December 3, 2020

The Problem with “Safe, Legal” Abortion


This absolutely horrifying story from The Atlantic about Dr. Kermit Gosnell, now standing trial for murder in Philadelphia, gives the lie to the traditional argument that making and keeping abortion legal ensures that it will be done safely and with concern for the health and well being of the mother. As the grand jury report states:

“This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels — and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths.”

I encourage you to go and read the entire article, if you can stomach it. It is a true American horror story. It also reveals issues of racism, mistreatment of the poor, the exploitation of women, and the failures of government and journalistic institutions.

I will simply re-post here some of the grand jury’s conclusions about the appalling lack of oversight with regard to this doctor and clinic.

Pennsylvania is not a third-world country. There were several oversight agencies that stumbled upon and should have shut down Kermit Gosnell long ago. But none of them did…

The first line of defense was the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The department’s job is to audit hospitals and outpatient medical facilities, like Gosnell’s, to make sure that they follow the rules and provide safe care. The department had contact with the Women’s Medical Society dating back to 1979, when it first issued approval to open an abortion clinic. It did not conduct another site review until 1989, ten years later. Numerous violations were already apparent, but Gosnell got a pass when he promised to fix them. Site reviews in 1992 and 1993 also noted various violations, but again failed to ensure they were corrected.

But at least the department had been doing something up to that point, however ineffectual. After 1993, even that pro form a effort came to an end. Not because of administrative ennui, although there had been plenty. Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all… The only exception to this live-and-let-die policy was supposed to be for complaints dumped directly on the department’s doorstep. Those, at least, would be investigated. Except that there were complaints about Gosnell, repeatedly. Several different attorneys, representing women injured by Gosnell, contacted the department. A doctor from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia hand-delivered a complaint, advising the department that numerous patients he had referred for abortions came back from Gosnell with the same venereal disease. The medical examiner of Delaware County informed the department that Gosnell had performed an illegal abortion on a 14-year-old girl carrying a 30-week-old baby. And the department received official notice that a woman named Karnamaya Mongar had died at Gosnell’s hands.

Yet not one of these alarm bells — not even Mrs. Mongar’s death — prompted the department to look at Gosnell or the Women’s Medical Society… But even this total abdication by the Department of Health might not have been fatal. Another agency with authority in the health field, the Pennsylvania Department of State, could have stopped Gosnell single-handedly.

The Department of State, through its Board of Medicine, licenses and oversees individual physicians… Almost a decade ago, a former employee of Gosnell presented the Board of Medicine with a complaint that laid out the whole scope of his operation: the unclean, unsterile conditions; the unlicensed workers; the unsupervised sedation; the underage abortion patients; even the over-prescribing of pain pills with high resale value on the street. The department assigned an investigator, whose investigation consisted primarily of an offsite interview with Gosnell. The investigator never inspected the facility, questioned other employees, or reviewed any records. Department attorneys chose to accept this incomplete investigation, and dismissed the complaint as unconfirmed.

Shortly thereafter the department received an even more disturbing report — about a woman, years before Karnamaya Mongar, who died of sepsis after Gosnell perforated her uterus. The woman was 22 years old. A civil suit against Gosnell was settled for almost a million dollars, and the insurance company forwarded the information to the department. That report should have been all the confirmation needed for the complaint from the former employee that was already in the department’s possession. Instead, the department attorneys dismissed this complaint too… The same thing happened at least twice more: the department received complaints about lawsuits against Gosnell, but dismissed them as meaningless…

Philadelphia health department employees regularly visited the Women’s Medical Society to retrieve blood samples for testing purposes, but never noticed, or more likely never bothered to report, that anything was amiss. Another employee inspected the clinic in response to a complaint that dead fetuses were being stored in paper bags in the employees’ lunch refrigerator. The inspection confirmed numerous violations… But no follow-up was ever done… A health department representative also came to the clinic as part of a citywide vaccination program. She promptly discovered that Gosnell was scamming the program; she was the only employee, city or state, who actually tried to do something about the appalling things she saw there. By asking questions and poking around, she was able to file detailed reports identifying many of the most egregious elements of Gosnell’s practice. It should have been enough to stop him. But instead her reports went into a black hole, weeks before Karnamaya Mongar walked into the Woman’s Medical Society.

…And it wasn’t just government agencies that did nothing. The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and its subsidiary, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, are in the same neighborhood as Gosnell’s office. State law requires hospitals to report complications from abortions. A decade ago, a Gosnell patient died at HUP after a botched abortion, and the hospital apparently filed the necessary report. But the victims kept coming in. At least three other Gosnell patients were brought to Penn facilities for emergency surgery; emergency room personnel said they have treated many others as well. And at least one additional woman was hospitalized there after Gosnell had begun a flagrantly illegal abortion of a 29-week-old fetus. Yet, other than the one initial report, Penn could find not a single case in which it complied with its legal duty to alert authorities to the danger. Not even when a second woman turned up virtually dead…

So too with the National Abortion Federation.

NAF is an association of abortion providers that upholds the strict est health and legal standards for its members. Gosnell, bizarrely, applied for admission shortly after Karnamaya Mongar’s death. Despite his various efforts to fool her, the evaluator from NAF readily noted that records were not properly kept, that risks were not explained, that patients were not monitored, that equipment was not available, that anesthesia was misused. It was the worst abortion clinic she had ever inspected. Of course, she rejected Gosnell’s application. She just never told anyone in authority about all the horrible, dangerous things she had seen.

* * *

A meaningful discussion about abortion in this country must be honest, open, and complete on all sides. It is not enough to be “pro-life” and yet refuse to confess that the movement has been sorely lacking in advocating for a variety of social justice concerns that would make abortion a less attractive alternative, especially for the poor. But neither is it appropriate to take a “pro-choice” stance and fail to acknowledge the ugly reality that abortion contributes to the actual harm of people and society, especially when its legality is abused in such unspeakable ways.

The silence of the mainstream media and the “pro-choice” movement regarding this case is inexcusable. Many are starting ask why this story hasn’t received much coverage: see LA Times, Salon, USA Today, as well as this piece I’ve referenced from The Atlantic.

Whatever your position on whether or not abortion should remain a legal alternative in our society, for the common good can’t we all engage in a discussion about working together to do whatever we can to lessen the number of abortions performed and, certainly, to condemn houses of horror like this from every conceivable angle and shut them down immediately?


  1. Why do I have to be first on such a topic? Yikes…..I am very much opposed to interfering with a woman’s choice. I would hope she would not make that decision, but I’ll defend her right to make it. But this case seems to be more different, more heinous, just criminal. Aren’t late term abortions illegal anyhow? To induce labor and result in a birth of a 3 trimester baby and then to kill it when it could live…man that smacks of something you’d read about during the Nazi Holocaust.

    Truth be told I’m weary of of the abortion wars. I feel sick about them. Too many funagelicals show more love to the fetus than to the women and the child after its born. When you see how some Christians treat single Mom’s with kids out of wedlock…sometimes abortion seems like the humane thing to do. Even if a woman made the decision not to have an abortion she might as well have a scarlet letter for having a child out of wedlock or being a single mom, etc.. Many Christians just don’t forgive. In a carrot and stick approach they dangle God’s grace before someone who needs it only to tantalize and shame someone. There are Christians who can shame people in ways that are creative, impressive and downright awful.

    I wonder how many abortions they could stop if they just showed love? Quite a few….probably. But that won’t happen. It’s to easy to call the woman a slut and hold her out of wedlock pregnancy against her for the remainder of her fundagelcial life.

