The new ‘abortion’: cutting newborns’ spinal cords

Two years ago, Dr. Kermit Gosnell was arrested for the murders of eight people at the abortion clinic a jury called a “house of horrors.” As I wrote at that time, normally if anyone in the country is accused of murdering eight people (and, in fact, a reading of the grand jury report indicates he is suspected in the murders of untold more, and I do mean untold), that would be big news.

This has not been big news. It’s been covered, but not in the way the 24-hour news cycle covers, say, a missing blonde woman.

It’s been different than, say, the frenzied and unrelenting negative coverage of one anti-abortion candidate’s unscientific and widely derided remarks about rape.

Gosnell ran an abortion clinic in Philadelphia, performing some 16,000 procedures. Karnamaya Mongar, an immigrant from Nepal, died at his hands. That’s one of the murder charges. The rest are for some of the babies he delivered before cutting their spinal cord. The grand jury report is sickening. It tells of a shop of horrors — infant body parts stashed everywhere in the clinic (including the employee lunch refrigerator), unsterilized instruments, flea-ridden cats defecating throughout the facility. Again, a grand jury report this horrific would normally be bigger news.

In the Grand Jury report, you can read more about how he violated abortion regulations by performing abortions on minors without parental consent, how he performed abortions past 24 weeks, sometimes very far past 24 weeks, fudged required ultrasounds, skipped required consultations. You can read about the other women who died or were severely injured after abortions performed by Gosnell. You can read about how pro-choice politicians ended some regulations of abortion clinics or about how one doctor complained about the spread of VD from the clinic. All this is just in the first 18 pages of the 281-page report.

At the time of this report and his arrest, the same broadcast outlets that reported on Todd Akin’s “rape” remarks night after night after night after night after night after night somehow managed not to mention Gosnell once.

There were other media outlet problems, too, which you can revisit here.

Gosnell’s trial has finally begun and the Associated Press report on it is extremely difficult to read. Here’s how it begins:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A medical assistant told a jury Tuesday that she snipped the spines of at least 10 babies during unorthodox abortions at a West Philadelphia clinic, at the direction of the clinic’s owner.

And she said Dr. Kermit Gosnell and another employee did the same to terminate pregnancies.

Adrienne Moton’s testimony came in the capital murder trial of Gosnell, who owned the clinic and is on trial in the deaths of a patient and seven babies. Prosecutors accuse him of killing late-term, viable babies after they were delivered alive, in violation of state abortion laws.

OK, while it is perhaps worth reflecting on precisely how much difference there is between the abortion of viable children and the killing of children of the exact same gestation who have escaped the womb, Gosnell is not charged with murdering via abortion but, rather, murdering via live birth of babies whose spinal cords he then snipped.

The story discusses how some of these children were delivered at 30 weeks and that one baby was so big that Gosnell joked “he could have walked to the bus stop,” according to the witness.

Later:

[Moton] once had to kill a baby delivered in a toilet, cutting its neck with scissors, she said. Asked if she knew that was wrong, she said, “At first I didn’t.”

Abortions are typically performed in utero.

Again, while “intact dilation and extraction” abortions or “partial-birth” abortions are done ex utero (the baby is delivered except for the head and then the skull is collapsed by sucking out the brains), is this a case of that form of, um, “pregnancy termination”? Killing a baby in a toilet may be many things, but an abortion it is not. The language here should not suggest it is.

A previous story anticipating how the defense would work — saying the prosecution is racist, essentially — avoided some of these problems. It is, perhaps, even more difficult to read.

The story is not long and we’ll have to see how the same media outlets that showed intense interest in pro-life comments on rape will cover an actual murder trial of an abortion doctor.

It would stand to reason that there are many more questions to ask, including of prominent politicians, pundits and media figures that seek to end regulations on abortion clinics as well as any limitation on any abortion. There are questions to ask regarding the difference between these, as the AP writer puts it, “abortions” being performed in or ex utero. Surely the same media that ran with Todd Akin’s rape remarks for weeks on end will find suitable angles to begin their broadcast newscasts and lead their front pages — maybe even for a week or so. Right?

Newborn photo via Shutterstock.

  • mollie

    It’s from two years ago, but Elizabeth Scalia writes the definitive smackdown of media coverage of this here:
    http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/02/gosnell-headlines-gone-baby-gone
    Sample:
    The Gosnell story—a story that by any measure deserved in-depth coverage, some serious discussion about regulation and responsibility, and a few features forcing the nation to consider just when a “late-term” abortion slips into the category of “infanticide” or what our leadership and politicians really think of all of this—proved too big and too messy for the mainstream media.

