Understanding Gosnell
What’s life got to do with it?


Kathryn Jean Lopez

Stutzman is right to ask the question. The Gosnell trial should be an occasion for outrage and shame, an occasion for reflection and action.

When innocent children are gunned down in school, we try to process the realization: This is evil. We tend to know that something very bad happened at Newtown, even if we try to explain it in other terms, and find ways to outlaw it.

Of course, you cannot outlaw evil. But you can feed the conscience. And I’m afraid that right now we might be denying conscience a reality check.

When Newtown was terrorized, the public instinct was toward politics. Our way of processing evil has come to be passing a law that will give us some false sense of assurance that our legislative action can keep evil at bay. In the case of Gosnell, though, we break with that instinct to seek a legislative remedy, even though, were it not for lax regulation, it wouldn’t have taken one woman’s death to expose that filthy deathtrap. It’s almost as if we can’t go there.

But we must. As Representative Andy Harris of Maryland, who is himself a medical doctor, highlighted on the House floor that day, Gosnell’s practice of killing children who survived the abortion is in line with the views of some modern ethicists. “They create an ethical framework completely consistent with abortion policy throughout most of the United States — and that is that a late-term, third-trimester fetus has no rights as a person — and merely extend that logic to the period after birth. That’s all they’re doing. Although it may sound grotesque and shocking, it’s merely an ethical, logical extension of the way we have been treating fetuses since 1973.”

In the relative silence, there is a complacency and indifference that cannot stand. There was a lack of charity that drove women to Gosnell’s clinic, and there was certainly love lacking within the walls of his facility. Children expect love. They cry when they do not receive it. A former employee of Gosnell’s testified that one baby was “screeching” like “a little alien.”

The desensitization that 40 years of legal abortion has wrought must be undone. We must become once again a welcoming people of expectation and hope, loving children, supporting mothers, building up fathers. Even the most dedicated abortion-rights activist, upon reflection, might agree. We have been known to be a people of expectations — about the potential of life, about the heights we can reach. We have relied, in fact, on people of the greatest eternal expectations to serve us and inspire us and keep us honest. Our government increasingly views that as foreign, if not outright wrong, and the media and the culture can’t make connections any more and won’t ask questions. Our complacency, our indifference, must be undone. Gosnell requires an examination of the nation’s conscience.

 Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online. This column is available exclusively through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association. She is a director of Catholic Voices USA.


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