
Convicted of the righteousness of his cause, yet still retaining some sense of human decency, Dr Gosnell felt after viewing the Silent Scream that it was important to reduce the pain he caused in later term abortions. If one has travelled the slippery slope of abortion rights apologetics, and the necessity of mid-term and later-term abortions, then there is a certain logic and twisted compassion in his developing the notorious spinal snipping procedure to quickly ease the pain of the abortion procedure on later term babies, especially those born alive.
If you find yourself rightly disgusted by Gosnell stabbing the necks and snipping the spinal cords of just born infants, then consider the Dilation and Evacuation procedure performed on 4-6 month old babies. Because the bones of the baby are solidly formed by 12 weeks, the abortionist must use an instrument that resembles pliers to grab hold of the baby’s body parts and rips them from the baby’s body.
Abortionist Warren Hern shares of his experience performing the D & E on a baby: “The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current.”
If Gosnell is a monster…then what do we call an abortionist who performs D & E procedures on babies from 16-24 weeks? Thirty-Seven percent of abortions occur on babies after the 12th week of pregnancy when their little bones are formed and the heart beating. It could be argued that what Gosnell was charged with, is no less offensive than the thousands of procedures performed each year on babies over 3 months gestation, where no attempt is made to reduce the pain and suffering the child experiences as it is ripped apart in a suction abortion or dismembered in the womb by a D&E procedure.
The Growing Emotional, Spiritual and Professional Disconnect of the Abortion Doctor
How does this story end so badly for Dr Gosnell?
When Gosnell bit the abortion apple and assumed the Creator’s providence over life and death we see the fruits of that rebellion beginning to ripen. Although the details are sparse at this point in Volk’s account, we learn that Gosnell was married three times with 2 children from each marriage. We know from our international experience with those who have experienced abortion loss, that participating in the death of an unborn child has emotional and relational consequences that are only clear after one attends a healing program. Like a confusing and scattered puzzle, it is only after an emotional and spiritual recovery from that loss that women and men can put back together the fragmented pieces of their post abortion lives and makes sense of the chaos.
This is all the more true for those like Gosnell that directly destroy the unborn child in the womb.
Gosnell as he progressed as an abortionist by necessity further embraced the spiritual and emotional lies and rationalizations for being a hired killer for poor desperate families facing unplanned pregnancy. His dissociation from this truth led to a similar dissociation from any standards of decency.
Increasingly the disconnect between his self image as the kind and wise Physician King bestowing his medical services to his poor subjects, and the interior rot taking hold of his mind/heart/soul from killing so many unborn babies yielded it’s toxic fruit.
The Grand Jury report on Gosnell reveals the following charges:
- Performing abortions after the legal limit of 24 weeks…at times delivering babies still alive
- Allowing women to go into labor all day in his clinic and the casually stroll in for evening appointments with some of the women giving birth in toilets, waiting rooms and procedure tables while he was out of the clinic…at times giving birth to live infants.
- Neglecting standards of instrument sterilization and care leading to S.T.D infections
- A patient dies from heavy bleeding after a procedure without follow up. Many women horribly maimed and injured by his growing incompetence.
- As his incompetence deepens he has less early term abortion referrals and more later-term procedure patients. Gosnell hires non-professional untrained staff to assist him in his practice.
- As his corruption intensifies greed becomes an increasingly primary driving force in his practice as he rations better care and pain medicine for his better paying clientele.
- He rationalizes that an illegal prescription policy for pain killers is justified as an employment opportunity for poor folks with few options
- A plumber plunges a toilet and a tiny arm pops free
- A cat set free to roam the clinic dies, lies rotting in the clinic infested with fleas.
- Storing frozen babies and baby parts in his clinic
The Problem Isn’t so much Gosnell…Its Abortion
This is just a sampling of the madness. When law enforcement agents came to Gosnell’s home to arrest him, he asked if he could first feed his turtles. This further indicates the now complete dissociation of Dr Gosnell from the chaos, moral depravity and filth in his personal and professional life. He calmly crushes some clams and feeds his turtles before leading the agents to his office…dissociated from the unfolding legal process that would lead him to spend the rest of his life in prison.
Perhaps on some level his increasingly erratic and criminal behavior was shouting out “I am clearly out of control…someone please stop me and end this madness.” He remains to this day unable to face reality in his warped state and the abortion industry is too morally compromised, corrupt and depraved to police their more overtly criminal elements…as Live Action has revealed.