    No offense CM…but I cringe when I think of Christians outlawing abortion. Does Christianity really need this culture war?

    • Eagle, we will have to agree to disagree on this topic. WHATEVER the discussion may be about homosexuality and other hot-button “sex” topics, abortion is a stand-alone issue for me and many other people.


      Simply because this subject cuts right to the core of the value of human life…..which is of infinite value simply because all humans are made in the image and likeness of God Himself. However “useless” a human may be, objectively, he or she has an immortal soul and is precious to the God of the universe who created this and every LIFE.

      It is also a human-rights issue, looking out for the rights of the poorest and weakest of us all. Regardless of circumstances of conception, this separate and innocent life does not deserve to be murdered for the “sin” of being inconvenient or unwanted by the woman or girl in whose womb he is a temporary resident.

      • One of the reasons given for legalized abortion was that it would provide a safe environment for women. At least in this particular instance it was not the case. The checks and balances from a government perspective, meant to protect women failed.

        We all have many choices to make when it comes to this issue. First we can choose not to have sex. I know this is an unpopular choice given today’s cultural climate and the focus on reproductive rights and the attitude that we should be able to do anything without consequences if it makes us happy. More specifically, we choose to give up responsibility for our instant gratification. From a secular perspective we have the choice of birth control and if we choose not to use that we have the morning after pill and if we choose not to do that we have adoption…. many choices before we ever get to abortion. And yet we still scream we want more, more choice less responsibility. We even want to be able to delay our decision to almost the very end and if the child is aborted alive and lives, we want the choice to still end its life. As long as it satisfies us…. selfishness at its best.

        This whole stigmatism thing… sorry… give it up people. We live in an age where more babies are born out of wedlock, more people are living together and it is acceptable, sorry… it isn’t tolerance and love folks want anymore, it is total acceptance that this is just normal behavior. We should never have to feel bad for any decision we make. It may hurt our self-esteem.

        Finally, for al those abortion advocates out there… there very little in services from the pro-choice advocates that addresses any of the psychological issues that occur after abortions. We leave a lot of scarred and hurting people wandering around… with the feminist movement saying “suck it up – its your right” or the thought that women who hurt after abortions make the cause look weak. And yet its there. my wife has from time-to-time run retreats for women who hurt from this pain – its real folks. And it is the Christian groups who provide the support, not secular groups and not Planned Parenthood.

        I am sorry to read the above story. I hope there isn’t more of this out there. But the human weakness for greed and/or entitlement coupled with weak government oversight will, I fear produce more of this in the future.

        • Very well said Radagast. Women do have the right to control their own bodies by using any of the many forms of contraception available today when they make the choice to have sex. I am so tired of the attitude that “I have the right to sleep with whomever I wish and the right to free contraceptives…… and if I happen to forget or mess up then I have the right to terminate the pregnancy.”

          As for the stigmatizing of unwed motherhood, I haven’t seen that in any of the churches I’ve attended. Maybe in other parts of the country, definitely not here in SoCal.

      • I consider the “infinite value of human life” theory to be mostly hogwash and it generally appears to be a theological construct designed solely to support a pro-life cause.

        I simply don’t get a “human life is valuable” vibe anywhere from the Bible. Jesus said it’s better to kill yourself than to cause a little one to fall. The Old Testament as a whole seems to have a rather cavalier attitude towards human life. There is of course the well known slaughter of the Canaanites, but there is also the death of Job’s family apparently just to test him and the very disturbing sacrifice of Jephthah’s daughter. I also find it to be a very Westernized view and I think it would be considered utterly outrageous in time or place when child mortality rates are much higher and where death is in general much more common. I also think it contributes to handling death very poorly as well.

        I’ll admit it took me a while to come around to this view, but I was surprised by how little it bothered me when I did. We’re all going to die eventually anyway. I think that human souls probably have a whole lot of value, but I consider that to be a great mystery and a very different issue completely.

        • Of course human life does not have infinite value; only God has infinite value. But not having infinite value does not mean that it should be legal to take human life. Human life has sufficient value that it is a primary function of all responsible government to protect the lives of its citizens. Warfare and civil law enforcement may involve the taking of human life, but such actions should only be taken in the defense of the integrity of civil order and national security, which involves protecting citizens from unjust violence and aggression. I will not engage the issues surrounding biblical injunctions, because I’m not an inerrantist and I do believe that some biblical laws were actually unjust. If the fetus is a human being, it deserves legal protections not because it has infinite value but because it has sufficient value to warrant protection; the same holds true for the value of any other human being’s life. The law is designed to protect us from being killed by the unwarranted violent actions of other human beings because we consider such killing unjust. Do you suggest that it is in fact just to kill human beings arbitrarily because their lives do not possess sufficient value to be protected by law? Which people? Babies? The elderly? Those with serious physical and developmental challenges? Do you want to simply throw over the entire developed body of law concerning the legal value of human life as well as the civilized ethic of striving to care for the weak?

      • “Simply because this subject cuts right to the core of the value of human life…..which is of infinite value simply because all humans are made in the image and likeness of God Himself.”

        I think Eagle is pointing out that most evangelicals don’t walk the “cullture of life” talk. The passive-aggressive way it treats unwed mothers and low-income families and children is horrifying. So that unwed mother carries her child to term but then can’t work in order to care for the child. So she seeks federal assistance, such as WIC or food stamps. What is the repsonse from the Randians and conservatives? She’s not a champion in the culture of life but a free-loader who votes for candidates who give her stuff. The inconsisttencies and blatant hipocrisy on the extreme-right is both breath-taking and infuriating.

      • he or she has an immortal soul and is precious to the God of the universe who created this and every LIFE

        But the part of a person that is affected or dies by their being aborted or even murdered right after being pulled out of the womb is not their “immortal soul” (otherwise it wouldn’t be “immortal”).

        So how does their having an “immortal soul” affect the abortion/Gosnell question?

    • Jennifer E says

      “Too many funagelicals show more love to the fetus than to the women and the child after its born. When you see how some Christians treat single Mom’s with kids out of wedlock…sometimes abortion seems like the humane thing to do. Even if a woman made the decision not to have an abortion she might as well have a scarlet letter for having a child out of wedlock or being a single mom, etc.. Many Christians just don’t forgive. In a carrot and stick approach they dangle God’s grace before someone who needs it only to tantalize and shame someone. There are Christians who can shame people in ways that are creative, impressive and downright awful.

      I wonder how many abortions they could stop if they just showed love? Quite a few….probably. But that won’t happen. It’s to easy to call the woman a slut and hold her out of wedlock pregnancy against her for the remainder of her fundagelcial life.”

      YES YES YES YES YES! Unfortunately, I know Christian women who have chosen abortion for this very reason. I know other women who chose it for other reasons–mostly out of fear.

      I also echo Chaplain Mike’s call for both sides to work together to reduce the need for abortions to be performed. This is where I think the church has it wrong in many ways. There are many Christians and churches that reach out and offer hope, love and support to women in crisis pregnancies, but as a whole, the church is not known for its love of this group of “at risk” women. We are known more for our stance and desire to outlaw abortion, rather than getting at the root of the problems that lead to a woman making a choice to abort. We are known for judging, shaming and condemning her rather than offering God’s grace and love and support. We’d rather vote, vote, vote against abortion. It’s so much easier (and much less effective, so far).

      • sorry Jennifer, i find the idea of a woman holding the life of her child as ransom as an exchange for the church to drop its teachings on the sanctity of marriage and the clear teaching that the order should be marriage then child birth as very disturbing

        • Jennifer E says

          Who said the church had to drop its teachings on the sanctity of marriage? I’m not sure where you got that from me. What I AM saying is that even if women (and the men that help get them into that situation) violate that command, we show them love and compassion and show them God’s ways. Which includes loving and supporting them. Not shaming and judging them.

