The White Report

Catherine White connects and creates worth through powerful story telling

Kermit Gosnell’s trial in Philadelphia raises hard cold questions about abortion.

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In what’s been described as a “ house of horrors,” Philadelphia abortion provider Kermit Gosnell stands trial, charged with the grotesque murder of at least seven infants, allegedly born alive after botched abortions, only to be brutally killed by Gosnell. Included in the charges is the death of a woman who suffered cardiac arrest after being given too much anesthetic from an unqualified staff member who’s job it was to answer the phones.

Kerimit Gosnel

One Gosnell worker described the abortion clinic as “raining fetuses and blood all over the place.” and others reported that one babies’s screams sounded like a little alien.

In conjunction with a Planned Parenthood lobbyist’s recent admission, that this life-ending practice is justifiable, the Gosnell trial has put the spot light on the contentious issue of abortion.

Representing the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Alisa LaPolt Snow,  testified that her organization believes the decision to kill an infant who survives a failed abortion should be left up to the woman seeking an abortion, and her doctor. [see video below]

In an outcry on the floor of Congress over this gruesome courtroom drama, Congressman Andy Harris from Maryland, referred to a paper authored by two medical ethicists Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva, who are associated respectively with Monash University, in Melbourne, Australia, and with the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, at the University of Melbourne.

Their paper, “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?” argues that both the fetus and the new-born infant are only potential persons without any interests. Therefore the interests of the persons involved with them are paramount until some indefinite time after birth. To emphasise the continuity between the two acts, they term it “after-birth abortion” rather than infanticide.

“We claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well-being of the family is at risk.”

This assertion highlights another aspect of their argument. Killing an infant after birth is not euthanasia either. In euthanasia, a doctor would be seeking the best interests of the person who dies. But in “after-birth abortion” it is the interests of people involved, not the baby.

Congressman Harris said, “apparently in Dr. Gosnell’s mind, there was little difference between a late-term abortion and killing a baby after birth,” … it’s  essentially the same logic used by the ethicists of the paper.” “After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?

“So why this may sound grotesque and shocking that they’re OK with killing a newborn, it’s merely an ethical, logical extension of the way we have been treating fetuses since 1973.” Mr. Harris said.

The Gosnell trial isn’t only a story of a rogue abortionist on trial for illegal late-term abortions, but is a collision of perceived rights. There’s more than one right at stake — who’s rights have priority over another’s perceived rights? This is no longer a question of reproductive health, which is the well-known euphemism for ‘abortion on demand’, but the rights of the most defenseless in our society; the unborn — in and outside the womb.

No one disputes the basic rights of women, or the foundational rights of individuals, but the question that divides us now, is how much right should the law accord to the unborn fetus or child?  The Gosnell trial, in conjunction with the ideology of Planned Parenthood begs the question if the law has gone too far the other way, and protected women’s rights over the rights of another human being?

There’s a sense that all these issues converge on one critical issue, that’s pivotal to pro-choice and pro-life advocates.  Is abortion murder — an act that involves the willful destruction of a living, human person?

This core question is singular, but has plural dimensions behind it  — is the fetus alive? Is the fetus a living human person.

The question is one of moral equivalence. If Gosnell is charged for the murder of a child outside the womb, then was that child a viable living person two minutes, five minutes,  an hour or day before it left the womb. If it is alive, is it human life, and if it is human life, is it the life of a human person?

Cancer is life, cancer is human life, but we don’t call cancer an individuated, human person in it’s own right.

If we all agreed that the fetus is life, is human and a person, that wouldn’t automatically solve all the questions about abortion. The question then becomes, when does the fetus become a living, human person?

Pro-lifers claim it’s at conception that a living human personal life begins. Others say, not until viability or quickening, or the first, second, or third trimester.

How do we reach the conclusion that a fetus is an alive human person? How do we discern when that life begins? How do we discern for ourselves what is ethically right and what is wrong?

The answers to these questions are crucial, as it’s those answers that determine whether a woman’s right over her own body includes the right to destroy a living human person.

The stumbling block is, in determining the answers to the most fundamental questions that divide us, we don’t agree on our sources of authority. The three major sources being the Bible, science, and the government.

The different view points of authority differ on what the bible teaches, not everyone’s conscience is held captive by the Bible; not everyone trusts government to protect human rights, and advocates of natural law are aware natural law is vague and difficult to discern.

