Inside the mind of abortionist and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell: Part Four of Four

By Dave Andrusko

Gosnell84There are two reasons for today’s Part Four devoted to what was revealed (and hidden) by an investigation into abortionist and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. There was more to ponder, and I wanted to see what others outside the pro-life orbit would say about Steve Volk’s story for “Philadelphia” magazine which he turned into a small e-book.

Slate’s Amanda Marcotte, as pro-abortion as they get, makes two astute observations. She rightly notes that there is not a lot new in Volk’s oddly titled piece “Kermit Gosnell’s Babies” and that Volk is trying desperately hard to make Gosnell’s conviction on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter symbolic of some larger political importance. (There were politics involved—pro-abortion politics.)

As you would expect, Marcotte misses/avoids all the specifics that makes Gosnell so shocking and reprehensible. She chooses instead to burnish the credentials of the “reputable abortion community” which, she says, Volk failed to mention “rejected Gosnell.” That “reputable” pro-abortionists shielded Gosnell for at least 17 years goes unmentioned.

And, as I anticipated, those that did mention Volk’s piece still don’t get what the case was about. Take CNN’s Jake Tapper. He intones that “Kermit Gosnell was called a monster for what he did, and how he did it–ending the lives of fetuses past the legal limit in Pennsylvania.” True, he did abort babies past the legal limit in Pennsylvania (a limit which Volk makes clear Gosnell felt only contempt for). However what earned his three consecutive life sentences was not that he aborted past 24 weeks but rather that he aborted babies (not “fetuses”) alive and then murdered them by slitting their spinal cords.

But Tapper (assisted by Jessica Metzger) does observe in passing

“There is also an incredibly fascinating antidote [anecdote] about Gosnell fleeing the country in 1972, after taking part in a horrific abortion experiment.”

That part of the story is an antidote to anyone who persuades themselves that pro-lifers are to blame for the politics behind Gosnell’s “House of Horrors.” The truth is that pro-abortionists did not want “access” limited, so they simply looked the other way or refused to investigate clear evidence that the Women’s Medical Society was a hell-hole, including the death of Semika Shaw in March 2000. And that directive came directly from the governor’s office, as the Philadelphia Grand Jury report made clear.

The antidote/anecdote speaks volumes about Gosnell. (For a full explanation, see “Abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s ‘Mother’s Day Massacre.’”

In 1972 he participated in a hideous experiment on unsuspecting women in their second trimester that to this day is almost beyond belief. According to the Grand Jury, Gosnell used an experimental device called a super coil [“basically plastic razors that were formed into a ball”] “developed by a California man named Harvey Karman, who had run an underground abortion service in the 1950s.” But instead of “only” slicing the unborn baby, it also tore up the women’s insides. The Grand Jury wrote

“The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health subsequently did an investigation that detailed serious complications suffered by nine of the 15 women, including one who needed a hysterectomy.

“The complications included a punctured uterus, hemorrhage, infections, and retained fetal remains .The CDC researchers recommended strict controls on any future testing of the device.”

Not only does this tell us all we need to know about Gosnell’s attitude towards his patients, what Volk says next reminds us that even in the 1970s Gosnell was not particularly worried about prosecution:

“Gosnell fled to the Bahamas [for a year], reasoning that if Pennsylvania’s board of medicine failed to take action in his absence, he might return to find his license still valid.”

Which proved to be the case then, and later, as the abuses piled up.

Volk elaborates on the tack taken by the headline writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He/she labeled David Gambacorta’s 2010 interview with Gosnell–“DOCTOR FROM HELL . . . OR GODSEND?”

Volk keeps trying to emphasize how to parts of the community Gosnell remains a hero—“The Good Doctor.” He is never able to explain why Gosnell’s career “bifurcated” when he came back from the Bahamas:

“His return to the States within a year, and eventually to Philadelphia begins a narrative that splits in two, with one track spanning a life of routine good deeds and another leading to indictments encompassing more than 200 criminal deeds.”

Volk rejects the prosecution’s argument: greed. Gosnell made $1.8 million a year and had properties galore. But since Gosnell lived in unimaginable squalor and left many purchases unopened, that convinces Volk it must be something else.

Volk offers his own bevy of explanations which begins with Gosnell’s insistence that he was looking for more “merciful” ways to abort. His staff said Gosnell stopped using Digoxin to attempt to kill the child in utero, because he was so incompetent. Gosnell denies he stopped. Why is that important to Gosnell?

“He said he’d never actually seen a baby move, beyond a ‘reflex’ when the scissors snipped the spinal cord. He snipped the necks of dead babies, he claimed, merely to prevent any possible pain reception—as if dead babies feel any pain at all.”

Volk chases him down but Gosnell continues to bob and weave.

“I pressed him on this, explaining that it simply didn’t seem credible for a medical doctor to be worrying about the pain experienced by a fetus he felt sure was dead. …He could never explain himself. And his answers seemed carefully couched: ‘I never saw anything I took as fetal movement.’”

