Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Where Do We Go from Gosnell?

Abortion advocates have made considerable efforts create daylight between the issue of abortion and the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the notorious abortionist who has now been found guilty first-degree murder for the termination of babies which survived abortion attempts, including "hundreds of lesser charges ranging from infanticide to running a corrupt organization." 

The ethical slipperiness of the media in covering the case was astounding.  New York Times editor Andrew Rosenthal, for example, asked, “What does the trial of a Philadelphia doctor who is accused of performing illegal late-term abortions by inducing labor and then killing viable fetuses have to do with the debate over legal abortion?”

It is an interesting choice to refer to a live baby extracted from the womb as a “viable fetus.”  This verbiage obfuscates not only the distinction between a fetus and a baby, but also the understanding of viability versus unviability, which is, of course, the crux of the abortion debate in general.

It is ironic, therefore, for Rosenthal to suggest that the case has nothing to do with abortion by raising the very question upon which the Gosnell crimes are measured and the entire abortion debate hinges: at what point does a fetus become viable, and at what point does a fetus’ life warrant legal protection?

Gosnell understandably elicits an ethical question about late-term abortion in the minds of Americans, and other abortion advocates choose to lament this truth rather than deny it.  Michelle Goldberg of the Daily Beast, for example, admits that “late-term abortion can be problematic” because “once a fetus has gestated to five or six months, most people, whatever their politics, can see its inherent human value.” Referring to a 3D ultrasound of her son at twenty weeks gestation, she recalls, “At that stage a fetus appears quite human.  Not that I referred to him as a fetus.  I am very pro-choice, but I already referred to him as my baby.”

Even Goldberg, a staunch abortion advocate, recognized this child in her womb at twenty weeks to be just that -- a child.  And if that is true, it might stand to reason that other children in other women’s wombs at twenty weeks, wanted or unwanted, are also children worthy of protection by the law.  Nonetheless, she cannot condemn “problematic” late-term abortion outright, because the “anti-abortion movement” does not have the “solution.”  Better to continue having these children die, she offers, than bring any added attention to Gosnell or videos exposing practices at other late-term abortion clinics.

Such efforts are about protecting the institution of abortion.  The protection of children, which again, she understands exist within a mother’s womb at the very least at twenty weeks and beyond, is a secondary concern to that, especially when such a trivial number of abortions take place after twenty weeks gestation -- only 1.5%, she says.
But with abortion levels in the United States estimated at or above one million per annum, this trivial 1.5% accounts for 15,000 or more late-term abortions per year.  That is more than 15,000 children last year, now dead, at the hands of abortionists like Gosnell.  This number greatly exceeds recent annual murder levels.  Only a fraction of those murders are actually due to guns, and only a fraction of those murdered by guns are children.  Yet there couldn’t have been more scrutiny on the tragedy of those children in Newtown dying at the hands of an evil gunman to illustrate the moral imperative of gun control legislation.  How can it possibly be defended that the tragedy of those dead children at the hands of evil Gosnell is not scrutinized with the same fervor?
The Roe v. Wade decision set precedent that viability can be reasonably assumed at some undefined point of gestation after the first trimester, and that state legislation can define at what point this occurs and protect the child within the mother’s womb.  So a discussion on the matter of the legality and limits of late-term abortion is not a direct subversion of the practice of abortion, but entirely reasonable within the scope of Roe v. Wade.

Just this once, why can we not set politics aside?  The vast majority of Americans are not after the repeal of Roe v. Wade, and they do not seek to end all legal abortion practice in the United States.  The vast majority (roughly 80%) of Americans do, however, disagree with late-term abortions, and only fringe extremists support the practice of infanticide, a category to which, sadly, our president has clearly belonged

Abortion in early fetal development, emergency contraceptives, Sandra Fluke’s mean insurance company that won’t pay for her birth control -- we can continue our discussion about all of that, separate of this issue.  But can we not do the one thing that we all know that we should do, and ban the practice of any and all frivolous late-term abortions? 

It is only natural that such a horrific revelation as the Gosnell case should jolt America’s social conscience to reevaluate how we view the practice of late-term abortion in America.  If it does not, then it evidences that protecting the political golden calves of the status quo is more important than protecting that which we know to be right.

William Sullivan

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