    They did not want light shed on dark truths that cannot be prettied up with euphemisms and nebulous notions of “choice.” They did not want to have to ponder the likelihood of Gosnell’s stinking, body-piled-and-bloodstained rooms being replicated in other cities, in other states, where other authorities chose to look away from the carnage, rather than address it.

    • mollie

      Also from two years ago, a pro-choice advocate and journalist at Slate wrote on this topic in a critical manner: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/the_back_alley/2011/02/what_happened_to_the_women.html

      • sari

        A terrific article, but I would urge readers to read the entire series of articles rather than just the one.

        • Dan

          “The entire series” appears to no longer be available; the link at the bottom of “What about the women?” does not work, and I was unable to find the rest of the series by searching Slate’s site.

  • John M.

    What’s the difference between a botched abortion and a successful murder? I’m sure we’ll see some hard-hitting coverage of topics like this any day now.

    Hey, did you hear Lindsay Lohan is back in rehab?

    -John

  • Jerry

    That’s a very important point you make about the level of coverage this atrocity has received. The little coverage can be compared, for example, to the media coverage when people are shot.

  • Martha

    “unorthodox abortions”

    And that is why I am very cynical about the coverage this story will get. It will be covered by the local media, because they really can’t avoid covering it; others will give it a page or so, and then it will be left to molder quietly after he is sentenced.

    “Unorthodox”. Why, that’s very nearly “maverick” and – as we all know from TV shows and movies – the maverick cop is the guy who gets things done and is the hero.

  • Weslie Odom

    I almost e-mailed you this morning to see if you’d comment on the use of the phrase “terminate pregnancies” in this article. You beat me to the punch. “Unorthodox abortions” was another clever phrase used here too.

  • Phil

    When I found this blog (“Get Religion”) about 6 weeks ago, I remember thinking that this could be an interesting resource, a resource that fills a real void. In this regard, I think the premise of the blog is right–that the press often doesn’t “get religion” and often airbrushes it out of stories. I didn’t think it was a particularly a left-right political thing–although I recognized that there may be elements of that at times as part of a story.

    But then you get posts like this. Which are basically just right-wing political screeds masquerading as criticism.

    Clearly the title of this blog, “Get Religion,” is wrong–it isn’t really about “Religion”–it is about a narrow view of conservative Christian/Catholic life. The title of this blog should be “The Press Doesn’t Cover Christian Religious Conservatives and Conservative Social Issues in a Way that We Like.”

    • Martha

      Yes, Phil, it’s right-wing politics to point out that the “safe, legal” abortion clinic so much more preferable to driving women into the arms of the back-alley abortionists ended up killing one woman and harming the health of many others.

      It’s right-wing politics to point out that the reason this happened was because the regulations regarding over sight were deliberately ignored by the very public body which should have protected those women.

      It’s right-wing politics to report that poor, minority, immigrant and young women were being exploited by this man for profit.

      It’s right-wing politics to call for an explanation as to how ideology (laxity of inspection, failing to close down this clinic) trumped women’s right to health care since anything that might smack of restricting abortion was so unthinkable, it was better to let this rogue operation go ahead unhindered rather than apply the law.

      It’s particularly right-wing to ask if the fact that it was poor, minority and immigrant women whose lives and health were being put at risk had any bearing on the insouciance of the authorities – would the case of a “middle-class blonde white woman” who had to be ferried to the local hospital bleeding after a botched abortion have been overlooked so easily?

      • Phil

        Martha,

        I am saying that this blog post isn’t about religion (a point which you seem to be reinforcing). Which is what this blog is supposed to be about according to “Why We’re Here.”

        This post is a partisan political shot. Why else write “At the time of this report and his arrest, the same broadcast outlets that reported on Todd Akin’s “rape” remarks night after night after night after night after night after night somehow managed not to mention Gosnell once.”

        Remind me how Todd Akin is relevant to this story again? Wait. He isn’t. Unless you want bring him up for the sole point that the media is “unfair” to conservatives.

