Abortionist's case raises troubling questions

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Article Highlights

  • Abortionist Kermit Gosnell is on trial for murdering seven babies, as well as causing the death of one mother.

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  • Mainstream media has ignored the story because the Gosnell story has an inherent pro-life bias.

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Warning: This piece contains graphic content.

"The bigger the baby, the more he charged." That was abortionist Kermit Gosnell's pricing plan. So when one woman came to him about seven or eight months pregnant, Gosnell charged her $2,500, according to the grand jury report.

"Sue," as the grand jury report calls the mother, came to Gosnell's gory abortion clinic at 9 in the morning. Gosnell's staff induced labor. At 11 p.m., Sue finally gave birth to her son. Gosnell's assistant Kareema Cross testified that the boy was 18 or 19 inches long, "nearly the size of her own 6 pound, 6 ounce, newborn daughter."

Then Kermit Gosnell allegedly did what he always does after he delivers a baby: He murdered it. "The doctor just slit the neck," Cross testified. Snipping the back of newborns' necks was allegedly how Gosnell aborted babies after delivering them.

But with "Sue's" son -- Baby Boy A, the grand jury report called him -- Gosnell apparently failed. The baby kept twitching in the little plastic box where Gosnell had discarded him, according to testimony. Gosnell allegedly tried to falsely dismiss this as "reflexes."

"Sue" went home shortly after delivering her son. For days, she was in pain and vomiting. When she finally went to a hospital, she was admitted with infections and blood clots.

Gosnell is on trial for murdering Baby Boy A and six other babies, as well as causing the death of one mother.

Until late last week, almost nobody outside of Philadelphia or the pro-life activist community had heard of Gosnell or his trial, which began two weeks ago. The New York Times had one story at the start of the trial in March, and then nothing.

Conservative media critic Mollie Hemingway of the blog GetReligion spent a good part of last week asking reporters who normally cover such issues why they were clamming up on this trial. Washington Post writer Sarah Kliff, who covers abortion extensively, responded that she didn't cover "local crime."

Many conservatives noted that the Newton, Conn., school massacre and the killing of Trayvon Martin could be described as "local crime," yet they warranted national media attention. Why not an alleged serial-killing abortionist?

It's a good question, especially because the policy debate Gosnell stirs up could give ammunition to either side. Abortion defender Katha Pollitt, for instance, wrote after Gosnell's arrest last year, "What fueled Gosnell's business were the very restrictions the legislature was so keen on passing. ..."

On the other side, Gosnell's crimes are also relevant to President Obama's abortion record. As a state senator, Obama repeatedly voted against legislation requiring hospitals to care for babies born during abortions. Such laws might somehow be used in the future to infringe on abortion's legality, Obama argued.

Also, Gosnell's method for aborting babies wasn't substantially different from a procedure Obama enthusiastically defends.

As Baby Boy A lay in that plastic shoebox, he didn't look any different than a sleeping newborn. In the picture one of Gosnell's aides took, you see his hair, his pinkish skin tone. That was the boy Gosnell murdered. And that's also what babies look like when one of Gosnell's law-abiding colleagues, such as late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart, who operates in Germantown, Md., snip their spines with scissors.

In his first U.S. Senate race, Obama used Carhart's procedure as a fundraising pitch. In a 2004 campaign mailing, Michelle Obama tried to rally the donor base by explaining how Republicans were trying to ban partial-birth abortion, "a legitimate medical procedure," as Michelle put it.

The most substantive difference between the partial-birth abortions on which Obama fundraised and Gosnell's abortions is this: Dr. Gosnell did the snipping outside of the mother's birth canal, while Dr. Carhart reaches his scissors inside the woman's vagina to snip the baby's spine.

This fact points us to the most likely reason the mainstream media ignored the story as long as possible: The Gosnell story has an inherent pro-life bias, because the Gosnell story leads us to discussing abortion procedures.

When you discuss the act of aborting -- even perfectly legal abortions -- you have to discuss the blood, the scalpels, the scissors. You might use terms like "dilation and extraction" or "dilation and curettage." Think through those terms ("curettage" is defined as "a surgical scraping or cleaning") and recall that what is being extracted or scraped has a beating heart.

Discussing Gosnell threatens to start a discussion on abortion procedures -- and that's not good for anyone in the abortion industry.

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