Monday, May 05, 2014

Gosnell and Post-Viabililty Abortions

Abortionist Kermit Gosnell
Kermit Gosnell
Last year, what had started as an FBI drug raid on a suspected pill mill ended when Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murder in the deaths of three of the hundreds of newborn babies he had killed by severing their spines while their mothers lay nearby, overdosed to the brink of death by his accomplices.

Whether Gosnell was guilty of murdering any of these babies didn't hinge on the question of whether Gosnell had killed them. He'd never denied that he'd killed them. That was what he'd been paid to do. Whether Gosnell was guilty of murder hinged on the question of whether he had done the killing before or after the baby had fully emerged from the birth canal.

Gosnell's attorney, Jack McMahon*, argued that these killings were perfectly ordinary abortions that accomplished what Gosnell was paid to do, which was whatever was necessary to make sure that the viable unborn baby was rendered lifeless before it left the mother's body.

All of this was so gruesome that even Gosnell's attorney walked away from the trial convinced that the legal limits for abortion should be pushed back to perhaps 16 weeks to prevent any more viable infants from being killed.

How is it that post-viability abortions are legal in the first place?

Before Roe

The Roe Court: Lewis Powell Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Harry Blackmun, William Rehnquist, Potter Stewart, William Douglas, Warren Burger, William Brennan Jr., and Byron White. Seven voted to allow post-viability abortions.
The Roe Court. (Click to enlarge.) Scissors mark Justices
who voted that states must allow post-viability abortions.
Post-viability abortion is at its core a nonsensical concept. Pick up any dictionary and you'll find that "abortion" is defined as the death of the fetus prior to viability.

All pregnancies end. A pregnancy with an "abortive outcome" ends before the baby could survive outside the womb. This abortive outcome could be natural (a miscarriage) or induced by deliberately killing a living fetus. Once the fetus had passed the developmental age of viability, the outcome of the pregnancy is by definition a birth -- either a live birth or a stillbirth. But in 1973, a group of non-physicians handed down a decision called Roe vs. Wade which decreed that logic be damned, language be damned,  medicine be damned: If somebody wanted to kill a fetus at any point in the pregnancy, legally that act of killing would be lumped in under "abortion" and it would be enshrined as a right.

Tinkering Around

Lethal injection method of ensuring fetal demise during abortion
Gosnell abandoned the lethal
injection technique
when he
found it too difficult.
With this new permission to kill any fetus they wanted to kill, abortionists tinkered around. They took the two basic ways of getting a viable fetus out of the mother -- induced labor and a c-section -- and modified them to make sure that the end result would not be a live baby. Those who preferred to induce labor would do something prior to inducing labor to make sure the baby would come out dead. In the era before ultrasounds allowed an abortionist to guide a needle to the fetal heart or brain to do a lethal injection (how it's done now; see illustration), this was done by injecting poison into the amniotic fluid. If labor induction failed, or if for some reason time was of the essence, a hysterotomy would be performed -- which is just a c-section with the intent of delivering a dead baby.

The Problem

Both of these approaches to the newly-minted post-viability abortion, however, had one serious drawback. Fetuses can be remarkably tenacious of life. You can want them dead, but they can thwart your plans by failing to die. This is known as the "dreaded complication." (Interesting that the "dreaded complication" isn't a dead mother but a live baby. What other medical procedure considers life itself to be both dreaded and a complication?)

"This baby can't live or it will be a big mess." Dr. William Waddill
Of course, the "dreaded" part of the "dreaded complication" was summed up pretty well by Dr. William Waddill as he was strangling a 30-week abortion survivor: "This baby can't live or it will be a big mess."

Promising a patient an abortion and instead presenting her with an injured premature infant is an open invitation to a massive lawsuit. Those lawsuits can be avoided by using one of two popular approaches:
  1. The Obama Approach: Declare that since you'd made the decision to go ahead with an abortion, the fetus is by definition not viable regardless of his or her actual gestational age, size, health status, and condition upon delivery. He or she is to be stashed with the more cooperative -- and hence dead -- fetuses in the utility room or in a biohazard bag or wherever you choose to put them. Just pretend the whole ugly little business with the pulse and the breathing and the movement and the gasping and the crying never happened.
  2. The Gosnell Approach: "Ensure fetal demise" after the baby is delivered. This is much quicker and more certain.

To most people, the "How About We Don't Abort the Baby in the First Place?" Approach seems like an obvious solution. In fact, most abortionists decided that this is a good approach, at least for their own personal practices.** But that doesn't stop them from referring women who want post-viability abortions to late abortion specialists. And, as we can see from the plethora of referrals Gosnell got, dead baby trumps live mother.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams
Philadelphia DA Seth Williams
Of course, we never would have known about any of this if Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams hadn't had the courage to go after Gosnell.

One might think that the case was a slam-dunk. After all, Gosnell killed the babies in front of multiple witnesses, and the District Attorney had photographs and corpses as evidence. But consider this: William Waddill had strangled Baby W in a hospital nursery in front of several horrified nurses and a neonatologist. An autopsy showed that the baby's abortion injuries were not fatal; she had clearly and unequivocally died from manual strangulation. Waddill still managed to walk because two -- Count 'em: two -- juries bogged down over the legal definition of "death."

All it takes is one die-hard abortion supporter to tank the case. For over three decades, people had referred women to Gosnell; had declined to investigate his "house of horrors;" had turned a blind eye to the reports of near-term abortions, filthy conditions, and patient deaths. Just one person who shared that "Abortion uber alles" mindset would have left the Gosnell jury as hopelessly deadlocked as both of the Waddill juries.

Williams had the guts to buck tradition and conventional wisdom, and to risk the wrath of his own Democrat party, to prosecute an abortionist for killing live-born infants. But just putting Kermit Gosnell out of circulation and into prison isn't enough. The public needs to be awakened to the reality of post-viability abortions and the means that late-term abortionists use to "ensure fetal demise."

Filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney have launched a crowdfunding effort to produce a movie about Gosnell's crimes. A contribution to need not set you back any more than $1 -- less than the cost of a soft drink. Every contribution is a message that we will no longer allow the killing of viable babies to take place under the cover of "reproductive health care." If you can't contribute, or have already contributed funding, keep in mind that both prayer and spreading the word about the project are also vital contributions to the efforts. Together we can end the silence.

For more about why it's vital that this movie be made, read (and don't forget to tweet!):

* In a creepy coincidence, McMahon is also the surname of the abortionist who invented the abortion method, popularized by Martin Haskell, that was evidently Gosnell's inspiration for "snipping."

** I find it fascinating that although the abortion lobby fights to force all ob/gyns to perpetrate abortions whether they want to do them or not, there is no concerted effort to force existing abortion practitioners to do late abortions whether they want to do them or not. Bizarre, no?

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