        • mollie

          Ah, this is better. That the media are partisan in their ideological support for abortion rights is not my problem, though. It’s theirs. If they truly want to cover the very difficult topic of whether unborn or newborn children do or do not have a right to life and under what circumstances, they should cover that topic fairly.
          Akin is relevant to this story because of the nearly non-stop coverage of him leading up to the November election, where every single pro-life candidate top to bottom was asked to weigh in on his comments even after the vast majority if not all pro-life outlets condemned them.
          If we’re going to ask these questions of Akin and anyone who is opposed to abortion rights, we need to be fair and uniform. We need to ask tough questions of those who support even the most extreme abortion rights — some of whom hold very high offices. The disparity is partisan — you are right. But observing the partisanship (and I’m not talking about capital P political parties so much as ideological groupings) is not the same as being partisan.
          If you want to defend the non-stop coverage of Akin leading up to November in contrast to the relative silence on someone who didn’t just say something stupid but is charged with killing eight people (and it is suggested he killed untold more), go ahead and do it.
          But noting that the disparity is partisan and biased and not good journalism is what we have done here for years — and there are plenty of people within journalism who have recognized and documented the extreme bias on this topic and how it hurts open and fair discussion of this topic and fair treatment of the people involved.
          Perhaps someday we’ll see some improvements on it.

          • Phil

            One became a national story because of the national election, republican candidates running across the country–many with a conservatism that was outside the “mainstream,” and that fit into a narrative about a Republican “war on women” (thereby affecting half the country). As so many commentators pointed out, it was numerous Republicans putting their own feet in their mouth, repeatedly. (It wasn’t soley about Akin. Moreover, the coverage of Akin was hardly “non-stop.” Again, I think your biases are showing.)

            In contrast, this is a (horrific) local story. It doesn’t affect half the country. There doesn’t seem to be a national “problem” of lax enforcement. It doesn’t seem to be part of larger, national story that fits into a narrative/conversation that we are now having about abortion. (Social media has a role here. In the first case (Akin and others), I think social media drove the story more than the national media. Here, there is no social media driving the abortion story, as far as I can tell.)

            Having said all that, I haven’t seen any evidence that the press is asking pro-choice candidates hard questions, and thus I think that is a valid criticism.

        • Martha

          Comparison of coverage on women’s reproductive health issues, Phil. I’m not an American and my politics don’t slot into the Democrat vs. Republican model.

          A politician makes a truly stupid, wrong and hurtful remark about rape. That gets massive coverage. A doctor (and how the hell these guys kept their licences or – even worse – were permitted to regain medical licences they had lost) is responsible for infecting teenagers with venereal disease due to the dreadful conditions of his clinic, allowed untrained staff to dose women up with sedatives, permitted the place to be kept in filthy conditions, lacked proper equipment, was turned down for membership of abortion providers organisation because he failed the inspection, was the subject of complaints by local hospitals for the condition of his clients whom they had to treat after he botched their abortions, and ended up killing a woman – with the really reassuring implication that politics was behind the decision not to shut him down – that gets described as “unorthodox abortions” and minimal reporting.

          As they used to sing on “Sesame Street”, one of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong!

    • northcoast

      Phil, if this were a right-wing political screed, I’m sure you would have seen the President’s name a few times. OK, I concede the conservative Christian / Catholic label fits this post, but who wouldn’t be horrified by the accounts about Dr. Gosnell’s clinic?

      • Phil

        I don’t follow your logic–it cannot be a right-wing political screed because it doesn’t mention the President’s name?

        • northcoast

          Probably not. Consider an Ann Coulter column.

    • mollie

      Show your work, please. What is the problem with the media criticism? Do you disagree with a specific point I made? How so? Help us all to understand. I backed up my media criticism with specifics. If you want your critique to carry any weight, you should do the same. I’m not saying you can’t — I’m sure you can. You just need to do the work.

      • Phil

        I think my post at 3:59 in response to Martha is a good start.

        • mollie

          It is! Thank you.

  • Martha

    “Surely the same media that ran with Todd Akin’s rape remarks for weeks on end”

    Heck, Mollie, surely the same media that ran stories on the Savita Halappanavar case in my country and issued editorials and opinon columns instructing us backwards, ignorant Irish on how we needed to reform our laws immediately will be all over this, won’t they?

    Minority and immigrant women’s health and lives, young women’s and teenagers’ health and lives, been put at risk, damaged, and even killing at least one woman – this will bring forth the same outrage, won’t it?

  • Julia

    “Abortions are typically performed in utero.”

    WOW Is infanticide the new abortion? I guess now if it’s done within a few minutes of birth it now counts as an abortion. Incredible.

