The trial of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell over crimes committed at his “house of horrors” in Philadelphia highlighted how the abortionist made post-birth infanticide a key part of his late-term abortion business. But many people in the pro-life movement say Gosnell is not an outlier, but a representative of the abortion industry’s brutal practices.
In a May 13 decision, a Philadelphia jury found him guilty of three counts of first-degree murder for killing newborns at his Women’s Medical Society facility. He also was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Karnamaya Mongar during an abortion. He faced more than 250 charges related to violating Pennsylvania’s abortion laws. On May 14, Gosnell agreed not to appeal the verdict but to accept life in prison without parole in exchange for avoiding a possible death penalty sentence.
“The greatest tragedy is that Kermit Gosnell is not alone,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement after the verdict was handed down. “Exploitation of women and complete disregard for their health and well-being are problems endemic to the entire abortion industry. There are numerous examples of negligence and even death in abortion facilities across the country.”
The abortionist’s practice of “snipping” the spinal cords of infants born alive as part of his abortion procedure may sound shocking, but killing infants who survive late-term abortions is a practice with a long history in the abortion industry, say pro-life advocates.
“They’re shocking, but they are not surprising to people in the mainstream pro-life movement,” Olivia Gans, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life, told Our Sunday Visitor.
A 10-part series written by Sarah Terzo, a member of Secular Pro-Life and Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians, details how, since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in 1973, late-term abortionists resorted to drowning, strangling or smothering surviving newborns, or letting them die without receiving lifesaving medical attention given to other premature newborns. In most of these infanticide cases, the abortionists were either never prosecuted or never convicted.
“The desire of people in the abortion industry — its staffers, owners and operators — is ‘stay out of our business, let us do as we please.’ That mentality leads to the unregulated industry we have in this country,” Gans said. “The mythology is that they’ll self-regulate, and that is not what happens.”
New videos released by the undercover pro-life investigation movement Live Action confirm a culture of post-birth infanticide in clinics, when late-term abortionists fail to kill the infant in the womb.
“This investigation reveals that Gosnell is not alone,” Lila Rose, president of Live Action, told OSV. “The atrocities that he committed are being committed at abortion facilities across the country to children both inside and outside of the womb.”
In one video, Washington, D.C., abortion doctor Cesare Santangelo reveals that his technique involves severing the baby’s umbilical cord in the womb, in order to suffocate the child before delivering him or her. Santangelo admitted that “technically” if the baby were born alive “legally we would be obligated to help it,” but told the investigator that he wouldn’t take any steps to save the child.
Another video shows a counselor at Dr. Emily Woman’s Health Center in Bronx, N.Y., assuring the investigator that if she gives birth before the late-term abortion is complete that they will put the baby “in a container — like, a jar” filled with a toxic solution.
Another late-term abortionist, Laura Mercer in Phoenix, Ariz., is caught on camera by Live Action counseling the investigator not to call an ambulance if she goes into labor before the abortion is finished, because an emergency room doctor would treat her as “somebody with a desired pregnancy” and attempt to take care of the unborn child.
Rose said Live Action’s investigation was “years in the making” and involved three different investigators, all between 22-26 weeks pregnant.
“What we are seeing in several of these cases are direct admissions from abortionists themselves describing how they would kill children that survive a late-term abortion attempt or that they would leave them alone to die without offering them any medical care.”
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have launched their own probes into these potential violations of the 2002 Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA), a federal law meant to guarantee that infants who survive an abortion attempt receive the same lifesaving care as an infant born prematurely under other circumstances. The House Judiciary Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee have requested that state agencies inform them as to how they make sure abortion facilities comply with the BAIPA and prosecute violations.
Gans said that Virginia and other states have tightened regulations on the abortion industry by imposing standards of care otherwise universal in the medical industry. But enforcement always depends on state officials having the determination to apply the law.
“We have to address what is happening in our culture that is allowing individuals in authority to look the other way,” she said. “Everybody in authority in Pennsylvania, including two governors, looked the other way [from Gosnell’s clinic].”
Gans said one of the best laws to help prevent the infanticide of survivors of late-term abortion is to pass Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts in U.S. states. The law, which has been enacted in nine states, bans abortion on the basis of an unborn child’s capability to feel pain in the womb, which modern medical consensus currently pegs at 20 weeks.
“That law would make it physically impossible for late-term abortionists like Gosnell to exist,” she said.
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, told OSV that Gosnell is not alone in the abortion industry in his practice of keeping “trophies” of aborted babies. He said that “hundreds of Gosnells” in the abortion industry have to dehumanize their victims as part of the “human psyche’s need to protect itself.”
“Former workers in the abortion industry have told us stories about playing games of toss with aborted babies in the hallway,” he said. “Your mind has to invert what is going on: to make it a game, a joke, something positive. It’s the only way to keep from going crazy — and some of them do.”
Father Pavone said Americans during the 1990s initially resisted the horror that late-term abortionists would partially deliver a baby just to kill it with scissors, before turning against partial-birth abortion.
“We are at a point where more and more people are opening their eyes,” he said. “I believe it can be done through the churches, through parents educating their children in the home. It takes people to have the courage to face abortion for what it is.”
Peter Jesserer Smith writes from New York.