Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Gosnell Trial

This is going to get heavy. Sorry in advance.

For those living under a rock, Dr. Gosnell, an abortionist from South Philly was found guilty of first degree murder of three infants. He was just sentenced to life in prison, which probably won't be that long, since he's in his late 70s. There are so many ethical and moral issues surrounding this case that I don't even know where to begin, taking advantage of the poor and underpriveleged, the lawyer trying to say this is about race, the lack of regulation of abortion clinics in the name of "unrestricted healthcare", the lack of coverage in the national news...

I read a wonderful opinion article in the Philadelphia Inquirer (and I must commend the Inquirer for it's unflagging coverage of this event, eventually shaming the bigger news outlets to cover this case). It was written by a Philadelphia lawyer named Christine Flowers. You can read it here. The part that struck me was her comment on how we've changed the language of what is happening when an abortion takes place. By using terms like abortion, or D&X, or termination, referring to the procedure and not the action, which is the intentional ending of a human life. I have spent too much time thinking about this, reading about this, truly questioning the origins of religious belief, western views, even non-western views on human life in the womb. I won't say that I cannot be convinced that it is not a human life, but I can't think of any arguments that would sway me. I will openly consider an argument that abortion is necessary, or that a woman's choice trumps the life of the unborn, or that making it illegal will only put more lives at risk. Those are fine examples as to why it should be allowed, but I will no longer accept that a fetus is a bunch of cells akin to a tumor or an organ.There are certain times when we allow killing another human in our society: war, self-defense, capital punishment, but we have never made the argument that we are not ending a human life, we argue that the end justifies the mean. Make that argument all you want, but please stop trying to convince the world that abortion is not murder. When the world reacts to Gosnell's actions with such vehemence, such revulsion, you know that something is very wrong with what is going on. One of my favorite quotes from this was that if you made this into a movie, you'd never be able to release it because the screening audience would be running for the doors and vomiting in the aisles. The descriptions of what went on sound like the makings for a horror movie; parts of human fetuses preserved in formaldehyde, children being born into toilet basins to then have their spinal cords severed, some being dismembered. The most disturbing thing is that we are so outraged because these things happened outside of the womb. If he had performed these repulsive acts inside the womb, they would be considered legal. As the Flower's article said, the language of Roe v. Wade has lulled us into a sense of okayness with the ending of human lives in the name of equal rights and reproductive freedom.

I'd like to explore the psychology at work here. I strongly feel that Gosnell was able to perform these heinous acts, because underneath all of the medical jargon and rationalizing was the awareness that what he was doing was ending human lives. The line between murder and abortion becomes very thin then. I can almost understand how after seeing thousands of aborted fetuses (trust me, they look like tiny babies, not a cluster of cells), one would become desensitized to killing. The leap from ending a pregnancy before 26 weeks (the law in Pennsylvania), to in the second trimester, to a late-term abortion, to partial birth abortion, to infanticide are pretty short ones. There is a slippery slope at work here. This falls right into the trap of euthanasia, human trafficking, capital punishment, slavery, sexual objectification... once human life is trivialized in any form, it is not long before a society stops regarding human life as anything important at all. St Theresa of Calcutta knew this. She has a very famous quote equating abortion to the rising violence in our society. It is illogical for the same person to shake their heads and say they can't understand how young men will kill each other over sneakers, and then say that another has a right to take a life because that is their right. In both cases, the ends justify the means. If human life is not held sacrosanct and the right that is protected above all others, we will find these acts that make humanity less human happening more and more often.