Gosnell would exhibit this same calm, stately dissociative manner in the courtroom as the tales of horror unfolded. We can safely assume he maintained the same state of calm dissociation as he dismembered a fetus, or snipped the spinal cord of a just born living baby.
While Gosnell may represent a more extreme example of the spiritually corrupted dissociated and traumatized abortionist…he is not alone.
The following is an excerpt from the New Zealand Resources for Life on a study by Rachel MacNair on Post Traumatic Stress of abortion clinic employees and physicians:
… the Psychological Consequences of Killing (Paeger, 2002)…examines several groups that kill, including war veterans and executioners…Both studies were done by people in favor of legal abortion, yet they both note the high prevalence of symptoms that fit the condition now called Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The 1974 study…noted: “obsessional thinking about abortion, depression, fatigue, anger, lowered self-esteem, and identity conflicts were prominent. The symptoms were…similar to combat fatigue. The other study listed similar symptoms: … including withdrawal from colleagues… Nightmares, images that could not be shaken, and preoccupation were commonly reported. Also common was the deep and lonely privacy within which practitioners…
Gosnell represents what happens, in varying degrees, to all medical professionals who participate in the death of the unborn. An unavoidable corruption and division occurs in the heart, mind and soul that enables the abortion doctors and staff to do the dirty work that our society uncomfortably tolerates…even as we really don’t want to really face the ugly realities of what abortion looks like.
Some physicians may not display some of the public excesses of Gosnell. But rest assured, the research of groups like Life Dynamics reveal that when physicians and abortion clinic employees eat the fruit of the abortion apple they unleash forces that over time lead to darkness and dysfunction in their personal, professional and spiritual lives at great cost to those desperate women and men they claim to serve.
Like many who enter the murky waters of abortion with the best of intentions, these men and women are seduced by their pride and often greed to believe they can maintain control as they become the hired hands to destroy unplanned and unwanted human lives in the womb.
In Gosnell’s life, this is reflected over time in the inability to manage the growing chaos in his personal and professional life. Reading the shocking facts of the Grand Jury report is like holding a mirror up to Gosnell’s soul…the chaos, filth and depravity are a reflection on his interior corruption and possession by the darkness that is the heart of the abortion revolution. Once you are possessed by the lies and madness…you no longer recognize the light of truth.
The great Physician King and chosen abortion revolutionary…ends up the most depraved and pathetic of men who so grievously injured so many poor women and their babies.
This is a warning for all those involved in the abortion industry and all of us who can remain blind and obstinate in our sin and rebellion against God’s Providence of our lives. Many in the pro abortion camp may distance themselves from some of the more bizarre excesses and medical negligence of Gosnell. But if you are involved in any way in the direct killing of unborn fetal life…over time your soul will become as dark and corrupted as Gosnell’s.
When you one day face the Creator of life…will you recognize the light from the darkness…truth from lies? Or will you, like Gosnell have become so possessed by the lie that is the heart of the abortion revolution that you will reject the truth of that light…and choose eternal darkness and separation from God? 
Rest assured, the author of those lies, the Serpent in the Genesis story will be there to convince you of your irredeemable depravity and the justice of your damnation. These are the horrifying realities that transcend the contentious politics and debates around the issue of abortion and have eternal significance for so many of us at this time in history. Let us pray we can cling to the cross of Christ in our time of judgment, and trust in His great mercy.
For the sake of his sorrowful passion…have mercy on us and on the whole world.
[In a future article I will explore the work of Dr Philip Ney and the Centurions in helping abortion providers transition and recover from their abortion practice. If you are a present or former abortion employee or doctor please contact Priests for Life for more information and assistance.]
 Greed would certainly play a key role in the later expansion of his late term abortion business. But for the purpose of this analysis, I want to focus on the spiritual and personal lies that led over time to such depravity and madness as I believe they are more foundational to understanding this man and the roots of the abortion business.
 As former abortionist the late Dr Bernard Nathanson attested, pro abortion revolutionaries developed a strategy to shine a bright light on the “hard cases” and inflate and invent statistics about maternal death from botched abortions to build a powerful momentum for legalization that swept across our nation in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.
 Gosnell’s is clearly ignorant of the real personal, family and social costs from after-abortion suffering. The poor are especially vulnerable to these post abortion complications.
 There are many ways to abort God’s will for our lives and fall to temptation, sin and blindness. See Matthew 25, 31-46.