Thursday, May 16, 2013

Seth Williams on the Kermit Gosnell Case: Killing of Viable Babies

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams held a press conference in the wake of Kermit Gosnell's sentencing, and he has so much to say that I'd like to respond. In fact, he says so much that it will take several posts to fully address all of it. Bear with me.

Williams began by pointing out that no woman or child will ever again be harmed by Kermit Gosnell. This is an important thing for supporters of legal abortion to grasp: It was not the work of prochoice advocates that came to protect women and children from Gosnell. Prochoice advocates in a variety of roles, from politicians and bureaucrats to a National Abortion Federation inspector and employees of other abortion clinics, not only allowed Gosnell to practice, but also enabled him. One National Abortion Federation clinic actually employed him and handed patients over to his care. It was not, again, prochoice advocates who acted to protect women from Gosnell. It was only after people who had no connection to abortion rights -- DEA agents and cops on a drug bust -- that any action was taken to shut Kermit Gosnell down.

Should it be only when complete outsiders who don't have a dog in this fight that seedy, dangerous abortionists are shut down?

Williams pointed out that the case is groundbreaking. It certainly is the first time I know of in which an abortionist went on trial for his life for killing live-born infants. Other abortionists have been charged with, and even convicted of, crimes related to the killing infants born alive during abortions, but they have been few and far between, especially when one considers that hundreds of infants, perhaps over a thousand, are born alive in the United States every year during the process of an abortion. Most anecdotal reports are that the babies are simply abandoned to die. Local prosecutors don't want to touch the cases because it's almost impossible to prove that a baby drew breath if it's born prematurely and the lungs don't have a chance to fully inflate. The federal Born Alive Infants Protection Act is being broken in every case in which the babies are simply abandoned, but as far as I know nobody has ever been prosecuted under the act.

The following are cases I know of in which a doctor was convicted of a crime relating to killing an infant born during an abortion:

1975: Dr. Kenneth Edelin, who remains a hero to the abortion rights movement, was found guilty of manslaughter when, during a hysterotomy abortion performed in a hospital operating room (basically a c-section performed with the intent to ensure the death, rather than the survival, of the baby), Edelin reached into the womb, detached the placenta, and watched the clock, waiting to make sure the baby was dead before removing him from the uterus. Edelin's conviction was overturned on appeal.

1977: Dr. William Waddill was tried twice for strangling a 28-week abortion survivor in front of a pediatrician, an emergency physician, and several horrified nurses in a hospital nursery, cursing all the while that he couldn't find the trachea and the baby just wouldn't die. Two hung juries, who argued over whether Waddill had caused the baby's "death" under an obscure legal definition of death, allowed Waddill to walk. He continued to perform abortions, working for National Abortion Federation member clinic chain Family Practice Associates Medical Group.

1979: Dr. Raymond Showery was convicted of murder after a group of his employees came forward to report that he had attempted to smother, then drown, and then finally suffocated a little girl of about six months gestation who was born alive during an abortion at his freestanding abortion hospital in El Paso. Testimony from employees and evidence from the hospital indicated that Showery was a Gosnellesque practitioner, routinely performing abortions late in the pregnancy in his nasty facility, and killing any babies that survived. While he was out on bail pending an appeal for the murder conviction, he performed a fatal abortion on Mickey Apodaca.

1989: Dr. Josepha Melnick was convicted of infanticide for allowing a 32-week aborted baby girl to die of neglect in a Philadelphia hospital  in 1984. The child's death was uncovered when a nurse found the baby gasping in the utility room amid the successfully-aborted fetus slated for disposal about an hour after she was delivered. Despite finding him guilty, the judge declined to punish Melnick in any way, saying, "I think he  has been chastened by this event, has paid a great monetary price and his reputation has suffered." Such a decision, made by a judge right in Philadelphia, would certainly not have given Kermit Gosnell the impression that he had anything to fear in his own practice.

Whether a live-born infant leaves the building still breathing seems to depend entirely upon actions taken by nurses who intervene.

Williams expressed satisfaction with the consecutive life sentences without parole, indicating that he thinks it will serve as a deterrent to other doctors who, faced with a live-born infant, are tempted to simply kill the child. I think that the deterrent will only be effective in Philadelphia, and only as long as Seth Williams remains District Attorney. One doctor's bad luck in getting caught in a place where abortion-related crimes are taken seriously isn't likely to make doctors in other states -- Kansas springs to mind -- where no matter how openly an abortionist is breaking the law, his political connections ensure that he'll never be held accountable.

With the recent revelations regarding Douglas Karpen in Texas (WARNING: Extremely graphic content!), we will see if other abortionists have any cause for alarm. If Karpen walks away a free man with his license and his abortion business still going strong, the prosecution of Kermit Gosnell will be, and remain, one of those flukey things where everything went .... well, wrong if you're the abortionist. Right if you're anybody who really cares about your fellow human beings, both born and unborn.

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