The Gosnell trial has brought these questions to the fore, and rightly so, as it’s our judgements, our conclusions and ethics that are on trial.

Whatever position we hold, we need to examine it, and examine it carefully, because on the abortion issue there’s more heat than there is light.

Most of us rarely dissect an ethical question, or try to plummet to the depths of the question to get to the heart of the matter, but on the issue of abortion we must.  There’s simply  too much at stake to not wrestle with these questions.

On a social level we need to revisit the abortion issue rationally and objectively, as if we are a jury in a court room. Where, after listening to the evidence, and after serious deliberation, discussion and analysis we are compelled to answer the question — ladies and gentlemen of the jury where do you stand?

Written by Catherine White

April 15, 2013 at 11.27 pm04

Posted in Abortion, women

13 Responses

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  1. Reblogged this on salesgamechanger.


    May 30, 2013 at 11.27 am05

  2. […] Gosnell verdict has unquestionably opened up a wider debate about when human life really begins and what kinds of legal protections life in the womb really […]

  3. […] Kermit Gosnell trial in Philadelphia raises hard cold questions about abortion. […]

  4. Very well put, Catherine. It is, indeed, vital for one to plumb the depths of his worldview. As I see it, there is only one foundation that stands up to such scrutiny. I wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog to read my take on this Gosnell character. What a monster.


    April 18, 2013 at 11.27 am04

  5. Thanks for stopping by … Actually, members of the Republican party(Governors&Congress) are disputing Women’s Rights and have waged a War on Roe V Wade. We need to question/reform who and how folks receive credentials to become a Doctor. I am hoping this is an isolated incident and though it is a horrible act, revisiting or taking away a woman’s right to choose is certainly not an option in my opinion. Dr. Gosnell is one sick bastard – a serial killer … who needs life or death row!


    April 18, 2013 at 11.27 am04

  6. Catherine, After the confronting wonderful writing & only reading part of the trial went away & thought about it. My answer is these things are a reality of life. They are out there & most appalling, & I’am grateful always to be remaindered of what evil is in our world. After been a foster Mum for 5yrs & seen terrible things done to children this does touch my heart even though it is confronting. Pls keep up the good writing & keep me informed. About what 1 can do, pray that justice is done .


    April 16, 2013 at 11.27 am04

  7. A horrible situation committed by really awful folks. I am not sure what this does to my thoughts about the issue of abortion rights.

    Harold Gardner

    April 15, 2013 at 11.27 pm04

  8. Catherine, What an eye opener. I just could not read it all as the pain of murdering these innocent babies makes me so sick inside. I only pray that justice will be seen to be do.


    April 15, 2013 at 11.27 pm04

  9. Thanks for making me aware of this Catherine. I feel people should be in an uproar over this. I got shivers as I was reading it. My stomach started to turn and I am appalled that anyone could do this once let alone multiple times. I wish this happened in Texas where this Dr. would be sentenced to death. This really gets under my skin and I could rant on this on and on and on. I feel words cant describe how I feel.

    James Pickett

    April 15, 2013 at 11.27 pm04

  10. Very interesting article. This world can be a very strange place…

    Jason Wagner

    April 15, 2013 at 11.27 pm04

  11. According to Wikipedia, as well as my memory of the history lessons I learned in high school, ancient Spartans abandoned killed their weak babies. Apparently there is evidence that this also took place in Athens. In general, Spartan culture was militaristic, and Athenian culture was intellectual. And apparently both cultures can produce similar results. In my humble opinion, these results are callous and brutal.

  12. Regardless of position of pro-choice or pro-life how can we condone the actions of a licensed physician who through years of medical training had to know the standards that should be applied to him. His quality of care put women’s lives at risk.

    Dr. Gosnell was well-aware of what was required of him under the scope of law. He had a responsibility not only to the patients he treated but also to the community as a whole to uphold the law.

    We could expand or contract the laws legalizing abortion, and the Dr. Gosnell’s of this world would still put their own interests ahead of the safety and welfare of their patients.

    Philip Ronestone

    April 15, 2013 at 11.27 pm04

  13. Thanks for posting this, Catherine. Not sure if one should cry or just completely shocked by things that occurred in the Gosnell clinic (and maybe others). Hope more will read your well-written post.

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