The Canary in the Mineshaft: Kermit Gosnell and the Abortion Industry

Few in the national media were willing to ask about the "climate" in which Kermit Gosnell operated. Who gave him the tacit invitation to draw wailing babies from their mothers' wombs, joke that they were large enough to walk him to the bus stop, and then take their lives and stuff their bodies into water jugs and cat-food containers? Who provided the rhetorical justification for the members of his staff to deliver viable babies into the world, leave them writhing and exposed for half an hour, even play with them, and then "snip" their spinal cords with medical scissors?

Who created that climate of callous disregard? Who defined viable pre-term infants as less worthy of care and protection than animals? Who created that ethical environment in which the good doctor and his wife could perform eighth-month abortions on Sunday nights, then go home, eat dinner, and sleep soundly?

The abortion-rights movement created that climate, to be sure, as it has pressed consistently for unlimited abortion-on-demand. Gosnell understood why he was charged with murder for a woman who died in his care, but reportedly he could not comprehend how he could be charged with murder for taking the lives of third-trimester infants. Who could blame him? Many states still have no restrictions on abortions up to the point of birth, and many more states permit third-trimester abortions for "physical or mental health" reasons so broadly defined that nearly any reason will suffice. What kind of value does that place upon the unborn child?

While Dr. Gosnell was an exception in the filthiness of his facility and the brazenness of his law-breaking, his attitude toward abortion was no aberration. It was the logical consequence of the pro-choice argument. What the pro-choice movement really means by choice is that the woman has the power to choose when the life within her matters. Since these women who sought help from Gosnell did not want their babies, no matter how old or viable they were apart from their mothers, those babies' lives counted for nothing.

Kermit Gosnell is the canary in the mineshaft. He is the sign, for those who still needed one, that the climate is poisoned. He may also be the sign that awakens many who have fallen asleep. For we now stand, I believe, at the turning of the tide. For reasons I will explain in the next installment in this series, the fields are now ripe for a second great awakening of the pro-life movement. The sense of invincibility around legalized abortion has cracked, and for the first time in a generation it may be possible—at least with a change of President—to make substantial legal limitations to abortion with strong public support.

Children are ours to nurture and protect, to love to guide, but they are not, even in the womb, ours to dispatch. As Gibran also writes,

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

The most fundamental lie in the abortion debate is that the developing child within a woman's womb is "her body." The little one within my wife even now is a body unto itself, an exquisite mystery, and a soul of magnificent worth. He is not her body any more than my daughter is mine. He is a human person, a precious life, rich with the image of God, an unfolding intelligence overflowing with the potential for love and creativity and hope. How can I not protect him? And how can I, if I protect him, not seek also to protect those like him who are vulnerable and endangered by this society and its climate of callous disregard?

So it is time for those of us who have let our discouragement, our despair, or our selfishness to hold us apart, to pick up the banner again and rejoin the ranks of those who never left the march. That banner is unbearable alone, because of the enormous weight of the millions of lives lost or broken by guilt and shame, and because of the weight of our own complacency and culpability as the most vulnerable and voiceless among us have been put to death.

We must bear that banner together, accepting the sacrifices it requires. We must be willing to be condemned as hateful and offensive, sexist and judgmental, foolish and backward. We must be willing to do and to endure these things for the sake of a culture that has lost its way. For men who wanted to know their sons and daughters. For men and women who live with regret and shame. For women who would never take the lives of unborn children if they had not believed a lie.

For our own souls. And for all the little ones hiding beneath the blankets.

4/26/2011 4:00:00 AM
  • Evangelical
  • Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
  • Abortion
  • Jared Loughner
  • Kermit Gosnell
  • Khalil Gibran
  • Media
  • politics
  • Rights
  • Christianity
  • Evangelicalism
  • Timothy Dalrymple
    About Timothy Dalrymple
    Timothy Dalrymple is the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Polymath Innovations, a strategic storytelling agency that advances the good with visionary organizations and brands. He leads a unique team of communicators from around North America and across the creative spectrum, serving mission-driven businesses and nonprofits who need a partner to amplify their voice and good works. Once a world-class gymnast whose career ended with a broken neck, Tim channeled his passions for faith and storytelling into his role as VP of Business Development for Patheos, helping to launch and grow the network into the world's largest religion website. He holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Tim blogs at Philosophical Fragments.