          • Jennifer E,

            There are programs like Rachel’s Vineyard run by Catholic and other Christian groups that minister to women who’ve had abortions. There are also many christian based groups that are there to help expectant mothers and mothers of recently born children.

            The expectation though, that we should just accept this mode of behavior as just another in the long list of new normal does not benefit society as a whole and it is unfair to the child as well. And the whole attitude, “we can fix it quick so you can go back to yor life and not take any responsibility for you actions” attitude does not benefit the person going through it, especially the pain afterwards, nor does it help the person to grow.

            We embrace irresponsibility way too easily in our society. Maybe we as a society should teach responsibility as a way to maturity and growth instead of the everybody has a right to be happy tripe that is posited out there… especially to our youth these days.

            Love and compassion doesn’t mean supporting people making the same mistakes over and over again and providing a safety net to encourage it.

            My thoughts…

          • Not having a child when you don’t want one, or can’t care for one is talking responsibility for your actions.

          • Jennifer E,

            Also – wanted to mention in my above rant that I understand the poor, especially inner city poor have special challenges and we sometimes need to look at them with a different lense. My comments above reflect more about the people that fill the most area under the bell curve and I understand some instances don’t fit neatly into what I describe. That’s a rant for another day ; )

          • Jennifer E says


            “The expectation though, that we should just accept this mode of behavior as just another in the long list of new normal does not benefit society as a whole and it is unfair to the child as well. And the whole attitude, “we can fix it quick so you can go back to yor life and not take any responsibility for you actions” attitude does not benefit the person going through it, especially the pain afterwards, nor does it help the person to grow.”

            I never said we should accept this “mode of behavior”. I’m just saying the the church as a WHOLE (and I DID qualify that I know there are some Christians and some Christian organizations that DO help) is not known for their love to this group of people. And what I’m advocating for is compassion and love instead of shame and judgement.

          • Jennifer E says

            I forgot to add that it’s called “crisis pregnancy” for a reason. Women facing the decision to abort or carry their babies already KNOW they’ve messed up. I fail to see how shoving it in their face by not helping them is the answer. I fail to see how that is in any way Christlike.

      • Eagle and Jennifer,

        I am so sorry your experience of compassionate Christians is so limited. My little Baptist church in rural Indiana has given baby showers, mentoring, food, and yes prayer support to unwed moms. We support orphanages, women’s shelters, our local crisis pregnancy center, and foster homes with people, finances and prayers. We started a Sunday School class just for these gals and include women in the 80’s, 60’s, 30’s and teens to come alongside them mentor and encourage them. We also encourage unwed moms to confess their sins, to go and sin no more. They, and the fathers of their precious children, are very welcome in our church because they are a part of the body of Christ. I can also quickly list several other churches I know who do the same. Why paint the church, or even fundamentalists with such a large brush?

        • Marcus Johnson says

          Because your church is the exception to the rule. Most church communities that are anti-abortion have never demonstrated much interest any real initiatives that care for single, teenage, unwed mothers.

          That being said, however, what your church is doing is awesome.

        • Jennifer E says

          I agree with Marcus.

          My childhood church made a single pregnant teen friend of mine march down the aisle and confess her sin to the whole church. They shamed her BIG TIME. It was a horrible spectacle where everyone else watching could feel better about themselves because they didn’t mess big time LIKE THAT. Tell me why any other girl in that church would want to keep a pregnancy after seeing that? Shame brings death. That church should have discussed her sin in private with her and then encourage the rest of us to love on her and her baby. But no, it didn’t.

          • Jennifer E,

            That explains alot. I don’t have much experience with this type of Church behavior. Nothing could have been more unloving and damaging than that kind of behavior towards a person who is already confused.

            Private confessions definitely have their place…

          • Jennifer E. says


            I’m glad to hear there are people who haven’t witnessed this kind of church behavior. Unfortunately, in the fundamentalist Baptist circles I grew up in, I have talked with many people whose churches did the same. I could ask a bunch of the kids that I went to school with if they grew up in a church like that who handled out of wedlock pregnancies like this, and you’d hear many resounding “yeses”. It’s heartbreaking.

            And of course, these are the same churches who picket abortion clinics and do nothing to lift a finger to help support women who need it.

          • I have a daughter who is struggling right now from constant peer pressure. The only thing thats holding her together is that she is astute enough to see the result of alot of these wrong decisions. But she is an island out there, and I pray for her.

            I was a wild kid growing up, and yet those activities pale incomparison to what the kids are doing these days. Nothing is taboo. Everything is accepted. The theme is “people should do what makes them happy”. Parents are clueless or just don’t want to know. As a result these kids are high risk for abortions, disease, and lots of pain.

            I am an upstream guy when it comes to abortion. I would like to prevent way before the person ever has to take that walk to the clinic. I understand the intent of those outside and don’t agree there is a lot of “jeering” going on. More praying than anything. But it could also be damaging and driving a person away one day does not mean a mind has changed.

            Many kids are casual about accepting abortion these days. Its sad, so cavalier about life. Someone above said having an abortion was taking responsibility for ones actions… but taking responsibility by ending another’s life just does not seem like taking responsibiity… rather it seems more like fixing it.

          • Jennifer E. says


            Keep involving yourself in your daughter’s life. She may not seem like she wants you involved, but she really does.

            And yes, parents are totally clueless so many times. I worked in a former church’s Jr. High Ministry. The kinds of parties that the middle schoolers (not High schoolers!) described to me were stomach turning. They had “make out” parties. I’m sure as those kids aged, they became more than just “make out” parties. And these all happened without parental knowledge.

            I don’t know if most kids are accepting of abortion or not. But I do know that the abortion industry isn’t forthcoming about how abortion can affect a woman later. It provides temporary relief, but the resulting emotional trauma is something no one ever talks about. The pro choice crowd doesn’t want to inform women about the consequences of their choice. And it seems like many on the prolife side don’t want to help shoulder the burden of raising children when women choose to bring forth life. Both sides need to own up to their failings. And both sides need to work together to reduce abortions. The root causes are many, varied and often systemic, but we should do what we can to be the kind of people who are known for their love and support of women and children who need it.

      • Christiane says

        ““Too many funagelicals show more love to the fetus than to the women and the child after its born. ”

        it’s not ‘love’ among the Christian far right . . . it’s a political power play, somewhere up there with ‘guns’ and ‘gays’ . . .

        ‘love’ would be RESPECT for all life from conception to natural death . . .

        the Christian far right supported the Ryan Bill, which would have wreaked havoc on poor women and working single mothers . . . that is not ‘love’, and likely that Bill, if put into effect, would drive many more poor and working women into having abortions because of economic hardships brought on to them from the far right

    • Same old tired tripe Eagle. “I don’t like abortion but I’m not going to stop a woman from choosing” “If fundies would just be as concerned about women and kids after birth as they are before…”

      • That Other Jean says

        Austin, just because it has been said many times before doesn’t make it less true.

        “I don’t like abortion but I’m not going to stop a woman from choosing”–because it’s her body, her circumstances, and I can’t read her mind.

        “If fundies would just be as concerned about women and kids after birth as they are before”–then they would show that concern by NOT trying to eliminate or make so scarce as to be useless those programs aimed primarily at helping poor women and children.

        Have you seen any signs that fundies support the women and children who need support most with anything more substantial than “I’ll pray for you”? Prayer may be a good thing, but it doesn’t feed your kids.