    - — – - – - – - – - – - –
    When trying to post this, I got a message saying I should slow down b/c I’m posting too fast. I don’t think I posted anything else today. Am I on a watch list or something? Like most people I check in once or twice a day and maybe comment a few times during those times – so maybe the comments are close together. Do the patheos people think we all hang out here all day long posting comments?

    • http://www.authenticbioethics.blogspot.com AuthenticBioethics

      In answer to your first question: Yes. Last year some “bioethicists” were floating the idea of “post-birth abortion.” Yep. Here’s the abstract:

      Abortion is largely accepted even for reasons that do not have anything to do with the fetus’ health. By showing that (1) both fetuses and newborns do not have the same moral status as actual persons, (2) the fact that both are potential persons is morally irrelevant and (3) adoption is not always in the best interest of actual people, the authors argue that what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.

      Here’s the URL: http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/04/12/medethics-2011-100411.full?sid=3e6118a1-e449-4796-acb4-c6188f880fe1

      Seems like Gosnell was ahead of the curve, and his real crime is the unsanitary conditions in which he worked.

  • Cathy G

    What on earth does this have to do with media coverage of religion, or even the views of conservative or liberal religious people on abortion in general?

    • mollie

      Cathy G,
      We critique coverage of abortion here. Some people have disagreed with that editorial decision but it’s one that is very long-settled. I perfectly understand if you have different views than we do on whether coverage of war, torture, abortion, marriage law, etc. fits within the scope of the blog but we follow the general approach that newspapers do. Godbeat reporters frequently cover the “faith and values” beat and these issues are “faith and values” issues.
      Anyway, if you don’t like it, that’s perfectly defensible but it’s long-settled here. I have advised others who dislike abortion posts (or other faith and values posts) to simply skip them.

      • Phil

        This is helpful, thanks.

      • Matt

        :)

  • Cathy G

    As a newcomer, I appreciate the explanation as to what this post is doing on this blog.

    I’ll be skipping future ones, since I think that the illegal conduct described isn’t one that advances any argument on whether abortion should be legal or not, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with religion news. It’s not a matter of “faith and values” when no one has anything substantive to disagree about theologically or morally.

    • http://www.authenticbioethics.blogspot.com AuthenticBioethics

      What I find interesting is the way the media connect abortion to religion in terms of the pro-life side, in a particularly biased way, and how they hound public figures who are pro-life who express their view as if they were doing something hideous; and how they simply pretend the abortion issue doesn’t even exist when someone on “their” side does something that is in fact hideous. That same sort of bias exists also in their coverage of religion. And the lines are remarkably close.

      IF religion – particularly Christianity – underlies the pro-life position in the mind of the media, it follows that there is a religion angle to the other side, too. What then could be the religion that underlies the pro-abortion side, which includes the media, so much so that they do nothing to portray a monster like Gosnell like the monster he is?

      THAT seems like a religion ghost to me, or at least a theological ghost. My God, what kind of theological position could make someone think that Gosnell’s acts do not deserve wide publicity? Or worse, that they’re OK? I know the answer, and it makes me shudder.

  • Cathy G

    Meh. I don’t think you could find many people of *any* theological stripe who think that:
    a) What Gosnell did was okay – theologically, morally, or legally.
    b) That Gosnell was using any sort of theology to justify his actions. This is rather distinct from, say, the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal. Catholic clergy take several oaths that abortionists do not. (Though if you can find a Roman Catholic clergy / abortionist, that might be a big story.)
    c) That Gosnell’s crimes deserve media coverage outside of crime reporting. When a dentist molests children while they are under the influence of anasethetics, do we then try to outlaw orthodontia? Do people pretend that we shouldn’t have cabs when a cabbie gets a DUI after killing someone? Do we much care which ethical code the DUI Death Cabbie ascribed to?

    • JoFro

      It depends! Are dentists taking oaths of celibacy?

  • Melissa

    But, Cathy, there are parallels to the Catholic sex abuse scandals here. In both cases, there is substantial evidence that complaints were made to the higher-ups, but those complaints were ignored or pooh-poohed, for various reasons, but mainly because the higher ups were sticking their heads in the sand and didn’t want to rock the boat.

    As to oaths, doctors do take oaths, and are held to professional codes of conduct. And if it is fair game to make a big public scandal when a clergyman betrays his oaths, then, under the gandersauce principle, it ought to be fair game to make a big public scandal when a doctor so egregiously betrays his professional code of conduct.

