IN MY OPINION

Murder? Not if you just kill a baby

 
 
Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell is on trial in Philadelphia.
Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell is on trial in Philadelphia.
AP

ggarvin@MiamiHerald.com

Nearly a quarter-century has passed since The Los Angeles Times published a piece by the late David Shaw, then its media critic, arguing that the anti-abortion viewpoint didn’t get fair treatment in the news media. Among the anecdotes he used to illustrate his case was that of a Boston Globe reporter who turned in a story on late-term abortions only to have an editor reject a sentence that described the operation “destroying” the fetus by “crushing forming skulls and bones.” Said the editor: “As far as I’m concerned, until that thing is born, it is really no different from a kidney; it is part of the woman’s body.” So to use the word “destroy,” the editor continued “is really to distort the issue.”

At the time, I had two thoughts. One was that if the editor thought you can’t destroy a body part, he ought to look at some pictures of lungs that have been exposed to cigarette smoke for 20 years. The other was how he could draw such a bright moral line: a crushable “thing” one moment, a baby the next. Is the act of passing down a birth canal really so momentous that it confers humanity on what is otherwise merely a discardable wad of tissue?

It seems that many abortion-rights activists worried about drawing that line, too. But what they wanted to do was erase it. The increasingly horrifying debate over what should happen to babies born live after attempted abortions has made it clear that what defines human life to the abortion-rights community is not viability but convenience.

The worst revelations — the stuff that will make you vomit at your desk — have come from testimony in the murder trial of a Philadelphia abortionist, Dr. Kermit Gosnell. You probably haven’t read much about the case because newspapers outside Pennsylvania haven’t been covering it. (Why not is a column of its own.)

Gosnell has been charged with murdering seven infants born alive after his botched abortions. And we are not talking about technically alive, their lungs heaving a few ragged times before giving out. These were “live, breathing, squirming babies,” as the grand jury that indicted Gosnell declared in its report. Or they were until Gosnell chopped apart their spinal cords with scissors — “snipping,” if you prefer his more delicate language.

And we are not really talking about seven, though that’s the number in Gosnell’s indictment. Evidence has indicated that live babies were born, and killed, by the score in Gosnell’s clinic. One of his assistants (who has already pleaded guilty to murder) testified to personally taking part in nearly 100 of the so-called snippings. “It would rain fetuses,” he said outside the courtroom. “Fetuses and blood all over the place. It is literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body.”

Other babies were tossed in a toilet, so many that it often backed up and had to be cleaned out. One witness recalled an infant that “was, like swimming . . . basically, trying to get out.” Another was so large, she said, that the jolly Gosnell joked that “the baby is big enough that it could walk to the store or the bus stop.” Until the doctor hacked its spine into pieces, anyway.

Gosnell hasn’t been convicted of anything yet, and if he is, the abortion-rights folks will surely argue that he was a lone hack in an otherwise responsible industry. But if that’s so, why do abortion-rights forces battle so tenaciously against laws to protect babies that survive abortions?

Barack Obama, when he was in the Illinois Legislature, voted against several bills that would ensure medical treatment for aborted babies born alive, saying doctors could be trusted to do the right thing. California Sen. Barbara Boxer went further, flatly declaring that an infant is fair game for an abortionist until “you bring your baby home.” Buyer’s-remorse protection for mothers!

Then there was the ringing proclamation of a Planned Parenthood lobbyist before the Florida Legislature last month. Asked what her group thought should happen to a “child that is struggling for life” after a botched abortion, Alisa LaPolt Snow replied: “Any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician.” A stray dog gets more protection than that — he’ll at least have a stay of execution for a few days to see if another family wants him.

But the blunt truth is that, to a lot of abortion-rights activists, stray dogs have more rights than babies. The same Philadelphia grand jury that indicted Gosnell revealed that his baby slaughterhouse went undetected for years because Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge’s administration ordered the state health department to stop inspecting abortion clinics. “Officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions,’ ” the grand jury reported; after all, the only victims would be “infants without identities.”

Those same officials were quite unimpressed with the grand jury’s criticism. Shrugged Christine Dutton, the state health department’s chief attorney: “People die.” That’s right, Ms. Dutton. People.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  • In My Opinion

    Does race motivate some Obama critics?

    I have a question for George Will.

  •  
The ring of Bishop Agustín Román.

    SPIRITUAL JOURNEYS

    The bishop’s ring

    One evening two years ago, Bishop Agustín Román limited his supper to a handful of grapes. Urged by Father Fabio Arango to eat a healthy diet he answered that he felt no appetite. As was his custom, he helped his fellow priest wash and dry the dishes at the rectory. Then it was time for him to teach the evening catechism classes at the Shrine of Our Lady of Charity, a routine that he had carried out with apostolic zeal since 1968.

  •  
FERRÉ

    ZUNZUNEO

    U.S. has a history of encouraging free expression

    If it comes from the United States it must be bad. That is the conclusion some critics of ZunZuneo, the U.S.-sponsored Twitter-like platform that the Obama administration promoted in Cuba to disseminate information and encourage personal communications on the island.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category