        • “Have you seen any signs that fundies support the women and children who need support most with anything more substantial than “I’ll pray for you”? Prayer may be a good thing, but it doesn’t feed your kids.”

          Actually, yes. Many communities have crisis pregnancy centers. I’ve lived many places around the country and every community had at least one, and the churches I attended supported them.

          It’s another thing the main stream media doesn’t want to report on, because then it makes alternatives to abortion look viable.

          I’m very impressed with our local CPC in Wilmington/Newark, DE which is supported by churches of many different denominations.

        • Wow…really??? You don’t think there are any Evangelical groups out there supporting young, unwed mothers and their children???? Wow….so wish I could live in your make believe world.

      • Austin I am trying to give evangelcial faith another chance. I am going to a chruch, am pressing forward slowly. Yesterday I went to a meet and greet at this place. So it’s not just the tired old rant. If Christians lived to show love they would disarm so many people…from the Richard Dawkins to the abortion rights groups like NARAL. Trouble is showing love is too much work. I may have to do some soul searching myself in reagrds to how I interact with a few people in my own life. I’m not tryign to be a hypocrite…I’m just trying to point out something. I think people get abortions out of fear. Then others get them becuase they view them as a form of birth control. But I think this issue is very complex.

        • I understand the struggle, but you could you explain how that picture of a late-term aborted baby in the Atlantic article is complex?

        • It is a complex issue and I agree many do it out of fear and confusion. There is a whole industry out there that says “trust me I can make your problems go away just like that” and then the person involved ends up being scarred for life.

          Parents aren’t always helpful either. In my house we talk about sex alot… well at least enough so that its not an “icky” subject. But what I find teaching religous education is that most parents are NOT talking to their kids… too busy… too uncomfortable.. or as one mom told me “at some point ya just gotta let them figure it out”… sheesh… so the information they get is from other kids or the movies/TV shows.

          Yeah… I don’t have much experience with the christian shaming thing… kind of reminds me of the Footloose movie years ago… so I guess some folks have legitimate gripes…. but I’d rather see the abortion thing as somethinga lot less common (if not gone altogether) rather than another choice as a result of many bad or unmade choices.

    • philosophymom says

      Wow, has my evangelical experience been *that* atypical? Yes, I have my beefs with evangelicalism where abortion is concerned. I am shocked at the number of Christians I know who are single-issue voters, I am frustrated by those who preach adoption as the only obvious alternative to abortion. But I have worked at a Bible college (i.e., around lots of young people + lots of hardline fundies) *and* had a family member (in the church) with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and nothing in my experience (though, admittedly, I wasn’t the pregnant girl) tallies with your “call the woman a slut” paragraph.

      I wouldn’t have said I was naive about how judgmental Christians can be on all sorts of issues, but… wow.

      • I do not believe it is atypical.
        It seems like often it is only Christians that are there helping unwed mom’s and women in need. I can only speak to what I have seen.
        For whatever reason I have often seen this accusation bandied about ie. ‘We wish there were less abortions but if Christians were less judgmental…’

        It is Big Red Herring avoiding the real issues…

    • Too many funagelicals show more love to the fetus than to the women and the child after its born. When you see how some Christians treat single Mom’s with kids out of wedlock…sometimes abortion seems like the humane thing to do. Even if a woman made the decision not to have an abortion she might as well have a scarlet letter for having a child out of wedlock or being a single mom, etc.. Many Christians just don’t forgive. In a carrot and stick approach they dangle God’s grace before someone who needs it only to tantalize and shame someone. There are Christians who can shame people in ways that are creative, impressive and downright awful.

      I’ve got to say, there is a lot to complain about when it comes to Evangelicals, but I do feel as if this sort of rant is becoming less and less warranted. I know a lot of very conservative Evangelicals who volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers and help single and unwed mothers. I think Americans as a whole have really changed on the issue of pregnancy out of wedlock. For one thing, it’s so common now. 75% of births are to women who aren’t married now.

      I also think that when it comes to adoption, the people I see most excited about adoption still seem to be Evangelicals. It’s just my anecdotal evidence, so it’s only worth so much.

      • I think the people most excited about adoption are gay couples.

      • “I know a lot of very conservative Evangelicals who volunteer at crisis pregnancy centers and help single and unwed mothers.”

        What bothers me is this:
        While they are manning the crisis pregnancy centers, there is another group at the clinic heckling and harassing women going into the clinic. So, while one group attempts to help, another group intimidates those who enter the clinic.

        As an act of radical love, I wonder if we started escorting women into the clinic, staying with them, and working with them whatever their decision might be. We might love them to Christ. They might get the abortion, however, we would be gaining their respect and a chance to build a friendship.Certainly, belittling them isn’t showing Christ’s Love.

    • Eagle,

      Let’s weigh this out. What you consider a ‘bad’ attitude on the part of some Christians vs. the killing of the unborn.

      Hmm.. I sense the scales tipping in a certain direction. I am tired of those in favor of killing the unborn taking the church to task for ‘not being loving, as though the two are morally equal somehow. I hear tons of anecdotal evidence from your side, while at the same time I see church funded hospitals, out reach to the poor and needy., and Christian missionaries starting orphanages all in the name of Christ. The church has literally put billions of dollars and years worth of labor into dealing with this and other problems.

      As far as I can tell it doesn’t matter whether Christians are angry and shouting or loving and supplicating, this culture wants it’s abortions.

    • Here is an unvarnished admission by a pro choice advocate that abortion is really taking a life, but that it’s OK

  2. Final Anonymous says

    Some thoughts, at 1:00 in the morning:

    1. We used to be able to have civil discussions about abortion in this country. Even among Christians. I don’t believe we can anymore.

    2. The Gosnell case is horrifying on all levels.

    3. In the very few discussions I’ve seen on this case, none have discussed the women — those who died, those who were almost certainly permanently injured, those who endured physical and emotional pain, nor the fact that this “doctor” preyed on women who were mostly poor, uneducated, and/or desperate.

    4. Fewer abortions requires more birth control.

    5. (Apologies in advance to the kind gentlemen who frequent IM) Men who are fervently outstpoken about abortion might consider cleaning up the mess in their own gender’s backyard, so to speak, and start their own anti-abortion movement with the goal of allowing men to only have s*x with women who will enthusiastically carry their potential child to term, thereby eliminating abortion altogether. We should start with what we can control ourselves, right?

    • Jennifer E says

      FA, to your point number 5: sometimes its men who pressure women to have abortions. Sometimes husbands and boyfriends give wives/girlfriends and ultimatum: “It’s ME or the baby.” I met a woman who had 3 kids with her husband. She got pregnant with a fourth child and her husband threatened to abandon her and the kids if she didn’t abort her baby. Out of fear (how would she support herself and her 3 kids if her husband left?), she aborted the baby. She was an emotional wreck from having made the choice. The husband came back, but not for long.

      Stories like this are so common and heartbreaking. Often times women lack the appropriate support systems to be able to carry a child to term. Sometimes it really does take a village to raise a child, but what happens when a woman has “no village”? This woman didn’t want to abort her child, but the pressure from her husband and her fear drove her to it. She didn’t feel like keeping her child was a sustainable option. If only she had a support system that could have encourage and supported her emotionally, financially and otherwise, perhaps she would’ve had the emotional wherewithal to walk away from that abusive marriage and save her child.

      The choice to abortion or not is often very complex one; and not so black and white as we’d all like to think.

      • Final Anonymous says

        Jennifer, I think we were speaking to the same issue here, and I’ve seen the same hypocrisy; the man shouting loudest about slutty women straying from God’s Word is the first to send his girlfriend over the state line to take care of her little problem when HIS sins catch up to him.