    And, typically, when a scandal of this sort comes to light, the professional associations involved do some debriefing, and put some policies in place to try to prevent this sort of horror from reoccurring. But here, we have organizations such as NARAL and he NAF fighting tooth and nail against any increased oversight or regulations on abortion clinics.

  • Cathy G

    Melissa, I don’t think there is the same sort of religious-based institutional corruption here. There may be some professional complicity, but I’ve read the Boston and Long Island DA’s reports on Catholic sex abuse, and I just don’t see the same thing here.

    Also, this SHOULD be a big scandal, professionally. Not necessarily religiously. This is viewed by many on both sides of the issue as a medical procedure, albeit one with theological implications for and by some. A reporter covering those implications would ask additional questions in a theological vein. They would arise mainly if someone was trying to claim, for example, that either or both The Great Commandment and the AAMA’s guidelines include approval what Gosnell did.

    No one is claiming that, simply because they do not.

    “But here, we have organizations such as NARAL and he NAF fighting tooth and nail against any increased oversight or regulations on abortion clinics.”

    “Any” increased oversight? Any and all? Including this sort of conduct? I would love to see some evidence of that.

    My basic point is that no one in the media – secular or otherwise – is defending Gosnell. Pointing to faint coverage doesn’t prove otherwise. And that makes this post a trifle ridiculous in its implications.

    • sari

      Cathy G,
      Before you suggest that NARAL and NAF are not fighting against any increased oversight or regulations of abortion clinics, I’d suggest that you read the Slate series in its entirety and the current press around proposed legislation to more closely regulate Texas abortion clinics (start with any Texas paper). The discussion of women’s safety when providing a legal service has been sidelined by both sides’ most extreme proponents. One wants abortion to be entirely inaccessible to women, irrespective of circumstance: woman’s and fetus’ health, rape, incest, religious belief system that allows termination of pregnancy. The other wants access with no constraints–abortion to be used as one of many types of birth control. What should be a nuanced discussion is a bunch of people yelling *at* each other rather than listening *to* each other.

      For the record, I am neither Christian nor terribly conservative. I don’t want the press to advocate against abortion, the way mollie suggests, here and elsewhere, any more than I want it to advocate for it. What I want is for the press to report the news as news, to ask relevant questions which pertain to the actual topic, and to keep their personal opinions to themselves. By choosing not to cover the Gosnell case, one which has parallels elsewhere, and by distorting the gruesome facts by engaging in wordplay, the press chose to protect access at the expense of public health and, in the process, allowed women to be hurt and viable infants to be killed. Inexcusable.

      • mollie

        Sari,
        Can you show where I’ve suggested that the press should advocate against abortion? I don’t believe they should, so I’m curious where I said that. And why. But it’s hard to know without something specific to look at it.

  • FW Ken

    Interesting that one side sees abortion (and same-sex marriage, fwiw) as a political issue. The other side sees it as religious. That makes discussion difficult, since one side doesn’t want to consider religious critiques of media coverage. Since I’m firmly in the latter camp, it doesn’t bother me, but as a long-time reader, I would note that this meta-critique is a regular non-response to the journalism issues. Such as life.

    I do have to note that Todd Akin was not in a “national campaign”; he was running for senator from Missouri. If his views become a national issue, then why are all abortion opinions equally in play? And the Catholic sex scandal began locally in Boston (in 2002; it was local in Dallas and Louisiana before that), but spread nationwide. Is the media blackout on abortion clinics hiding an unknown number of dead women? Not to mention “post-birth abortions”. And it’s not just the media that are trying to keep things on the Q.T.

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/03/17/video-catholic-grandmother-assaulted-while-praying-outside-planned-parenthood/

  • Julia

    b) That Gosnell was using any sort of theology to justify his actions. This is rather distinct from, say, the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandal. Catholic clergy take several oaths that abortionists do not. (Though if you can find a Roman Catholic clergy / abortionist, that might be a big story.)

    What??? What part of Catholic theology justifies child abuse????

  • mollie

    Weird. The big three networks have yet to hear about this abortion doctor being charged with the murder of 8 people — and various other things.
    http://www.lifenews.com/2013/03/20/big-three-networks-ignore-abortion-doc-who-snipped-babies-necks/
    By comparison, these same networks devoted 88 minutes (or 40 segments) of coverage to Congressman Akin’s “legitimate rape” remark.
    But one of those stories made pro-lifers look bad and one didn’t. Also, one story involved murder — oh wait, that’s the story that did NOT receive coverage. So so weird.