The piece comes to a preliminary climax when Volk provides Gosnell with a rational for what he had done in a direct and more eloquent way than Gosnell could articulate. In an email, Gosnell tells him, in effect, you got it, buddy. Volk tells us

“I stared at that email for a long time, because as near as I could figure it, Kermit Gosnell was on the verge of confessing. He used unlicensed, unqualified staff, leading directly to the death of Karnamaya Mongar, because he simply didn’t respect state regulations. He judged the length of pregnancy of the women who walked into his office not on strictly medical terms, but based on his own ethical judgment: If my daughter were in these circumstances, would I want her to have access to an abortion? And finally, according to staff members, babies did—by the operative legal definition—show signs of life at 3801 Lancaster. Then Kermit Barron Gosnell, presiding, stabbed them in the back of the neck with scissors. Only in his mind, because he had injected them with Digoxin, they were going to die anyway. To him, their weak movements weren’t signs of life; they were signs of how close death stood.” …

“’Dr. Gosnell,’ I told him, ‘you’ve admitted, on all the major charges, you’re guilty.’

“He was quiet for a long time before saying in a slow, weary voice: ‘No, I’m innocent.’

So what is Volk’s own “explanation” for how Gosnell could do what he did (and implicitly, live with himself)? First, we read Gosnell’s all-purpose excuse.

“In an ideal world,” he responded, “We’d have no need for abortion. But bringing a child into the world when it cannot be provided for, that there are not sufficient systems to support, is a greater sin. I consider myself to be in a war against poverty, and I feel comfortable with the things I did and the decisions I made.”

This prompts Volk to write

“Suddenly, the central mystery of Gosnell—How could he kill those babies?–had an answer: In his mind they were casualties of that larger war; their blooming and birthing and the suffering they would experience and cause represent a greater harm, a bigger sin, than pruning them away.”

In other words, “in his own mind,” all the ghastly things Gosnell had done (“the lies to his staff, the babies he killed, the bogus ultrasound measurements and unsafe, unsanitary conditions”) were “forgiven: The situational ethics demanded of a man at war.”

Talk about a cop-out.

One final thought. You KNEW there had to be a kind of moral equivalency lurking somewhere in the piece. We would be told that, ethically, in some way, Gosnell and pro-lifers had been separated at birth. But how?

Gosnell insists he was and is a Christian (now that he is in prison he’s taken up studying the Bible for the first time, we’re told). And Volk takes Gosnell’s reference to “sin” as evidence he has a kind of religiosity.

Blend that half-baked religiosity with a faith–so to speak–in “situational ethics” (earlier Gosnell told Volk, “I am a big believer in situational ethics”), mix it with an overweening “sense of righteousness” and, voila, you get the religiosity that, Volk argues, “We normally think of …as the province of the pro-life movement.”

Oh.

Gosnell made his peace with what he was doing a long time ago–long before the woman who started coming into his abortion clinic were much further along in their pregnancies. His “bifurcation”—practically Dr. Welby to some members of his community for his care during the day and a moral monster at night—is straight out of Robert Lewis Stevenson.

He could be a soldier in the war on poverty and make money hand over fist off of poor women of color by performing, according to Volk, up to 25 second trimester abortions on “any given Tuesday” (or Wednesday or Thursday). As the women got bigger Gosnell just adjusted the ultrasound results so that they were always close to the legal limit of 24 weeks.

Gosnell has such contempt for the law on abortion (and murder) that he has to blame “religion and politics” for his trial.

“I have come to believe that the presumption of guilt was compounded by religious convictions,’ Gosnell said. … ‘Were you aware that Seth [Williams, Philadelphia’s district attorney] was an altar boy? Did you know of the strong Catholic presence in the homicide division?””

His attorney, Jack McMahon, feeds into Gosnell’s enormous ego and sense of persecution.

“Relatively well-off law-enforcement personnel, he said, with no experience of abortion clinics could not have been prepared for what they would see.”

What did these “relatively well-off law-enforcement personnel” see? Here’s what former employees Latosha Lewis and Kareema Cross told the Grand Jury.

“They described the odor that struck one immediately upon entering – a mix of smells emanating from the cloudy fish tank where the turtles were fed crushed clams and baby formula; and from boxes of medical waste that sat around for weeks at a time, leaking blood, whenever Gosnell failed to pay the bill to the disposal company. They described blood-splattered floors, and blood-stained chairs in which patients waited for and then recovered from abortions. Even the stirrups on the procedure table were often caked with dried blood that was not cleaned off between procedures. There were cat feces and hair throughout the facility, including in the two procedure rooms. Gosnell, they said, kept two cats at the facility (until one died) and let them roam freely.

“The cats not only defecated everywhere, they were infested with fleas. They slept on beds in the facility when patients were not using them.”

But that was only the physical setting. When officers raided the clinic, they found half-naked, drug-stupored women in various stages of delivery of huge babies, all of whom were (un)attended by untrained, unsupervised staff dispensing powerful drugs for which they had no medical training. It was straight out of Dante’s Inferno.

Gosnell was not a “rogue” (the favorite term pro-abortionists use to distance themselves from Gosnell). My guess is that, over time, we will find there are more just like him—minus the lice and dead cats.

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