Now Save Gosnell

Now Save Gosnell May 14, 2013

The defenders of abortion “rights” are quick to decry comparisons between abortion and the Holocaust as irrational, morally monstrous and dangerous invitations to violence against abortion providers.  Yet Gosnell’s house of horrors has a distinctly Auschwitzian feel about it.  Baby’s feet collected in jars, dying babies flailing in toilets, playing with newborns before “snipping” their necks.  When the world didn’t know what took place behind the doors of the Women’s Medical Society in Philadelphia, abortion rights proponents would have been inclined to defend Kermit Gosnell as a noble health care provider heroically delivering needed services to immigrants and the poor.  Yet now that we have seen behind those doors, the shadow of Mengele is not far off.

The whole thing is horrific.  The babies who were murdered, the women whose bodies were ravaged, the coworkers who took part or looked the other way, everyone at every level of government and crime prevention who failed to respond to tips and signs and hard evidence of murderous malpractice.  I’m also horrified by a culture that encouraged everyone to look the other way, that explicitly provided Gosnell’s rationalizations for his crimes, and that then responds to the trial with silence and then indifference.  After the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, the mainstream media launched into nationwide apoplexy over the “climate of hate” – and especially pointed the finger at conservative rhetoric.  Yet there’s no evidence whatsoever that Loughner was influenced by any of this, and abundant evidence that he was driven directly by his own deranged fantasies.  Now we have a case where an educated, otherwise-sane person very clearly took comfort in the rhetoric of the far Left, even as he was engaging in systematic murder, and there’s no parallel concern over the “climate of inhumanity” perpetuated by extreme pro-choicers when it comes to unwanted babies.

If you say – as Barack Obama overtly did in unrepudiated remarks and stances he took as an Illinois State Senator – that babies who survive attempted abortions and make it outside the womb should still be put to death, then you are saying that what differentiates legal abortion from illegal murder is nothing more than the mother’s desire to keep or kill the baby.  That’s an extremely dangerous position to take.  And, if accepted, it provides blanket coverage for Kermit Gosnell.  As long as the mothers wanted to get rid of the babies, he might have objected, what does it matter how or where it’s done?

See, America’s abortion laws are so irrational that the abortion defender is typically put in the awkward position of saying that a couple inches makes the difference.  If the baby is still inside the womb, even partly, you can puncture its skull and vacuum out its brains.  Bring it outside the womb, and then doing the exact same thing would be infanticide/murder.  But if State Senator Obama were right, as long as you intended an abortion, you could still put the baby to death outside the womb.  So some enterprising reporter should ask the President: “If the views you expressed as a State Senator had become law, would Gosnell’s actions have been criminal in Illinois?  Or where exactly do you draw the line, Mr President, between abortion and infanticide?”

Now Gosnell has been declared guilty for three murders.  Good.  Now justice is being served (amongst other things) for the babies who died.  Good.  Gosnell stands condemned.  Good.  Now let’s save his life.


I served for three years (first as an intern and then as a volunteer) in chaplaincy for a maximum security prison in Trenton, New Jersey.  The prison drew the worst of the worst in the New Jersey penal system.  We had gangsters and kingpins, multiple murderers and major drug traffickers.  Most were in for 20-to-life.  There was one gentleman there (I’ll keep his name to myself) who had been raised by a mother who frequently resorted to prostitution to provide for her boys and for her drug habit.  At one point she married and their lives got better; her husband died in a car crash and again she hit the streets.  She contracted HIV.  This was in the late 80s, when AIDS was a death sentence.  This young man, still a boy, cared for his mother while she withered away and died in agony.

