On Friday, thanks to the work of Mollie Ziegler Hemmingway and Kirsten Powers, anyone who uses social media probably noticed his feed blow up with references to Kermit Gosnell, the abortionist currently on trial for eight counts of murder. Most media organizations had ignored the trial, but now that the public has gotten wind of “this local crime story,” more scrutiny will fall on Gosnell and his clinic.
Kermit Gosnell committed atrocities at his practice in Philadelphia on a daily basis. I will not recount the charges against him here, but this piece at the Atlantic sums it up pretty well. No doubt, as we learn more about this story, the reality will become more and more disturbing. But what will we do with this disturbing news?
The Gosnell trial should strengthen the pro-life movement. Testimony at the Gosnell trial will horrify every American, both pro-life and pro-choice. No one who hears about the “rain of fetuses and blood” will remain unmoved. In order to get the most traction out of this trial, the pro-life movement must make a key point. The unsafe conditions of the clinic do not cause our gut-wrenching response.
Americans are experiencing a gut-wrenching response because we are being forced to take stock of abortion itself. Yes, the conditions at the clinic were scandalous. Yes, the practices of the doctor and his staff were outrageous. But would we have the same reaction if an optometrist had gotten arrested for performing unlicensed radial keratotomy in a dirty alley? No. Our horror stems from the very act of abortion itself, the most brutal and distasteful act tolerated in America today. The conditions of the clinic have merely caused us to look at something that we would rather ignore.
Many Americans will begin to question why it is legal to sever a baby’s spine in the womb when it is murder to sever the same baby’s spine in the examination room. Since when did murder take geography into account? Pro-lifers must encourage reflection on these questions, and this trial will give us the opportunity. How many more trials like this one (and there will be more) will it take to end abortion completely?
While we take the opportunity to sway the court of public opinion, this case also gives the pro-life movement an opportunity for legal reforms limiting abortions. Here in Texas, we are considering a bill that would require all abortion providers to meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers. Of the forty-two providers in Texas, only five currently meet these standards. A handful of other states have already passed similar measures. These laws will significantly reduce access to abortion.
In light of the horrors that took place in Gosnell’s clinic, stiffening the regulations on abortionists should be a no-brainer, and I think these abuses should enable us to propose regulations that are even stiffer than those proposed in the Texas bill. Pro-life groups need to propose anti-abortion bills in all the states legislatures. These bills should aim at reducing the number of abortions and forcing abortion clinics to upgrade their medical capability in cases of emergency. These bills should also be tailored to ensure that the new regulations are easily enforceable.
We need to honestly admit that we are attempting to reduce the number of abortions. We also need to honestly make the case that we care about the wellbeing of the mother. And we need to remind everyone that if a baby survives an attempted abortion, then under the current laws, that child is a patient who needs immediate access to life-giving medical care. As we go about these tasks, let us look forward to the day when a child in the womb will enjoy those same rights. Human rights must not be affected by a baby’s “geography,” but we need to make the case.