This past Saturday marked four years since the infamous late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three counts of murder, one count of involuntary manslaughter, and numerous lesser charges. Several days after he was found guilty, Gosnell was given two life sentences. In his wake, Gosnell left innumerable lives cut tragically short or terribly damaged.
The saga of Kermit Gosnell shocked and disturbed the nation. No one was prepared for the level of depravity that was revealed following the Drug Enforcement Administration raid on Gosnell’s clinic in 2010 or the release of the Grand Jury report in 2011, which exposed — in horrifying detail — the extreme barbarism that took place at the Women’s Medical Society clinic in Philadelphia.
As the evidence in this case stacked up, it became increasingly clear that these crimes, of almost incomprehensible cruelty, should never have been allowed to happen. In addition to the killing of human beings (both born and unborn), the other events that took place at the clinic were inhumane and deeply disturbing. Jars of fetal remains lined the walls. The incredibly unsanitary conditions had resulted in the spread of infection among patients. Essential medical equipment was broken and emergency exits had been padlocked shut. All these things could have been prevented.
Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams later described the condition of the clinic: “My comprehension of the English language can’t adequately describe the barbaric nature of Dr. Gosnell … Pennsylvania is not a third-world country … There were several oversight agencies that stumbled upon and should have shut down Kermit Gosnell long ago.” Bags and bottles of aborted fetuses “were scattered throughout the building … There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he kept for no medical purpose.”
One of those agencies was the National Abortion Federation. The Grand Jury report notes that an NAF evaluator found Gosnell’s facility to be “beyond redemption.” His membership application was denied – but NAF never reported Gosnell to anyone else.
The revelation that this savagery had been taking place in a major American city and had been ignored by the authorities should have served as a serious wake up call to everyone, including those who consider themselves pro-choice. For everyone who opposes violence against women, this should have been eye-opening. For everyone who claims to support women’s rights, this should have been a pivotal moment.
The conviction of Kermit Gosnell was an opportunity to implement common-sense abortion reforms that should have been supported by everyone, pro-life or pro-choice. Sensible reforms including the institution of clinic regulations and published inspection reports — which could have saved numerous women at Gosnell’s clinic from physical harm, serious infection, and degrading treatment — would have gone a long way to demonstrate that women’s lives matter more than the agenda of the abortion industry. Additionally, a ban on dangerous late-term abortions, which Gosnell specialized in, would bring the United States in step with the rest of the civilized world.
However, rather than adopt such sensible policies to protect women and, hopefully, prevent another tragedy like Gosnell, the abortion lobby dug in their heels. They rejected reform and, instead, fought tooth and nail to advance abortion extremism on all fronts. They have fought clinic regulations in multiple states (abortion supporters even tried to repeal the clinic regulations in Pennsylvania, which were put in place due to the Gosnell scandal). They have defended Planned Parenthood, an organization that has been referred for potential criminal prosecution for selling the organs and body parts of aborted babies. They have fought for the right to abortion late in pregnancy, when unborn children are capable of feeling pain and begin to respond to their mother’s voice.
The Gosnell case was indeed a pivotal moment. Not only did it allow the public a rare glimpse of the reality of abortion, but it also revealed the true colors of the abortion lobby. While their rhetoric claims that they care about women, their actions have shown that they are more interested in the abortion industry’s bottom line.
We can hope that we have gained the wisdom from this experience to fight to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again. Four years after this horrific case, it is time to protect women and unborn babies. In fact, it is long overdue.
Nora Sullivan is Research Director at the Life Institute in Dublin, Ireland and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Affairs from University College Dublin and has extensive experience in pro-life research and policy work.