Then he began to build a life for himself.  He married, had a daughter, worked a respectable job.  But all the while he was also carrying on an affair.  When he discovered that his mistress had AIDS, he assumed he had passed the virus on to his wife and child.  Beside himself with fear, out of his mind, unwilling to watch his family die in the same way his mother had, he took the lives of his mother and baby child.  He attempted to take his own life, but was revived.  His wife and daughter were dead; he was not.  So he was convicted for double murder — and discovered during the trial that he had miraculously never contracted HIV/AIDS from his mistress.  Sentenced, imprisoned, in the depths of his despair, he heard the gospel of Jesus Christ from a Christian in the prison.  His life — slowly, deeply, and often painfully — was transformed.  By the time I met him, he was dancing with the choir every Sunday morning, smiling and singing God’s praises at the top of his voice.

That’s the reason I’ve never supported the death penalty: I have hope in the gospel that anyone can be redeemed.  If this man had been put to death, he may never have heard the gospel, and he certainly could not have been a joyous member of the congregation within those walls.  There are thriving ministries in many prisons, and men (and women) coming to Christ every day.  Give them time.

I’m not saying that pro-lifers are only “pro-life until birth.”  That’s a bumper sticker, not an argument.  You can be pro-life and pro-death-penalty.  There’s nothing illogical in defending the innocent unborn but putting to death the guilty murderer.  I understand that many feel they’re protecting the sanctity of life by putting the worst violators of that sanctity to death.  I get that.  The death penalty, in some cases, is just.

But I believe in something higher than justice.  My conviction of the sanctity of life is inextricably bound up with my conviction that God’s grace can reach anyone anywhere.  As Robert George put it in First Things:

Kermit Gosnell, like every human being, no matter how self-degraded, depraved, and sunk in wickedness, is our brother—a precious human being made in the very image and likeness of God. Our objective should not be his destruction, but the conversion of his heart. Is that impossible for a man who has corrupted his character so thoroughly by his unspeakably evil actions? If there is a God in heaven, then the answer to that question is “no.” There is no one who is beyond repentance and reform; there is no one beyond hope. We should give up on no one.

The state would be within its rights to put Kermit Gosnell to death.  That would be just.  And the state is empowered to deliver justice.  But Christians like myself can cry out for mercy.  For all of us, mercy has the final word.  Mercy triumphs over judgment.  Let’s make that present today.

Fundamentally, I want Kermit Gosnell to stay alive so that he will have every opportunity to receive the grace of God for his forgiveness, and then to become a witness to the power of the cross.  I want Gosnell, like “Roe” before him, to become a powerful critic of the practices he once engaged in.  It isn’t likely, of course.  It seems impossible.  But doesn’t God love to do the impossible?

We have rightly denounced Kermit Gosnell and now he is rightly condemned.  What more powerful witness can we give to our love of life and mercy and our hope in the gospel than to ask now that he be saved from death?

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  • Oh my goodness, Timothy Dalrymple, this is the most profound and beautiful thing on the Gosnell case that I have read. Thanks!

  • Esther Starr

    I’m one of those pro-life, pro-death penalty folks for sure. While it’s not my intention to wade into a long debate, I would simply say that this is the reason why it was customary to provide men on death row with a priest before their execution (e.g., A Place in the Sun). If the government weren’t so Christophobic, they might consider bringing that tradition back. I think it’s a good one.

  • This is just excellent. Thanks, Tim.

  • Because he doesn’t need to be saved from death. Saving him from death will not save him from Hell. Whether he dies from being put to death by the state or from natural causes after being saved from the death penalty, he’s still going to Hell in his present state. Whatever happens to him, this man needs to repent of his sins and put his faith in Jesus. Unless he is faced with his own mortality, I seriously doubt that has any chance of happening.

    • BHG

      How wonderful that you can read both souls and the future….

  • DJ916

    “Fundamentally, I want Kermit Gosnell to stay alive so that he will have
    every opportunity to receive the grace of God for his forgiveness, and
    then to become a witness to the power of the cross. I want Gosnell,
    like “Roe” before him, to become a powerful critic of the practices he
    once engaged in. It isn’t likely, of course. It seems impossible. But
    doesn’t God love to do the impossible?”

