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Broken Justice for the Unborn


Tonight was going to be the night for President Obama’s keynote at Planned Parenthood’s Washington Gala. But the White House announced yesterday afternoon that the president had changed his schedule. It would be a wonderful thing if the cancellation indicated the president’s moral reconsideration rather than a mere political recalculation following Planned Parenthood’s recent statements indicating its awareness of complaints about Kermit Gosnell’s squalid abattoir and its overall toleration of late-term abortions. But Obama will now speak to Planned Parenthood on Friday morning – a less visible and celebratory occasion, of course, but still an event signaling a presidential endorsement.

What could it possibly take, then, to provoke a dissociation from Planned Parenthood? It is hard to imagine a worse set of facts for political advocates of abortion on request. Gosnell’s “house of horrors” has it all. The grim facts of bloody furniture, unattended women, abortion patients sleeping alone in his dilapidated, urine-stench-ridden facility overnight, cats roaming loose leaving feces on stairways, minor children both getting abortions and administering anesthetics, a filthy fish tank in the waiting room, babies’ remains stored in cat food bags in freezers and a dingy basement – a story so revolting that even the most determined (or jaded) reporter has trouble wading through the 281-page grand-jury report recounting it all.

Then there are the little filigrees of horror that would usually draw heavy fire from the Left, but not here, not in this case involving act after act that began as abortion and ended as infanticide. Here is Dr. Gosnell stowing $250,000 in cash and a gun at home — in the closet of his twelve-year-old daughter. There is Gosnell paying a 28-year-old woman $300 a week – in cash, like nearly all of his transactions — to perform no work at all, though she reports having an on-and-off “fling” with the worthy physician. Then there is the acknowledgement by his own employees of his having a higher standard of care for white women, to the point of providing them a segregated and more orderly room in which to wait for abortions. 

And to think Gosnell’s defense team toyed with a defense built around the idea of a racially motivated prosecution when, in fact, it was Gosnell who practiced racism in his prosecution of a late-term-abortion trade.

That Planned Parenthood, like the National Abortion Federation, had knowledge of Gosnell’s criminal enterprise is now known. That they did nothing about it, and instead simply urged women affected by it to contact health officials on their own, is on the record. What is not on the record, and should be, is not whether but which abortion clinics, willing to perform abortions up to 20 weeks’ gestation but no later, actively referred women at later stages of pregnancy to Gosnell. Did Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania do so? Did Planned Parenthood of Delaware?

From the beginning of this awful tragedy to the present, Planned Parenthood has never stated that the unborn child has a value that deserves independent protection as the pregnancy progresses.     

They could hardly do otherwise. In 2008 (just a year before Hillary Clinton accepted a similar honor), Planned Parenthood gave its annual Margaret Sanger Award to its former board chairman from 1989 to 1992, Dr. Kenneth Edelin.

Edelin first came to public attention in 1973 when he was charged with performing an illegal abortion in Massachusetts. A fellow doctor accused Edelin of suffocating a child while it was still in utero and about to be delivered by hysterotomy (the intact removal of the unborn child from the womb, akin to a ceasarean section). Edelin claimed the child was already dead as a result of lethal injections he administered and that there was no evidence the baby ever took a breath outside of the womb.

Edelin was ultimately acquitted by the supreme judicial court of Massachusetts, but a number of facts in the case are not in dispute. In fact, they are recorded in Edelin’s 2008 book, Broken Justice: A True Story of Race, Sex and Revenge in a Boston CourtroomWhen the chief of obstetrics at Boston City Hospital needed a doctor to do second-trimester abortions by hysterotomy and wanted 20 or so “specimens” for a research trial requiring dissection of fetal organs, he called Edelin, who was “flattered” and “ready” to do them.

“Women,” Edelin wrote, “still had the right to terminate the pregnancy in the third trimester” even if the government could “regulate the performance of the abortion.”

The girl on whom Edelin performed the abortion that led to his prosecution was 17 years old. The abortion was to be kept secret from her father. Her pregnancy was close to but less than 20 weeks’ gestation in Edelin’s estimation, but 24 to 28 weeks according to the prosecution. The girl had also agreed to participate in a medical experiment using an “anti-hormone” that would counter the effects of the progesterone that was helping to maintain her baby. If the anti-hormone worked, Edelin wrote, it might lead “to a way to cause a woman to abort by giving her the anti-hormone: They hoped to develop an abortion pill.”

Edelin had hoped to do the abortion by instilling a saline solution in her womb, causing “fetal demise.” But when his syringe repeatedly drew blood instead of amniotic fluid, he resorted to the higher-risk hysterotomy. In his book Aborting America, Bernard Nathanson described “poor Kenneth Edelin” and remarked that “the hospital staff apparently figured a live baby ought not to come out of the hysterotomy that he performed. There was no resuscitation equipment, no isolette, no preparation to deliver a baby, no doctor standing by to assist, even though a live birth was to be expected. . . . This was the major drama in the Edelin affair, and it had little to do with the way the trial developed.”

Avoiding this “drama,” the “dreaded complication” of a baby who lives, is what the issue of late-term abortions has been about ever since. It is the issue the Gosnell case has reopened. It was the issue in then-senator Barack Obama’s argument, belied by decades of experience, that medical facilities can be geared to kill near-, at- and post-viable children, then turn on a dime and become their most ardent champions with the most modern life-saving equipment immediately available to save them.

This is the irresolvable contradiction. Planned Parenthood saw Edelin as a hero and gave him their highest award just five years ago. They intended to honor President Obama once again tonight. Instead, he will honor them with lower-profile words tomorrow morning. But 40 years after Roe and Doe, the reality is unchanged. Some babies are big enough to fight back, to take a lethal dose of poison, to resist, somehow to live — for minutes, hours, or even a lifetime. Killing such babies, or killing their brothers and sisters, younger by matters of days or weeks, is not medicine. It is not defensible.

And if for only one flower-laden spring evening in the nation’s capital, it will be a relief that the president of the United States will not be standing up to defend it.

— Charles A. “Chuck” Donovan is the president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute.


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