        I was trying to shift the thinking a bit; instead of pointing fingers at the evil women abdicating their responsibility to keep their legs shut and killing their babies (sentiments that have already been expressed today), maybe the anti-abortion forces should shift their attention to men’s responsibility. After all, if men did not impregnate women who might abort their babies, we would have NO abortions.

        • Jennifer E. says

          THAT, I could get behind. And yes, men seem to get off scott free in this issue. It’s always the woman’s fault…Men need to take responsibility too. Those sentiments you mentioned are cringe worthy. Another sentiment that bothers me is the thinking that women don’t want their babies. Many of them DO WANT their babies, but don’t see a sustainable option that would allow them to keep the child and they are very conflicted.

          On another note, no one can save an unborn child except for the mother. BUT, if we want to HELP the child, we MUST help the MOTHER.

          • Final Anonymous says

            YES. And the next real question is, how do we do that?

            Very few people, especially the Christian pro-life movement, want to figure that out. We’d rather ride around on our sanctimonious high horses, honk when we pass a crisis pregnancy center on our way to vote for The Godly Anti-Abortion Candidate — who takes our money and spits out our vote without ever a second thought to abortion, because they know the real restrictive legislation ain’t never gonna pass constitutional muster — and sleep well knowing we got our checkmark in heaven.

            None of us here know what drives a particular woman to abortion. We should be able to imagine the desperation involved in deciding to commit such a horrific act. The shame and blame of women is misplaced, and unbecoming of us as witnesses of Christ. And not doing a darned bit of good in solving the problem.

            We need to start asking what we can ACTUALLY do to help end abortion. If we really want to. I don’t know the answer, but hint, it’s got to be different than what we’ve done the past 40 years.

        • Most abortion situations I have known about personally happened with severe pressure from the man involved. Or sometimes parents who wanted to avoid shame and embarrassment. I don’t know what the percentages are, but if this is typical, isn’t it ironic and somewhat sad that this is framed as a “woman’s choice” issue?

          • Jennifer E. says

            I’m glad you shared that, Chaplain Mike. I think most people are under the assumption that women make their decisions to have an abortion in a vacuum. Many, many, if not most times, nothing can be further from the truth. While it’s true that a woman has the final say, the reality is that responsibility in any one woman’s abortion can often be spread over many people: husbands /boyfriends /parents /friends /the church, etc. Too often, when the abortion subject comes up, it’s the women who are solely and mercilessly blamed. And that lack of understand often leads to lack of compassion.

  3. The problem here is that if these things were ignored/unreported, there is a good chance that it was precisely *because* questioning abortion was considered politically incorrect within those systems.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      That’s not the problem. I’m not sure how you work for a clinic that performs abortions if you have questions about the morality of abortions. The problem is, the subordinate staff who knew what was going on were too afraid that they would lose their job, so they just shut up and went with the flow.

  4. Marcus Johnson says

    If you are going to have a meaningful discussion about abortion, we shouldn’t begin with the most exceptional, most horrific, most unusual case in history. Millions of abortions are performed that conform to federal legalization in hundreds of clinics and hospitals across the country; the only reason for focusing on this one would be to gross out the masses. Using this story to start a conversation about abortion is like using the Newtown massacre to stir up government action on gun control. You get an impulsive reaction, not a response, and that is not conducive to productive conversation–liberal or conservative, pro-life or pro-choice, pro- or anti-gun control.

    • Sometimes it takes something like this to shock us out of our dug in positions.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      That’s what they said about the Newtown massacre, and the pro-gun control crowd is still pro-gun control. That’s what they said about the Trayvon Martin case, and the conversation about the “stand your ground” law is pretty much dead as a doornail. The list could go on and on, but suffice it to say, these “shock value” conversation starters are little more than emotional blackmail, and they usually result in getting folks deeper set into their dug in positions. The right goes farther to the right, and the left goes farther to the left.

      I understand your intentions are very noble, but let’s not overestimate the value of stories like these to open conversation or encourage productive debate.

    • We don’t have better food standards because people nitpicked smaller issues that might have been more widespread industry-wide. We have them because “The Jungle,” as flawed as its conclusions were, exposed the ugliness in the system.

      Once in awhile you need to yell when you see something horrifying, even if the neighbors wake up. (Hint: Planned Parenthood in Delaware is finally under investigation. While Gosnell is the ugliest offense we’ve seen so far, it’s hardly the only sign of promoting idealistic purity over justice in the abortion world.)

    • Marcus, this case is relevant PRECISELY BECAUSE those who favor abortion on demand have told us all for decades that making abortion legal made it safe.

      This case has to be told, because it contradicts the lie that the abortion on demand crowd sold the country.


    I found this a few months back. Chilling.

  6. Marcus Johnson says

    By the way, this case has nothing to do with abortion. These babies were delivered live and then killed. Once they are out of the womb then, pro-life or pro-choice, there is no dispute that these are living creatures.

    Chaplain Mike, if you want a case that gets us talking about abortions, perhaps it might be a good idea to use a case in which an abortion is actually performed.

    • not true Marcus there are some who claim that a family has the extended right to end a child’s life even after birth, especially with special needs children

      • That Other Jean says

        But that’s not what this particular discussion is about. Killing a child born alive is not an abortion.

        • Once again, that was not the only horror this doctor perpetrated. The entire operation was awful.

          • That Other Jean says

            Absolutely. The doctor’s entire operation was a horror show, which should have been shut down and the doctor prosecuted years ago. Many state agencies in Pennsylvania failed utterly in their oversight duties, and a lot of people need to be fired and regulatory agencies coerced into doing their jobs. Possibly, if abortion were not such a hot button topic, the neglect would not have been so blatant. It needs to be corrected NOW. But I don’t think that it’s fair to reject the goal of “safe, legal, and rare” abortions because one doctor, or even one state, proved to be an abject failure.

            Agreed–we need to talk to each other without rancor, so far as possible, so that things like this can be brought into the light and corrected. Neither side will ever be completely happy, but we must find a way to communicate.

      • A correction: the “some” you speak of is not a crowd, but a single philosopher. There is no movement in US advocating infanticide.

    • Well, what you refer to was one part of it — and it was late term abortions in defiance of the law that were being performed. But that’s only part of the story of the terrible things this man did to women and their children. Procedures regarding regular abortions were awful also.

    • Marcus, I agree that this is six or seven standard deviations from the mean. However, there are some very important things we need to consider in this case. Perhaps the most important is that Gosnell used his platform for abortion to commit murder, and to harm – even kill – women who came to him expecting normal standard of care. The reason he was able to do this was a gross lack of responsibility of the oversight committees. I’m not sure if you actually read the case, but it is just not true to pretend this has nothing to do with abortion.

  7. Human beings can be incredibly vile things sometimes. Unfortunately, that isn’t news. I’ve been happy to see pretty much universal revulsion for this case from all sides of the political spectrum. There’s nothing quite like a total monster of this magnitude this to bring us together. I suppose we should be asking how we’re supposed to “Love our enemy” when the enemy is this piece of dung, but I’m really not ready for that yet.

    I’m also seeing a good amount of squirming on both sides of the spectrum. Conservatives seem to recognize that this is very close to “back-alley abortions” that might increase if abortion is made illegal, and their innate distrust of government regulation is always a bit wonky where abortion is concerned. Liberals are simultaneously upset that existing regulations weren’t followed while also being wary of over-regulating abortion. It’s a real lose-lose situation.