    I understand what you’re saying but this is somewhat naive’, no? I don’t discount the Spirit, but a man who knowingly and willingly aborts and delivers babies alive for the specific intent of murder, for thirty-plus years, seem to me to be so spiritually callous and cold that he isn’t going to change. If after murdering thousands of dead babies doesn’t move one’s spirit into metanoia, I’m not sure what will. His heart “has been hardened.” To desire his change of heart is one thing, but he can have a change of heart and still be punished with death.

    How does your position square with Genesis 9:5-6? No gotcha involved, but I am curious.

    • BrendtWayneWaters

      “seem[s] to me … that he isn’t going to change” = “seems to me that God is incapable of changing him”

      • DJ916

        Not at all, hence me saying that I don’t discount the Spirit. But, again, God can change Gosnell’s heart w/o nullifying his qualification for the death penalty.

        By saying that Gosnell should in fact receive life in prison, is in effect saying that we don’t know or aren’t sure ‘if’ God will change his heart, so let’s give God all the time he needs. This (passive) position undercuts God’s divine capabilities at initiating spiritual renewal while at the same time used to assuage our consciences. This does a disservice to God and undermines the notion of punishment, especially in light of the Genesis passage I referenced above.

        As a side note, some people won’t and don’t change. Regardless of external personal testimony of believers/the church- whether in word or deed- or the prompting of the Spirit, some people’s simply choose to do things their way. As beneficiaries of free will, we can choose to accept or refuse the gift of spiritual renewal and salvation and unfortunately, some do.

        • BrendtWayneWaters

          You conflate my statement about God’s sovereignty with an (incorrect) assumption about my stance on the death penalty, either in general or as it applies to Gosnell. If I had to be honest, I’d have to say that I hope he is gloriously saved tomorrow and then they throw the switch two minutes later.

          And I totally agree that “some people won’t and don’t change.” But our actions — and I would argue, even our opinions (“seems to me”) — should not be based on such uncertainty.

          • DJ916

            My intent wasn’t to conflate your position on God’s sovereignty with an assumed position regarding your stance on the death penalty. Rather, I was juxtaposing divine sovereignty with the original position of the post/blog of disqualifying Gosnell from capital punishment in favor of life in prison, in hopes that God may change his heart.

            Repentance from sin and punishment for breaking the law aren’t mutually exclusive is the point I was trying to convey.

  • Cynewulf

    “I’m not saying that pro-lifers are only “pro-life until birth.” That’s a bumper sticker, not an argument. You can be pro-life and pro-death-penalty. There’s nothing illogical in defending the innocent unborn but putting to death the guilty murderer.” And with that, Tim, you made your own case even stronger. You acknowledge the deep magic and then persuade us to yield to the deeper magic. I don’t know that I’m quite there yet, but it’s something I’ll be wrestling with now, which would not be the case if you had used that leftist bumper sticker “argument” instead of shredding it.

  • Susan Gerard

    “an educated, otherwise-sane person…” You may be giving him too much credit. His clinic was infested, with cat feces and old blood everywhere. What sane, educated person gives a 15 yr old the responsibility of delivering sedatives and potentially deadly analgesics? Performs procedures on dirty, bloodied tables? Hums while killing viable infants? This man was not “an educated, otherwise sane person”. He is either evil or undereducated and/or mentally ill. I think the latter. This is not to say that his mental illness excuses his behavior; it probably did not affect his decisions to kill babies. But he simply was not “an educated, otherwise-sane person”.

    • Esther Starr

      Actually, I’m comfortable to stick with “evil.” It seems that he’s quite intelligent. I can’t vouch for his sanity. However, many evil people have also showed signs of mental instability. There’s a difference between killing babies while under the illusion that you’re watering a flower garden and knowingly killing babies because you’re unhinged in some other way.

      For example, in the film _A Beautiful Mind_, the main character is deluded into thinking that there’s another person watching his baby in the bath, and so the child almost drowns. This is obviously a form of insanity. However, what he did wasn’t evil, because he genuinely didn’t understand what he was doing. This is not the case with Gosnell.

