I'm not claiming to be an expert on any of this but I do want to add some of my thoughts surrounding this case and I would love to hear what others think about it too.
“Dr. Kermit Gosnell is not the monster the media is making him out to be” these were the words of his defense attorney after he was sentenced to three consecutive life sentences for the murder of three babies and death of a woman who had attended his notorious abortion clinic on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia, PA. Strangely enough, I agree. If you aren't familiar with the case here is a non-biased link which sums it up pretty well http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kermit_Gosnell
When this case first surfaced a few years ago I would have agreed with anyone who called him a monster. I remember the horror and disgust I felt at the descriptions in the news of the filthy and deplorable condition of his office when they shut it down. I remember cradling my new daughter’s head in my hands and cringing at the thought of a baby’s spinal cord being cut by scissors as “procedure”. A good friend of mine called me just as I had absorbed a huge dose of information about this case and I began to spew out the details and my emotional reactions. I was expecting affirmation of all I said but instead my friend listened to my tirade in polite silence. Then she told me that she was also very upset about the same news but for different reasons. She knew the man, not the monster. She had gone to school with his kids, she told me of a woman that we both knew and respected who had been going to him as her gynecologist for decades. Our friend trusted him and admired him as a doctor who was reaching out to care for the young, poor, black, and underserved women of Philadelphia. She was so upset at the way the media was making him out to be a heartless beast. Suddenly this monster in my mind was a friend of a friend, a person whose good intentions had gone severely askew; but a person, nonetheless. As furious as I am about his actions, demonizing this man does nothing to promote life or diminish the continuing tragedy of abortion.
The question of personhood is central to much of the talk surrounding abortion. Though he did not testify in court, it is clear in his plea of innocence that Dr. Gosnell believes viable fetuses to be non-persons. That belief allowed him to objectify children that could survive outside of the womb as tissue to be extracted not people killed. A brief look at world history reveals that the ability to see people as less than human paves the way for genocide. It is not murder because they are not people. Labeling criminals as “monsters” also strips them of their humanity. If we want a society that recognizes that personhood has a clear beginning at conception then we must maintain the belief that personhood continues throughout one’s entire life.
I called this friend yesterday to see what she thought about the outcome of Dr. Gosnell’s trial. She was relieved that he did not receive the death penalty, and also relieved that the trial had not been as sensationalized by the media as it could have been. She also no longer held any illusions about him as a misunderstood champion for the poor. What we both found most distressing was that his irresponsible actions had gone unchecked for decades.
I could not help but wonder if authorities would have intervened sooner had the majority of his victims been white. Did is earlier reputation as “the people’s doctor” blind people to the atrocities that he was carrying out? The fact that authorities turned a blind eye on the countless reports of abuse and negligence seems to affirm that the scourge of racism is felt even by the unborn. I am actually not advocating that abortion be made illegal and thus return women to dangerous back alley abortion clinics much like Dr. Gosnell’s. I am urging people on both sides of the debate to consider the fact that African-American children are the primary victims and that they seem to be valued as less than human by our society even before they are born. Though you may not agree with this whole website the data in the following link helps to make this point more clear. http://www.abort73.com/abortion/abortion_and_race/
We live in a sick and violent society. Dr. Gosnells’s clinic revealed symptoms of much deeper problems in our community. It is good that his clinic is closed and that he will no longer be able to hurt women and children. But it is foolish to believe that now that this “monster” is out of work that this problem is solved. The fact that women still sought out and paid money for his services despite the awful conditions reveal deep seated problems that still exist. If we want to change our society we need to hold individuals to account for their actions, while still respecting their humanity and also seek to transform the forces that are still producing such a high demand for abortions.