  8. Wait, so are you telling me bad things happen when people are left to their own self-responsibility without any accountability, inspection, nor oversight? Someone call Ron Paul!

    The sad part is that the government was SUPPOSED to be performing inspections and did not. Fraudulent, corrupt, and incompetent regulation is worse than no regulation at all.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Actually, I would argue that fraudulent, corrupt, and incompetent regulation is just as bad as no regulation at all.

  9. First, where were the regulators? Evidently, there was some awareness that the clinic had problems, but regulators ignored the problem. Obviously having a 15 year old administering anesthesia is a gross violation of the law. Not to mention ethical standards.

    Second, health care in poor neighborhoods is well, poor. There are some doctors who set up shop specifically in low income areas because they know that they can get away with providing really bad service and get away with it. Basically, it is also easy to commit fraud as well.

    The problem that this case represents goes well beyond abortion clinics. It is deeper problem with how we deliver health care in low income neighborhoods.

    • It also presents us with the problem that when issues become overly politicized, it paralyzes people from actually doing anything productive with regard to the issue. Did you note in the article the statement that much of the regulatory oversight ceased for political reasons?

      • “Did you note in the article the statement that much of the regulatory oversight ceased for political reasons?”

        Yes, it was disappointing to say the least. There are all sorts of regulatory agencies that sat on their hands. In truth, there should be an investigation into why nothing was done.

  10. Yet, you belong to a church body in which no real opposition to abortion is tolerated inside the church, in which celebrated abortionists have found refuge (Dr Tillman of Witchita), and which leads the way by example in providing their own clergy with free abortions on demand….

  11. It’s a horrifying story. The system failed, and spectacularly. People failed. Evil prevailed. Multiple safeguards were apparently in place, but failed. And the vulnerable and innocent paid for this with their lives.

    I don’t know what law or public policy would actually reduce the number of abortions most and give women the best care, but I suspect that a nearly complete prohibition isn’t it (after all, as horrifying as this story is, there was a system of safeguards in place to fail; with prohibition, most of even those would have disappeared). The little evidence I have seen (and there’s too little) suggests that better economic conditions tend to reduce the demand for abortions. This is in no way to argue that abortion is good or desirable. The debate here is (or should be) about public policy. Except that it’s been hijacked and politicized and polarized by both sides to such an extent that it’s almost impossible to discuss it as a matter of public policy. We seem unable to separate the moral judgement (e.g. that something is not a good) from the debate about what should be done about it as a matter of public policy.

    This has happened to other public policy issues as well (e.g. gun control, drug laws). I don’t have the answer. The church should a safe place to have such public policy debates, listening to all sides without compromising its moral position. But somehow we haven’t been able to achieve that.

    • In line with what John says, one trenchant paragraph in this truly excellent Atlantic coverage of this horror is very telling:
      “Writing about abortion, like writing about the Israel-Palestine conflict, guarantees a) extreme abuse from readers no matter where you come down; b) extreme, tedious scrutiny of every word you write; c) certain knowledge that personal friends and family members will find themselves in strong, emotional disagreement with you; d) the discouraging impression that no fact or argument presented will change anyone’s mind; e) the accusation that you are complicit in something even worse than what Hitler did, or else that you hate women and want to control their bodies, or both. There’s also the feeling that, by raising the subject, you’re bringing out the very worst in some people. The way they behave to one another in comments and characterize people on the other side of the debate over email is unsettling. Perhaps there’s a journalistic analogue of deliberately avoiding abortion at dinner parties, even ones where political debate is valued and encouraged.”
      Our society seems to have developed an incapacity to discuss certain polarizing topics in way that acknowledges the humanity of people holding different opinions, or acknowledges that some issues are extremely complicated and that their resolution requires a dedicated effort that only those holding polarized and unhelpful positions of “yes, always” or “no, never” seem willing to devote to them. In my experience, the church tends to be the last place where this can happen. This is because people cannot acknowledge how much personal feeling and upbringing color their interpretation of Scripture and religious teachings, yet they invest these personalized interpretation with the force of Divine Will.

  12. There also seems to be something in this story about how our morality is affected by what we choose to see.
    A fetus that is cut apart inside the womb, where it can’t be seen? Legal.
    A fetus partially outside, clenching its fists as it is being cut apart (Gonzales v. Carhart)? Not so much.
    A fetus delivered alive, outside, as a baby, then cut apart? Murder.
    Part of the horror in this story is that (unlike the other legal abortion providers and the healthcare system that oversees them) the doctor didn’t keep it discreet enough to calm our society’s morality and sensibilities about the whole issue.

    It reminds me – on the much larger scale – of the reluctance of governments or the UN to declare genocides when they see them, because then we are morally compelled to intervene.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      An even worse story: Apparently, if two men get into a fight, and a pregnant woman gets hit so hard she miscarries, the man who hit her gets off with a fine. That shows you how much American society values the life of the unborn…

      No, wait, that was Levitical law, created for the Israelite nation at Sinai.

      • Marcus, my point is that a society’s morality is affected by what it chooses to see, whether in Leviticus or in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

      • Actually, that comes from Exodus. Ever heard the phrase “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”?

        You should probably look it up at Exodus 21:22. And keep reading for the next few verses. Note the phrase “a life for a life…”

        • Marcus Johnson says

          Whoops, forgot my OT history…

          And you’re also right, that what follows does refer to “a life for a life.” However, seeing as how the premature birth is supposed to be compensated for by a fine, it would seem that Israelite law had a very different concept about the beginning of life than what we do. No big worries for me there; they also had a different attitude towards rape, slavery, homosexuality, etc.

          • …um, read more carefully? That would be premature birth with NO defects whatsoever. In other words, a perfectly normal, healthy birth, AND the father can still fine as much as he wants. For an accident. You’re right they had a different concept about the beginning of life, though. Would that we exercised as much caution around pregnant women to ensure the child was brought to a healthy birth at threat of our own well being. Our culture would rather imperil the unborn child for any slight inconvenience it could possibly cause us. But no, the God of the OT is still a primitive troll. It’s so easy to find fault with him (especially with the type of selective skimming you seem accustomed to), it’s a wonder even Jesus took him so seriously. Perhaps we should reconsider taking him so seriously too?

    • In this particular case, Dr. Kermit Gosnell was not technically an abortionist, because he first delivered the babies alive, then severed their spinal cords.
      That makes him an obstetrician/murderer, not an abortionist.
      From the perspective of a sentient late-term fetus/baby, there is no practical difference between the quality or effectiveness of work of between an excellent abortion provider vs. a murderous obstetrician, except the later takes a few minutes or hours longer, or practices in a state where late-term abortions are not legal. The difference is therefore in our own viewpoint, and I suggest it is based primarily on how we allow ourselves to see… or overlook… the practice.

      • YES! Thank you for summing this up so neatly……

        But frankly, I am at a total loss about even attempting to discuss this matter (this case in particular and abortion in general) with so many pro-abortion individuals and groups. The argument used to be “It is NOT a baby, it is a clump of cells, a parasite….”.

        We have now , ahem, “progressed” to the point where the argument is now,” OK, it IS human, but SO WHAT?”

        And on that side of the fence, concepts like Dred-Scott decision and the Third Reich mean nothing……..

  13. What I really wish would happen is that instead of screaming no and yes, people would talk. There are other solutions out there and the complete picture is one encompassing more than just a conception to birth lifespan. Start promoting adoption. Start building families, supporting parents, children, etc. I just wish there was more actual progress made here and maybe by working together we can prevent future horror stories like this.

    • Yes.