    • “Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? … The one … who despises a vile person but honors those who fear the Lord;” ~Psalm 15

      The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. ~Psalm 11:5

      There are six things the Lord hates,
      seven that are detestable to him:
      haughty eyes,
      a lying tongue,
      hands that shed innocent blood,
      a heart that devises wicked schemes,
      feet that are quick to rush into evil,
      a false witness who pours out lies
      and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. ~Proverbs 6:16-19

      For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; you destroy those who tell lies. The bloodthirsty and deceitful you, Lord, detest. ~Psalm 5:4-6

      Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” ~Romans 9:13

      • Susan Gerard

        Ginny, I appreciate your verses. However verses can be interpreted differently by different people, so your opinion of how these verses apply here might clarify your statements. Thanks.

        • It appears as if we are to hate a vile man. The Lord hates the wicked. Gosnell has done all seven things that the Lord detests. Gosnell is an enemy of God, not our brother. Also, as Genesis 9: 6 states, “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God
          has God made mankind.”

          • Susan Gerard

            Ginny, Thanks for your clarification. Is there anything in my original post to suggest that I do not disrespect this man? Or that I excuse his behavior? I do not. I only maintained he is not “otherwise sane”.

            While the wisdom books are there for a reason, I tend to use Jesus’ own life, sayings, and commands when I look at the behavior of others. We are to judge, but to do so carefully, for as we measure, so shall it be measured unto us. Hatred is something I try to avoid, for I do not want God’s hatred. For my sins, yes. For me, no. The OT God, in His holiness, can hate. The NT God is one of forgiveness and lovingkindness.

          • Please forgive me, Susan. My comment was not meant to go here, so I was not responding to you in particular. The New Testament God cannot wink at sin. He is not just love. He is also truth, holiness, justice and wrath. Jesus did not do away with the law; He came to fulfill it. Kermit Gosnell is not our brother because he has not surrendered his allegiance to Jesus. Since you admitted to being a red letter Christian, Jesus had some sobering words when he said, “few there be that find it,” and “He that endures to the end shall be saved.”

          • Susan Gerard

            Ginny, I never heard of a red letter Christian, and I was tickled to be so labeled (truly). I believe you to be a thoughtful and good woman. I base this on your profile. But you do not know me. If you had looked at my profile, you would have seen that I believe in God’s holy wrath and see no reason not to respect it. I believe it informs us of just how Holy he is. But, *I* am not God. I can’t advocate hating.

            I am worried when people think it’s OK to hate. How do they know that their hatred is really in God’s will? How can we read the hearts of others that hatred is not sinful? You labeled me as a red letter Christian, yet you were wrong. I say, let God be wrathful. Vengeance is His.

            I do not usually quote Scripture. But in this case, I’d like to.

            Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

            But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

            Finally, I think we are all children of God.

          • We are all made in God’s image, but we are not all His children. Jesus is our brother if we have surrendered our allegiance to Him. He is our brother if we do the will of His Father.

  • Esther Starr

    Incidentally, as everyone has probably seen by now, Gosnell has proven quite capable of saving his own skin and has managed to wriggle out of the death penalty in exchange for life in prison. And (most of) God’s people said, “Darn!”

  • Sam

    “I’m not saying that pro-lifers are only “pro-life until birth.” That’s a bumper sticker, not an argument. You can be pro-life and pro-death-penalty.”

    So, walk me through this. “Thou shalt not kill.” (unless you have of a really really good reason! Wink Wink)

    • Esther Starr

      Some translations render it as “Thou shalt do no murder.” Are you aware of the difference between “killing” and “murdering”? If not, perhaps you should look up both words, compare them, and then come back when you can contribute something of value to this conversation.

      • Sam

        Look, Christ was subject to the death penalty–as well as torture. (And no, that’s not a different situation.)

