Abortion, Language and Looking Away – UPDATED


“Over a period of two decades, government health and licensing officials were repeatedly presented with evidence about Gosnell, and repeatedly chose to do nothing…”

“No action was taken, even after the agencies learned that women had died under Gosnell’s care.”

Kermit Gosnell was arraigned yesterday on 8 charges charges of murder, and much, much more.

Most of the news reports I’m reading on this story are surprisingly succinct, given the 281 page Grand Jury Report which brings his crimes into sickening detail and make it plain that Gosnell brought a depraved indifference to life and human dignity into his “practice” if one could call it that. The press writes as little as possible, and many of these stories online do not include links to the report.

Many of the women who came to Gosnell were poor, and far along in their pregnancies They paid exorbitant sums to Gosnell (after being referred to him by who? Other doctors?) in order to be stripped from the waist down and given not-so-much as a gown — only blood-stained blankets that were washed once a week. They were anesthetized by unlicensed persons while flea-infested cats roamed freely. That’s just the tip of this iceberg, but I can’t go on because its too upsetting. The babies who “precipitated” and “fell out” of women while no medical personnel were available; babies being pulled out of the pipes or “seeming to swim” in the toilet. Babies breathing and crying before their spinal cords were “snipped” and their bodies were thrown into empty milk-cartins, cat food containers, shoe boxes. Women who were maimed or left infertile, or diseased or killed. The unwashed instruments, the bloody tables and stirrups, the feet severed from babies and kept as trophies.

The press is not going giving a full sense of the scope of this horrorshow, because they will want this story minimized and shoved down the memory hole as fast as possible. There are a few weak lines of spin being bandied about, but do not be fooled; this is about abortion in America, and about a mindset that will excuse a great deal for its sake. Steel yourself to it and try to read the report. Become educated about Gosnell; it is very likely there are more like him — exploiting the poor, cutting every corner and confident that local authorities and regulators will not care. As the Grand Jury asserts:

[After Gosnell’s center was approved as an abortion clinic in 1979, the Pennsylvania Department of Healt] did not conduct another site review until 1989. Numerous violations were already apparent but Gosnell got a pass when he promised to fix them. Site reviews in 1992 and 1993 also noted various violations [and] failed to ensure they were corrected. […] After 1993 even that pro-forma effort came to an end . . . DOH abruptly decided for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro . . . officials concluded that inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions. . . . Several different attorneys, representing women injured by Gosnell, contacted the department. A doctor from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia hand-delivered a complaint, advising the department that number patients he had referred for abortions came back from Gosnell with the same venereal disease.

It goes on and on, noting that not even the death of Karnamaya Mongar prompted the department to look at Gosnell. All of this came to light only after the place was raided for drug trafficking.

The Gosnell story would be repellent enough, even if he had been charged ten or fifteen years ago. The horror is compounded by the fact that people in authority looked the other way, for decades, rather than stop him.

And curiously, given the brevity of these articles I’m linking to, the U.S. press seems to want to look away, too. But they shouldn’t. In 2002 the media quite rightly delved deeply into the cover-ups of priestly abuse in the Catholic Church; they helped to shine a light into vast darkness, raising awareness and making sure there was no more room to hide; they helped precipitate a painful but necessary, and ongoing, cleansing. They need to do that again, here, because it is very likely that — as with those abuse stories — these horrors are not isolated to one town, or one practice or one state.

The UK Press with photographs of those charged and some of the “milder” photos from the Grand Jury Report. I’m told the NY Times has a larger story in its print edition. Will have to go out and buy a paper!

Enough about Gosnell. Let me give you the antidote to that story with this column by Marcia Morrissey who writes about a pregnancy she was pressured to abort:

When you are struggling, and the medical people are so forceful, the idea of abortion blips through your mind, unbidden, because you’re told it is a real option, and when you’re emotional, it’s easy to fall for fall for rhetoric.

Having been told by doctors about all the risks and complications for me and the baby, once I was in the hospital yet again during the pregnancy, for a brief moment, I heard that blip in my mind.

I thought about it, and the idea that I thought of it at all, even for a split second, makes me cringe even now. Maybe that is why I feel compassion for those women who have in a time of weakness, or difficult circumstances, made that decision. I am 100 percent pro-life, but we need to be understanding, and we need to tell women in this position that we will help them, and that God loves them, that he is always merciful, and ready to forgive the moment we reach out to Him. They are not alone.

Like I said, it’s the antidote. Read it all. I am sure that was not an easy piece for Marcia to write.

Finally – something really provocative and straightforward: The language of abortion is euphemism-heavy. Abortion proponents don’t like the word “abortion,” so they use “choice.” They refer to “products of conception,” and “clumps of cells.” Writer and activist Leticia Valesquez, whose daughter has Down syndrome, would prefer that “sensitive language” take a backseat to, you know…life!

Given the choice, I would prefer my daughter to be called a “retard” and know that abortion of babies with Down syndrome had ceased.

Early last month President Barack Obama signed a law decreeing that federal statutes must no longer use the term “mental retardation.” The phrase replacing it will be “intellectual disability.” […] It seems that, every few decades, old terms for those with physical disabilities or cognitive delays are abandoned in favor of new ones, since existing terms have developed a negative connotation.

But drawing a new word from the thesaurus is not enough. We have to respect the right of the mentally disabled to exist. We need to stop aborting them. Changing vocabulary, while significant, can only get you so far.

As a writer who is also in the pro-life movement I understand the importance of words. Calling an unborn child a fetus, while medically accurate, can depersonalize the child, allowing members of the public to rationalize abortion in the same way that calling certain members of society “useless eaters,” “vermin,” and “life unworthy of life” eventually depersonalized entire classes of people, including the mentally retarded, and sent them to their deaths in the Nazi concentration camps.

My point is this: if an entire class of people, those with three sets of the 21st chromosome, are routinely targeted for destruction—at a scandalous rate of 90 percent—can merely changing the term we use to describe those 10 percent who escape the net increase respect for their human dignity and intrinsic value to society in a meaningful way?

Isn’t a more fundamental change required before having a child with Down syndrome goes from being the greatest fear of pregnant women to being widely accepted by society?

Yep. Pretty hard to argue that “sensitive” language is meaningless when the overall message being delivered by society is “why are you alive at all?”

Again, read it all also this piece on the “silent eugenics” behind that 90% figure, by Timothy P. Shriver.

UPDATE: No Bail for Kermit

More: Singer inspired by her brothers with Down syndrome H/T: Deacon Greg

How Murder Gets a Pass
Gosnell Patients Talk
A blog roundup
Sister Toldjah

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!