  • JoFro

    I kind of agree with some of the readers here about using the Gosnell case and comparing it to media coverage of Todd Akin. A better comparison would be to Savita, the Indian woman who died in Ireland.

    Akin is a politician – his views are always going to be national news. Now if say some local politician from the Democrat side came to the defence of Gosnell, claiming it is more humane say to snip off the spinal cords of babies rather than let them live in poverty and the news media does not cover that like Akin’s “rape” comments, you’ve got a great comparison.

    But in this case, the Akin comparison just doesn’t fit. Go with the Savita comparison – that actually does involve news media, religion ghosts and abortion!

  • John M.

    Cathy,

    Since when does there have to be theological nuance to justify crime story coverage? The MSM regularly over-covers horrific crimes that nobody would defend. Close your eyes and picture Jared Lee Loughner. Now do the same for James Holmes. Why did these cases receive a barrage of coverage and a man who stands accused of eight murders in the context of one of the most divisive political issues of the day only justify coverage as a local story?

    Would we feel differently about it if he had used a gun to sever the spines of those children? But he uses “medical instruments” and calls it “women’s health” and, whoops! Nothing to see here folks, just a local story. The man is accused of keeping feet from aborted babies (or murdered infants, but who can tell the difference from the feet) in jars. Close your eyes and picture Jeffery Dahmer. I mean, this is absolutely chilling.

    The fact that such evil is alleged by a prosecutor to exist in these 50 states is national news. To assert otherwise is unbelievable to me.

    -John

  • John M.

    And the layers to this story! Incompetent/negligent/ideologically-driven government oversight! Feet in jars! May-December romances! Venereal disease! Immigrants being exploited by a greedy businessman! Racial tension in a racially-charged city! (Gosnell is black for those of you who cannot see him when you close your eyes.)

    And this is the week that the MSM decides to repent of “if it bleeds, it leads”? Because Obama’s trip to Israel is going to be so productive? And, uh, Predator drones crash at a higher rate than other aircraft? And, uh, LiLo is going back to rehab? And, uh, the guy who plays the Devil in The Bible miniseries looks like Obama?

    I’m not buying it. Not for one second. If the media had to cover this story, it would require a whole lot of justifying of sacred but unjustifiable positions in people’s heads, and that’s just a little too much cognitive dissonance to ask of the folks who buy ink by the barrel. The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

    -John

  • John M.

    And Julia, you have my sympathy: the patheos commenting system has some very strange errors. The one it keeps giving me is “maybe your comment was too short?” There’s literally a question mark in the error message.

    -John

  • Cathy G

    Sari, I have no doubt that there are extremists on both sides of the issue – the very fact that this case, with its disgusting facts, is being used to argue against what has been legal since 1972 is an example of that. But I have read the Slate piece, and neither it nor you have drawn a line between NARAL and NAF and advocacy of what Gosnell did. I also don’t believe that media discussion of women’s safety is an issue – they just assume, like most of the public, that safety and legality is paramount to abortion providers, and noted exceptions fall to the medical malpractice and criminal beats.

    Julia, to you at 7:34 – there is NOTHING in Roman Catholic theology that justifies child abuse. However, the doctrine of papal infallibility and the organization’s tendency to protect itself at the expense of its members did, in fact, play a role in the sex abuse scandal. This is clearly documented in the Boston and New York DA’s reports, both of which are available online, and it has been admitted to by numerous church officials.

    Both mollie and some other commenters have insinuated that what Gosnell did is going on all over the place, and that it’s just unreported by the MSM, because the MSM wants everyone to abort all day and twice on Sundays. Is there some – any – evidence for the likelihood that this is occurring in other jurisdictions that mollie alluded to in comment 1? Interesting word in that context: “probability” would have been a better choice.

  • Cathy G

    ^^^ “possibility” was the word I meant to type – darn auto correct!

  • Cathy G

    John, I decided to respond to you separately. You ask:

    “Why did these cases receive a barrage of coverage and a man who stands accused of eight murders in the context of one of the most divisive political issues of the day only justify coverage as a local story? Would we feel differently about it if he had used a gun to sever the spines of those children? But he uses “medical instruments” and calls it “women’s health” and, whoops! Nothing to see here folks, just a local story.”

