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Gosnell Not as Unique as We Thought

Throughout the discussion about the crimes of Kermit Gosnell we were repeatedly assured that the atrocities that took place in his clinic were exceptional and should in no way be imputed to other providers of abortion services. This is a tenet of faith for those seeking to defend abortion rights since they seem to fear that any attention focused on late-term abortions impacts the discussion about the legality of the procedure under any circumstances. But if Gosnell is not quite the outlier that some have tried to argue that he is, then the nation may have to confront the fact that what went on in West Philadelphia isn’t the only place where infants were slaughtered as the result of botched abortions.

Thus, the news today that another such case may be about to surface in Texas may realize the worst fears of both sides in the abortion debate.

As the American Spectator notes (they cite a Houston Chronicle story that is difficult to find on its website), former employees of a Houston clinic are claiming that babies were routinely killed in the same fashion as the ones Gosnell was convicted of murdering: by snipping their spinal cords. Like the testimony in the Philadelphia case, reading this account is not for those with weak stomachs. The details of fully formed infants being mutilated in this manner are horrifying. While those implicated are entitled to a presumption of innocence and we should wait until police complete their investigation, these new hair-raising allegations should cause enforcement officials and health care inspectors, not to mention the rest of us, to wonder just how common such activities really are.

One needn’t support the pro-life side of the abortion debate to understand that Gosnell may have changed the nature of the national conversation at least as far as late-term abortions are concerned. Advances in medical science since Roe v. Wade was decided have made it more difficult to act as if a fetus in the sixth, seventh or eighth month is merely a clump of cells rather than a human being who can survive outside the womb. If clinics are performing late-term abortions, including in states like Pennsylvania where they have long been illegal, it is because the health care industry and regulators have largely turned a blind eye to the possibility that Gosnells exist.

If the Houston case proves to be another trip into the nightmare world of the Gosnell case, then it will be a signal that complacence about such abuses must end. As long as we can pretend that Gosnell was a singular monster rather than a product of a culture that considered such infants, whether inside the womb or out of it, as a problem that needed to be fixed by snipping their spines or tearing them to pieces, then we needn’t be haunted by the possibility that more such cases are lurking below the surface of our national consciousness.

We know that women that resort to butchers like Gosnell or others who behave in the same fashion because they are desperate. We also know the children who survive the ordeal of botched abortions have the odds stacked against them, both medically and in terms of what is most likely a life of deprivation. But that is no excuse for refusing to protect them. If we are a civilized society, the thought that there are more Gosnells out there—something that seems more likely than not in the wake of the news about the Houston case—should motivate all of us, no matter where we stand on Roe, to speak out and act to ensure such persons are prevented from killing any more infants.


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