        Either the door is open or shut. If America gets to torture and execute based on its own judgement, than so do North Korea and Iran. Moral justification arguments are subjective. You don’t get to pick and choose when and who applies the action. You can’t say, “OK, the only people who get to torture and execute are Americans, white males, GOPs (no RINOS), and make $1mil a year.”

        My contribution is to point out that you have to turn yourself into a philosophical pretzel to live in both worlds.

        BTW… Personal attacks only weaken your argument.

        • Esther Starr

          “Moral justification arguments are subjective.”

          Really? How do you know? Is the statement you just made about morality an objective one? If not, why should anyone listen to you?

          Nice try, but try again.

          • Susan Gerard


            I am puzzled by your answers. You accused me of being judjemental and spouting haterd on one thread. To others you say things like “come back when you can contribute something of value to this conversation.”, or “Nice try, but try again.” or, my favorite, “love ya, one star hater.” I assume you are confident in your faith, but cannot you be kinder?

          • Esther Starr

            At the risk of getting off-topic… I did accuse you of those things in that other thread, because you were. You accused Metaxas of “posturing” like an “animal” who’s trying to assert his own power, when the interview gave no evidence of any such behavior. Metaxas was in fact doing a very good job of describing the class picture of virile, yet tender masculinity, praising the example of the three boyfriends who gave their lives for their girls. Metaxas’ interview was neither boastful nor vitriolic. Hence, there was absolutely nothing in the interview which warranted your strangely vitriolic remarks.

            In this thread, I was pushing back against a commentator who was sarcastically and insultingly displaying his ignorance of the Bible, not to mention basic vocabulary. This was a valueless comment. I merely stated the obvious, that he would be better able to contribute the conversation when he could thoughtfully discuss similarities and differences between killing and murder, instead of sweepingly declaring them to be equal in all cases. He came back with more garbled statements, wherein I can barely even detect a point to respond to, but I can detect quite a bit of racism, ignorance and general bigotry. But I chose not even to respond to the full comment and simply pointed out that he was declaring something to be subjective… with an objective statement. This is a classic post-modern blunder. I noted the blunder and suggested he try not to make the same mistake twice.

            In short, the difference is that this commentator is a troll without a clear argument who can’t keep his terms or his philosophy straight, so there’s nothing wrong with pointing these obvious facts out to him. However, Metaxas is not a troll, and your beef with him seems to be pure ideological hangup.

            Now this response is probably longer than it should be, so out of respect to my friend Tim, let’s keep this on-topic shall we?

          • Eric Metaxas is an exemplary man who stands firm in the Truth which is Jesus! His interview, to which you referred, was excellent!

          • Esther Starr

            I agree, and I’m not even the biggest fan of his books (e.g. _Bonhoeffer_ wasn’t as well-researched as it could have been). But honestly, it amuses me to see liberals get their knickers in a knot over that interview.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      The really good reason in this case being the duty of the government to protect the innocent from the guilty who may reoffend.

      Pope John Paul II said that reason, due to technological advancements since the 1880s, is no longer valid in most cases.

      I took that statement, and decided to deconstruct it, and I agree with Pope John Paul II, but from a completely secular atheist standpoint. That reason is no longer valid because we can weld steel and build an escape-proof cage.

  • Excellent post, Tim.

  • DrDrMalone

    Because of the difficulty of the content of this case, I’ve only tip-toed around the margins of it. Reading this article gave me more information than I wanted to know about it, but also challenged me with my fundamental assumptions of my role and position in this case and the meaning of that–not only for this instance, but for countless heinous acts we read and hear about on a daily basis. Thanks for this morning’s devotional. I particularly like the phrase, “mercy has the final word.” Thank God.

  • letters2mary

    While your position is interesting, the death penalty issue has been mooted as the defendant has agreed to life in prison.
    You might want to be careful about your ‘nameless’ sources of stories. The family killing because of fear of AIDs is likely not unique, but those cases have been fairly high profile, making it easy to identify those involved. Not much of a privacy issue left after a public trial, but to the extent you are making an attempt to shield the prisoner’s identity, this column might not carry the day.