    • I should’ve added…
      I was debating this issue with a pro-choice friend of mine a few years back and something he said changed the way I view the pro-life stance. He said, “When pro-life folks establish a support network to help raise the children of all the women who think abortion is the best-option, then I will become pro-life. But until then, I can’t. How many babies are born into situations in which they might be unwanted and their future is undoubtedly bleak?”

      The vast majority of us pro-lifers are great at waving the flag of “Life” and shouting against pro-choice folks, but only a small few would ever commit to actually becoming a part of a support network for the children who would be born into lousy “family” environments.

      • I wonder if anybody here knows of such a network? Perhaps it should start with the women/girls closest to us. Start strengthening those relationships. Getting to know them. Loving them. Whether in our family or community.

      • Pretty much all crisis pregnancy centers offer ongoing assistance. I am a mentor for young fathers at our local one, and the center spends much more time helping young parents than anything else.

        • That’s awesome, Daniel. I wonder, though, if that’s enough. My sense is that a vast majority of the pro-lifers like to talk a good talk (“Abortion is murder”) but then go to sleep on providing any sort of assistance to moms who decided NOT to abort. I’m pointing a finger at myself, by the way. Am I quick to shout for “Life” and yet very slow or unwilling to get my hands dirty when a choice for “Life” is made?

          What if the pro-life camp declared, “Every woman who makes a choice to NOT abort…we guarantee meals on the table and a college education for you child!”…?

          • I don’t even garrantee college education for my own children, at least where I am footing the bill… come back from the world of entitlement Rick.

        • Way to step up Daniel. Thank you for being a Godly influence to young parents and an example to the rest of us. This is the way to go.

      • Sorry, not buying it. How many stories are there of people who were born into situations with no future and a bleak outlook, who turned out to be outstanding people in their own right? Countless people in this country were born into bad situations and “made something out of themselves.”

        It’s truly pathetic to state….well, there’s not future for this kid, so just kill him. Further, if you agree with that logic, then why not apply that logic to a 5 year old? Why not apply it to a 15 year old?

        Finally, it’s a fallacy to believe that if support networks were in place, then no more abortions would occur. for many women, the idea of carrying an unwanted child for 9 months is simply too inconvenient. The simple, easy choice is abortion.

        • Jennifer E. says

          “Finally, it’s a fallacy to believe that if support networks were in place, then no more abortions would occur. for many women, the idea of carrying an unwanted child for 9 months is simply too inconvenient. The simple, easy choice is abortion.”

          Wow. This is the kind of black and white statement that infuriates me and causes me to question the church’s love for women in crisis and the babies they carry. This is the exact attitude that keeps many pregnant single women (IN THE CHURCH NO LESS) afraid to admit their sin. This is the kind of condemnation that generates so much shame and expresses ZERO support, care and concern for women who might otherwise consider keeping their babies if they thought there was hope for them in their situations.

          Thank you. You’ve proven my point.

    • Jennifer E says


    • Final Anonymous says


    • What I really wish would happen is that instead of screaming no and yes, people would talk.

      You mean standing outside a clinic yelling in women’s faces as they walk in doesn’t help bring them to Christ?

      Amazing. Who woulda thunk it.

  14. The only way abortions will stop is to show the love of Christ to those in a position to have one. Human nature being as it is, the truth about the unborn will not stop people from aborting. Only demonstrating and teaching the unconditional love of Christ will change hearts. The church, including myself, needs to step up and be a part of the neglected lives of these women/girls making these choices. A generation of “parents” have dropped the ball on this and the church needs to fill the gap somehow.

    • Jennifer E says


    • ‘The only way abortions will stop is to show the love of Christ to those in a position to have one’

      Thank you for this beautifully practical and sane comment.
      For one thing, the emotional overdrive that eminates from abortion debates often make me nauscious. That aside, I am 100% convinced that all this ‘we’re going to overturn Roe v Wade’ stuff is pure fantasy and not to be believed. Outside the bubble, most citizens in the US are terrified of the religious right and their angenda. They’ll all turn to stone before they concede to the Religious Right’s view of a fetus.
      If anyone cares for life inside the womb, the first act of every Christian is to actively denounce every Pat Robertson/Jerry falwell/Todd Akin/Michelle Bachmann type from the public and start pushing for better representation. If you promote the crazies in our midst, it’s all over.

      • Agreed Dennis, Roe v Wade will never be overturned. I do think people in power have an obligation to protect the innocent, but overturning this law is just not going to happen. Christ didn’t come to overturn the Roman government. He came to overturn hearts. We should follow His lead.

  15. I was born out of wedlock under the conditions described in the feedback here as among those who probably should be allowed to be aborted. I was abused and neglected in some of the worst ways in a family with mental illness and apathy toward my needs. HOWEVER, in the late fifties a family none of us knew came to my parents’ home and asked if they could take me to Sunday School. And they did every week for 2 years. They even took me to family activities at the church. That changed my life. God found me and changed my life. I had hard times as a teen and young adult but I had solid ground and knew where my strength would come from.
    As an adult I worked with the county child abuse council for several years to help change attitudes of judges and welfare administrators, helped raise many foster children, taught Sunday School for 30 years, and am still teaching adult Bible Studies.
    Don’t be too quick to assume that being unwanted is the ultimate death sentence.

    • That is an amazing story!!! Thanks for sharing!

      Would you say, then, that pro-lifers should bear some (maybe even “much”) of the burden of supporting the babies/kids who are born into families where the mother had been talked out of aborting?

      • I believe that God talks to each of us if we listen and act when we hear him, even if it feels uncomfortable or “silly.” It only took one family to step out in faith in my case. I don’t think much can come of corporate actions. It’s individuals who work in individual lives that makes the difference.

        • I was trying to hold back from commenting but I can’t. Words can’t convey how great this is. I think we are hearing from God right now. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Jennifer E. says

      Thanks for sharing that, Pat. I see love in the midst of those dark times. Love makes all the difference.

    • Beautiful story Pat! So glad you shared it with us.

    • Christiane says

      God Bless You, PAT!

  16. Oh Lord, this is a very hot button issue, Chaplain Mike. No offense, but I think the article, although indeed troubling, will only make the pro-life side more vehement in their opposition, while the pro-abortion side simply ignores it or brushes it off.

    I realized the abortion issue can no longer be talked about in a truly civil way.

    • The pro-life side will lose a great opportunity if all they do is use this as a case to promote an agenda and fail to ask deeper questions about social justice for the poor, minorities, and those without adequate health care options.

      The pro-choice side will lose a great opportunity if they frame this as a horrible exception that only supports their agenda.

      You know what I’d love to see? For starters, a season of mourning for the victims, sponsored by leading organizations from both sides.

      • Chaplain Mike,
        The problem with that idea is that those who oppose legal abortion would include the aborted/killed after birth as victims to be mourned, and those who support legal abortion would not.

      • Final Anonymous says

        +1. I am still heartsick over the rare mention of the women who were hurt / killed at this clinic. Thankful that Jesus demonstrated He felt differently.

  17. Jennifer E. says

    The pro-life side IS using this to promote it’s agenda. I can’t tell you how many of my FB friends are posting this trying to get mainstream media’s attention and try to preach about the evils of abortion (as if minds are likely to change over it). And many conservative states are in the midst of trying to pass TRAP laws that will force abortion clinics to renovate to hospital standards. Many of the kinds of renovations that would be regulated are unnecessary and extremely expensive, so the point of these laws is to put clinics out of business, and not necessarily make these abortion clinics safer for women, though that is the guise under which they are being passed.