    There’s PLENTY to see here, but it’s just not relevant to coverage – theological or otherwise – of the abortion issue… which, BTW, is not as politically divisive as you claim. Why do I think so? Well, when you ask an anti-choice or pro-life person how the law should treat unwillingly pregnant women, you usually get a bunch of cricket chirps. They might segue into “Safe Haven” advocacy or arguments about adoption alternatives, but any discussion of how the law should treat women who are pregnant and don’t want to be is often not to be had. No one is advocating for or defending what Gosnell did. I looked, and if I missed anything, please tell me. The SCOTUS was incredibly clear on what was the law of the land on this issue and when certain options were available to women. The Gosnell story doesn’t do anything to muddy those waters – what he did was illegal.

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre may have been a movie that got national attention, but it was still a local crime story. No one cares where Leatherface went to church and no one on the religion beat ever covered it.

  • Melissa

    Cathy G, you are completely missing the point.

    I will somewhat concede your point that nobody is defending Gosnell here. Authentic Bioethics above pointed out above that there are people advocating for “after birth abortion” in prominent bioethics journals. Julian Savalescu is a bioethicist at Oxford; Peter Singer, an ethicist at Princeton (I believe) has also made similar remarks. There are well-respected men, in influential posts, that ascribe to the point of view that what Kermit Gosnell did should be legal. Their views, while certainly not mainstream, are gaining ground. Don’t discount that.

    However. Far and away the best argument for legalizing abortion was that abortions would take place regardless of whether or not they were legal, and if they were legal, we could at least ensure they were safe. The fact hat Kermit Gosnell operated this filthy, backwater butcher shop right in the front alley, for years, despite complaints from the local emergency department, who were appalled at the condition in which he left some of his patients. Heck, there were reports of botched abortions, and even another death of a woman besides Karnamaya Mongar, and not one inspector bothered to visit the site. That is a gross, gross oversight, not just on the part of Gosnell, but by the entire health and safety department in Philadelphia. In fact, it wasn’t concern for women’s safety that brought the authorities down on Gosnell, but it was the fact that he was running a drug-trafficking business on the side. Had he not been dealing in drugs, there is a damn good chance that Gosnell’s filthy chop shop would still be open for business. That is inexcusable on the part of the health authorities.

  • Bonnie

    Dear God, when is it going to stop? This is so disgusting can’t even read the whole thing. God help us.

  • mollie

    This piece might be of possible interest:
    http://tonywoodlief.com/2013/03/21/white-ashes/
    There are four times more mentions of Jimmy Fallon not simply because Americans prefer entertainment to real-life horror. Had Gosnell been, say, a self-professed evangelical who murdered seven abortion doctors, instead of a profiteering abortionist who murdered seven babies, then I promise you, there is no way you would avoid hearing about it. There is no question about the morality of abortion for most journalists, only questions about the morality of people who oppose it.

  • John M.

    Cathy G,

    This dude is on trial for whacking eight people. For seven of those eight charges, if he had killed those people in a different geographic location (the mother’s womb), it would have been indisputably legal. I’d argue that makes this case more newsworthy than your average serial killer.

    In addition, I’d argue (without evidence, granted) that this serial killer case is receiving less attention than a more typical serial killer would earn. I seem to read headlines all the time about missing children in various arbitrary locations around the US. I saw a headline today about a gynecologist who was caught (allegedly) recording his patient exams. I think that, in general, people who are accused of eight brutal and gruesome counts of murder get a little more coverage than this fellow is getting.

    Have any of you heard of the Baseline Killer? That’s a local story for me (I live 1/2 mile from Baseline Road, and an easy walk to two of the murder scenes, though granted I didn’t live here when they happened). In late 2011, the Baseline Killer, Mark Goudeau, was convicted of two counts of murder, though he is suspected of nine total murders spanning from 2005-2006. Did any of you outside the Phoenix area hear about that case? And Goudeau, to my knowledge, kept zero victims’ feet in jars.

    -John

  • John M.

    And if any GetReligionistas or Patheos people want details on how horrifying this blog is to use on an iPad, I’m glad to provide details at my email address. It’s really a bear. In contrast, the mobile view renders great on my iPhone.

    -John

    • mollie

      John M.,
      I shared your note with one of the suits and he said that the new version of Mobify will be online very soon and will be much more friendly to iPads. He also said, “Please thank this reader for hanging in there and let them know help is coming. I’ve already seen the setup on iPad and it’s much better.”

  • John M.

    Thanks, Mollie.

    -John

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