By Kevin Sullivan SFS’14
Why should human life be respected? As part of Life Week, Georgetown University Right to Life is holding a series of events attempting to answer this question. While the answer might seem simple at first, the national dialogue — or noticeable lack thereof — surrounding the trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell and his “house of horrors” demonstrates how most commentators miss the clearest point of all: abortion kills living human beings with rights.
As great minds on both sides of the abortion debate race to publicize their opinions on the implications of this trial, the conversation gets bogged down in the muck and mire of politically charged women’s rights rhetoric. If we are to escape a vitriolic spiral into meaningless shouting matches, we need to get back to the basics. This is why ConorFriedersdorf’s April 12 article in The Atlantic, “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s Trial Should Be a Front-Page Story,” is a must-read. In his article, Friedersdorf provides an incredibly extensive account of the Gosnell story, giving a detailed and objective overview of failure in governmental regulation, appalling abuse of female patients and, most importantly, sickening executions of infants who survived the abortion procedure. ThroughoutFriedersdorf’s explanation, he does not once explicitly state what implications should be drawn. He does not say that abortion should be made illegal, he does not argue for why abortion needs to be safe and regulated and he does not decry the violation of female reproductive rights. Instead, the pro-life conclusion is evident in his objective account itself.
This conclusion is represented by the charges brought before Gosnell: seven accounts of first-degree murder. These charges do not take into account the likely hundreds of other botched late-term abortions that Gosnell completed by snipping the spinal cords of live infants — often as they cried aloud or squirmed — according to testimonies of his medical staff. It is highly possible that similarly horrifying methods are practiced in abortion facilities across the country. Anti-abortion activist Lila Rose’s organization, Live Action, has documented similar violations at numerous Planned Parenthood facilities. This comes immediately after a Planned Parenthood representative testifying in Florida against a born-alive infants protection act in March was unable to state whether or not the ending of a child’s life following a failed abortion should be considered murder.
But what if abortion was made entirely safe, legal and affordable? Gosnell’s “house of horrors” would still be considered horrible, but simply as a break from the abortion norm. The same abortions, through different methods, would still be happening in every facility — and more often than ever. This is the moral of the story.
Why is the act of a saline injection, meant to chemically kill the child in the womb, different than Gosnell’s methods, when most of the time the abortion would be successful and a dead fetus would be delivered? If we provide a safe abortion, does this change the nature and result of the act? In a dramatic fashion, Gosnell’s methods revealed to the American public exactly what happens behind the doors of abortion facilities: the killing of children. This case differs only in that the children were summarily executed outside of the womb in a gruesome fashion, instead of the less bloody but equally fatal practices used to kill children in the womb.
This is the question that we are asked to consider when discussing the issue of human life, especially during Life Week. Is the abortion of a fetus truly different than the execution of a man or woman sentenced to death? Gosnell’s trial should remind us that simplicity will lead us to the answer. It is imperative for the protection of human rights that we put aside the rhetoric and vitriol that fogs our vision on this fundamentally important issue. Through this fog, over 50 million lives in the United States have already been ended in abortion. The several hundred lives ended by Gosnell, both in and out of the womb, shed the light that we need — if we only open our eyes.
This article was originally published April 23, 2013 in The Hoya