    The pro-choice side, for its part is largely ignoring this story and saying that it’s a rare occurrence. And they’re spinning it that Gosnell’s house of horrors is the result of having any sort of restrictions on abortion. And they’re saying that the TRAP laws will serve to create more houses of horror and bring the abortion industry back to pre-Roe v Days with back alley abortionists ala Gosnell.

  18. How signficant is it that almost everyone involved in this story is black?

    • It is the real story, I think. While political inconvenience is partly a factor to the initial media disinterest, the main reason for the media blackout is that this is a story where the victims are all poor and not-white. If a gorgeous white college student from Yale had had her colon pierced and her baby … “snipped” (damn that is disgusting to type) … 20 mins after it had been born breathing, we would never have heard the end of it. But poor women and babies being harmed? That’s terrible, but it doesn’t sell.

  19. crookedfaith says

    OK–long time lurker here with a question (well, maybe a frustration). I identify as pro-choice, and I do my best to come to a fair and grounded understanding of those who disagree with me. I’m confused, though, about why it’s felt that this particular case is so sure to shake up people’s preconceptions about the abortion issue.

    To me, the Gosnell case is shocking in that it’s a horrific instance of a rogue doctor abusing patients, not dissimilar in kind (though greater in degree) to the Tulsa dentist whose filthy practices endangered the lives of his patients. It’s an argument for better regulation, better oversight, and frankly freer access to quality reproductive services generally. No one has to my knowledge mounted a defense of Gosnell’s practices or suggested that what he was doing was at all acceptable. As Sarah Posner points out in Religious Dispatches, pro-choice feminists have been quite active in commenting t on the story and condemning Gosnell. (See here: I don’t think there’s any disagreement about the fact that Gosnell should have been found out and stopped much, much earlier.

    So I’m unclear exactly what the transformative takeaway from this case is supposed to be in terms of the abortion issue generally (rather than, say, as a matter of health care). Specifically, how is one’s interpretation of this case transformed by rather than simply determined by the standard preconceptions about prenatal biology and personhood?

    Though I appreciate that Chaplain Mike strives for an irenic tone, the framing I get from many other pro-life sources is that Gosnell is just like “regular” abortion doctors, only without the window dressing. That is, the suggestion is that Gosnell’s acts are essentially identical to what any legal, licit abortion doctor does on a regular basis. Now that Gosnell’s secret crime (which is basically identical to all abortion) is out in the open, people’s attitudes toward abortion will surely change. I get that this is a logical conclusion for some. If your perspective is that there’s no moral-spiritual-existential difference between a zygote, a six-month fetus, a viable neonatal infant, and a three-year-old, then yes, an abortion–any abortion–is murder.

    But–if I can go out on a limb here–most people who support some version of a woman’s choice have some fundamental trouble equating a living infant with most stages of prenatal life (at least, let’s say, until a point of viability). I don’t. For me, there’s simply no way to seriously compare legal abortions (the vast majority of which–88%–occur in the first trimester) with snipping the spines of living, viable infants, to say nothing of Gosnell’s numerous other crimes against patients. Using Gosnell as the stand-in for “abortion per se” thus strikes me as akin to some radical atheist using the case of a child-abusing priest as “proof” about the abusiveness of religion in general. It’s inaccurate, unfair, and bad faith.

    I agree–with Chaplain Mike and with Sarah Posner–that the Gosnell case can and should be an occasion for talking seriously about problems in public health care, especially reproductive services for poor women. But that conversation is getting crowded out by a partisan framing that sells this crime as proof-positive of “the problem with ‘safe, legal’ abortion.” Such a framing doesn’t advance the conversation; it reactivates the same old polarizations that keep us deadlocked.

    • c-faith,

      I just want to say I agree with you here that, IMO, there’s a “moral-spiritual-existential difference between a zygote, a six-month fetus, a viable neonatal infant, and a three-year-old.” A legal abortion done in the first trimester does destroy a human life, yes, but with minimal suffering for both mother and child. I don’t much like abortion, but if I ran the human zoo, first-trimester abortions would continue to be legal. And I agree the Gosnell case has more to do with gross medical malpractice than with abortion

      I am more concerned about the fairly quick dismissal here of any interest in reaching the young men who are the fathers of these children. (But, full credit to the writer above — Daniel — who works with young fathers!) While many churches preach against abortion, how many sermons have you heard condemning men for their part in pregnancy? I have heard exactly one such sermon, 30 years ago, in a black Baptist church. Otherwise, the silence from the pulpit about irresponsible fatherhood is deafening. In many poor cultures of America, being the father of multiple children is a badge of pride, proof of real manhood — and of course there is no though of the father’s actually supporting the children or their mothers. There needs to be a huge change in our social attitudes in this area, and I don’t despair of such a change. I’ve seen many big changes in my long lifetime, and this is another I hope for.

  20. From someone with a foot in both camps:

    I think this provides emotional ammunition to the pro-life camp, but it doesn’t really render the pro-choice position helpless. What we have here is not an example of legal, safe abortion. It is an example of illegal abortions performed by an opportunist who was not even aiming at ethics or safety. These are not lapses from a doctor performing his job. This is knowing medical fraud and outright murder (by anyone’s definition) perpetrated on those who can’t or won’t defend themselves because they think they have no other option. And this continued because the regulators couldn’t be bothered to check on what has going on in more than a decade, despite complaints.

    This is also a story about how lack of access to medical care results in situations many of us find unthinkable. Why does a woman wait until month 8 to get an abortion, outside of medical need? Denial, fear of family members, lack of money and therefore not getting prenatal treatment or options presented until the last possible moment, lack of knowing what to do or how to make decisions in the first trimester, not having an idea how to navigate the medical system (some of these women were new immigrants, and others may never have gone to the doctor growing up), or — in this particular case — a doctor who isn’t even telling you how far along you are and is only interested in convincing you to give him some “business”. In most cases you have a person who is vulnerable in multiple ways and not prepared to advocate for themselves. To some pro-choicers credit, and certainly to advocates of more universal access to healthcare’s credit, their ideal is a situation where women are able to admit to pregnancy early, consult a doctor, and either terminate a pregnancy very early or receive needed prenatal and medical care and social support. Such a person will have some idea how to do this because they would have been seeing a doctor periodically their whole lives.

    The strongest support this gives to the pro-life movement is, simply, that esp. in the case of late-term abortion, we’re dealing with mothers and babies. We can debate under what circumstances mothers should be allowed to abort these babies, and those circumstances do exist medically, but this is not a conversation that is pleasant or comfortable. And it shouldn’t be.

    I’m pro-choice in the sense that I think there are a whole host of medical and social factors in a woman’s decision to abort, and I don’t like the idea of a lot of bureaucrats taking decision-making power away from people on such sensitive medical and personal questions. I’m pro-life in the sense that I find the whole affair problematic morally. But mainly I am a realist: people are going to get abortions, so to me the best course of action for both pro-choice and pro-life folks is to figure out how triage the problem. You do that by making sure people know how to use birth control when and if they decide to engage in sex when they are not ready to be parents (none of this, “if we don’t discuss it, or we pretend its the same thing as abortion, maybe people just won’t have sex” …ok for a religious discussion, but dreadful public policy), you do that by making it possible for women to diagnose pregnancy and get prenatal care early, you provide resources for pregnant women, and when abortion is elected, you make it safe and as humane as possible. That requires it to be legal and very well regulated; what we don’t want is lots of women with no options going to clandestine operations. People who are breaking the law are not going to bring live, breathing infants into hospitals or rush bleeding women to ERs.

  21. for those interested, here is an argument that the status of babies born alive after a botched abortion is really a clue to the philosophy behind the pro-choice movement: