Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Kermit Gosnell and the Milgram Experiment

Mug shots of Kermit Gosnell and his employees
Kermit Gosnell, Pearl Gosnell, Elizabeth Hampton
Sherry West, Adrine Moton, Tina Baldwin
Steven Massof, Maddline Joe, Elleen O’Neil
Most people, when confronted with the Kermit Gosnell scandal, can not seem to wrap their minds around how Gosnell's employees could participate in such a barbaric practice as "snipping" the spinal cords of live-born babies. Certainly members of the Grand Jury expressed astonishment. The explanation, however, should be obvious to anybody familiar with the Milgram Experiment.

Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of experiments which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience. Participants were instructed to give what they believed were a series of increasingly painful electrical shocks to another person. More than half of the participants obeyed the experimenter to the end -- administering what they'd been made to believe were lethal shocks.

Millgram summed up his findings:

Stark authority was pitted against the subjects' [participants'] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects' [participants'] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.

Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.

Kermit Gosnell's employees, fortunate to be have jobs in a city with an unemployment rate of nearly 11%, were being reassured by their boss that they were doing nothing wrong in "snipping" babies. Tina Baldwin testified that Gosnell had told her this was simply how such procedures were done, that this was “part of the demise.”
At one point in his Grand Jury testimony, Steve Massof tried to suggest that the clinic’s practice of cutting babies’ spinal cords was somehow part of a late-term procedure called intact dilation and extraction (IDX), commonly referred to as “partial birth abortion” and banned under federal law since 2007. In an intact dilation and extraction, which was used most often to abort pregnancies beyond 17 weeks, the fetus was removed from the uterus as a whole. In order for the head to pass through the cervix without damage to the mother, the doctor would collapse the fetal skull by making an incision at the base of the neck and suctioning the contents. This procedure was done while the baby was still inside the mother.
How much sense does this make? Baby almost out of the mother's body when killed = "reproductive health care." Baby entirely out of the mother's body when it's killed = first degree murder. Question abortion.
Illustration of the logistical difference
between an extraction abortion, promoted
by the National Abortion Federation, and
Gosnell's practice of "snipping."
Let's pause a moment and allow Martin Haskell, who popularized the D&X ("IDX" or "partial birth abortion") technique, describe the procedure. He presented a video of the procedure to his fellows at the National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar in Dallas in 1992, and received a standing ovation for his pioneering work in "reproductive health care." The following is taken verbatim from his presentation paper:
With a lower extremity in the vagina, the surgeon uses his fingers to deliver the opposite lower extremity, then the torso, the shoulders and the upper extremities. The skull lodges at the internal cervical os. Usually there is not enough dilation for it to pass through. The fetus is oriented ...spine up.

At this point, the right-handed surgeon slides the fingers of the left had along the back of the fetus and 'hooks' the shoulders of the fetus with the index and ring fingers (palm down). Next he slides the tip of the middle finger along the spine towards the skull while applying traction to the shoulders and lower extremities. ….

While maintaining this tension..., the surgeon takes a pair of blunt curved Metzenbaum scissors in the right hand. He carefully advances the tip, curved down, along the spine and under his middle finger until he feels it contact the base of the skull under the tip of his middle finger.

Reassessing proper placement …, the surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull.... The surgeon removes the scissors and introduces a suction catheter into this hole and evacuates the skull contents. With the catheter still in place, he applies traction to the fetus, removing it completely from the patient.

The surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull.How significant is the difference between the technique Haskell was teaching to a seminar of the most reputable abortion providers in the world and the technique Kermit Gosnell taught to his ragtag staff?

I believe that Massof was truly testifying as to what Gosnell had told his staff. Gosnell reassured them that this was all okay, just part of "ensuring fetal demise." And really, think about it: How significant is the difference between plunging scissors into the baby's neck just prior to completing the delivery and plunging scissors into the same baby's neck just after completing the delivery? It's the same baby, wriggling in your hands. 

Haskell, during his presentation, joked that the baby sometimes "helps" by wrapping her little arms and legs around his hand as he's steadying the child in preparation for the fatal plunge.How great a leap of conscience -- how great a distinction between "reproductive health care" versus capital murder -- if it's purely a matter of seconds and inches?

In their own descriptions of how they grow accustomed to the gruesome work at abortion, practitioners in perfectly ordinary legal abortion facilities describe what sounds very much like a real life example of the Millgram effect. Practitioners experience dismay, shock, horror, and moral revulsion about what they're doing to the unborn babies, and they train themselves to continue to do so anyway. Consider these admissions by practicing abortionists:
When performing a D&E abortion, the gynecologist is aware of being the active agent in the procedure. On the one hand, the doctor is sparing the patient the pain and emotional distress of the amnio abortion. On the other hand, he or she is the one who is crushing and dismembering the fetus in a D&E procedure, which can be emotionally disturbing… As the doctor tends to take responsibility and assume guilt for the procedure, she or he may have disturbing and recurrent ruminations or dreams. Doctors have found that these negative reactions decrease as they get used to the procedure....*
The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current.Nobody wants to perform abortions after ten weeks because by then you see the features of the baby, hands, feet. It’s really barbaric. Abortions are very draining, exhausting, and heartrending. There are a lot of tears. …  The only way I can do an abortion is to consider only the woman as my patient and block out the baby.**
We have produced an unusual dilemma. A procedure is rapidly becoming recognized as the procedure of choice in late abortion, but those capable of performing or assisting with the procedure are having strong personal reservations about participating in an operation which they view as destructive and violent…We have reached a point in this particular technology where there is no possibility of denial of an act of destruction by the operator. It is before one’s eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like electric current…***
Is it really that surprising that once people get used to working in an abortion clinic, once they can get accustomed to dismembering a living fetus at 12, 16, 20 weeks, people can become accustomed to "snipping" the spine of a live-born infant at 22, 24, 26 weeks? If wrenching the arms off a wriggling fetus while monitoring its heartbeat on an ultrasound machine is just a form of health care, how wrong can it be to do a quick "snip" to a tiny baby's neck?

It struck me that our tolerance of widespread abortion as a society has been a gigantic Milgram experiment. The majority of Americans indicate moral opposition to abortion -- with even 22% of self-identified "pro-choice" Americans consider abortion wrong most of the time. Yet we tolerate it, defend it, practice it, submit to it. Is it really because we believe it's not wrong? Or is it because the designated experts insist that it's necessary? The doctors, the counselors, the women themselves, all morally revolted by the act itself, but participating anyway. Why? well, as Milgram said:
Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.
In the Milgram experiment, it was Stanley Milgram telling the subjects to violate their own sense of right and wrong. For Gosnell's employees, it was their boss. Who is it telling the ordinary abortionists to do what they do? And why? And why do we tolerate it?

We need to awaken this country to the reality of what is done behind closed doors in the name of "reproductive health care." A contribution to will help to make a TV movie about Gosnell's crimes and present the story to the maximum number of people.

Funding need not set you back any more than $1 -- less than the cost of a cup of coffee or a bottle of water. 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 wake up a sleeping nation.

For more about why it's vital that this movie be made, read:
* Goldsmith, et. al.; "2nd Trimester Abortion by Dilation and Extraction (D&E): Surgical Techniques and Psychological Reactions.", Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Planned Parenthood Physicians in Atlanta, Georgia, 13 – 14. October 1977
** John Pekkanen. M.D.: Doctors Talk About Themselves (Delcorte Press: New York, 1988)
*** Dr. Warren Hern, “Meeting of American Association of Planned Parenthood Physicians” OB GYN News, page 196

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