Monday afternoon, the pro-life movement experienced one of those moments that live long in memory, like the Kennedy assassination or the Challenger disaster. I’ll remember being at my desk compiling facts on fetal development for a PowerPoint presentation as I awaited the Gosnell verdict:
• Did you know the human embryo has brainwaves by week 6, day 2?
• That by 8 weeks, he or she has racked up 7.39 million heartbeats?
• That babies killed at 24+ weeks – as in Gosnell’s clinic – feel pain?
At about 3:00 p.m., a flurry of Twitter and Facebook posts indicated a verdict was imminent. An hour later we knew Kermit Gosnell had been found guilty of most of the 263 counts against him, including three charges of murder in the first degree. Those charges related to babies who died when their spinal cords were severed after being aborted alive.
Relief and joy were some of the immediate reactions, at least within the pro-life community. Word was that one of the prosecutors in the case had sobbed as the months-long trial drew to a close. A mountain of evidence could not guarantee conviction. Because the case involved one of the most contentious issues of our day, nothing could be taken for granted. So we thank the jury for their long, careful deliberation.
Aside from the sense that justice has been served, does the verdict solve anything?
Much remains to be seen. Time will tell whether this chink in the armor will prove fatal to the “pro-choice” cause. Will our side be able to press the point that any abortion – at any stage, for any reason – is as heinous as what occurred in the “house of horrors”?
It’s not a good sign that, two weeks before the verdict, the Journal of Medical Ethics (May 2013, Volume 39, Issue 5) devoted an entire issue to “after birth” abortions, a topic that stirred controversy last year. This time all sorts of bioethicists weighed in, including Princeton’s Peter Singer, who is famous for advocating infanticide. Will they succeed in equating newborns with the unborn (or with “higher” animals)? How far are we down the slope toward justifying Gosnell-style infanticide?
A good sign is that, the day of the verdict, two more abortion clinics closed. A Preferred Women’s Health Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, closed at the request of the state’s health department, who cited several health and safety violations. Their report concluded clients were in “imminent danger” if the clinic remained open.
Michigan saw its seventh abortion clinic close since last September. The Birth Control Center in Sterling Heights apparently could not comply with new licensing standards established by the state legislature late last year.
The end of Gosnell’s career represents a trend owing to the diligence of activist groups like Operation Rescue that shine an unflinching spotlight on abortionists. We haven’t won until every abortion provider is out of business but, for the moment, we savor this victory.