Gosnell Not An Abberation

Original Article

Some have taken cold comfort in the hope that late term abortion/infanticide is an aberration. But that isn’t necessarily so, either in practice, or more particularly, in advocacy. Indeed, the idea that it is ethical to kill newborns—whether after a botched abortion or after normal birth—has been gaining traction for many years.

Nor is the Gosnell trial the first case of alleged killings of babies born alive after an attempted abortion. In 2003, a woman named Sycloria Williams discovered she was pregnant at about 23 weeks. She decided to abort and the abortionist, Pierre Jean-Jacques Renelique, gave her drugs to induce premature labor.

When her contractions began, she went to the abortion clinic, but Renelique wasn’t there to kill the fetus. Before he could arrive, her baby girl was born alive. A clinic co-owner named Belkis Gonzalez, entered the room. cut the baby’s umbilical cord, and placed the live baby, placenta and afterbirth in a medical waste bag. Staff at the clinic did not call 911 or seek medical assistance for Williams or the baby, the subsequent lawsuit [by Williams] said. Police were notified of the incident by an anonymous caller, and her corpse was later discovered in a clinic closet.

Because Renelique wasn’t present, he only lost his medical license in Florida. Because the autopsy couldn’t state categorically that the baby died because of negligence, Gonzales eventually pled guilty to practicing medicine without a license, receiving five years-probation.

The murdered, Dr. George Tiller, became infamous for performing very late-term abortions in Kansas. Under Kansas law, before abortions can be performed post viability, the abortionist must obtain a second medical opinion as to the reasons for the abortion and mental health status of the mother. Tiller’s friend, Dr Ann Kristin Neuhause, often provided the required second opinion—or perhaps better stated, the rubber stamps. In 2012 she lost her license to practice medicine “for performing inadequate mental health evaluations on 11 patients, ages 10 to 18, who had late-term abortions at Tiller’s clinic from July to November 2003.”

Many among the pro-choice community support a right to late term abortion, and indeed, some even refuse to say that babies born alive during an abortion should be treated medically like any other infant. Most recently, a lobbyist for the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates named Alisa Laport Snow made headlines when she testified before a committee considering state legislation to require treatment of babies that survive abortion. Asked by Representative Jim Boyd,”If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?” she replied,”We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician.”

Planned Parenthood later “clarified” its position, stating that such children should be treated. But one need not be a cynic to question the organization’s sincerity.

Meanwhile, a documentary about four late term abortionists, entitled “After Tiller,” was screened “to cheers” at the Sundance Film Festival. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “The audience gave a standing ovation for the filmmakers as well as the four featured doctors who were on hand to take questions from the audience after the film”

More famously, the President of the United States once stated he supports abortion rights through the ninth month. Even more extremely, when he was an Illinois State Senator, he voted against a born alive protection bill on the basis that it might “burden the original decision of the woman and the physician to induce labor and perform an abortion.”

Many see these cases and advocacies as shocking. I view them as merely the first forays of what may one day become legalized infanticide. Indeed, advocacy for killing newborns has achieved outright respectability. Peter Singer, as just one example, has repeatedly stated that infanticide is no different morally from late term abortions. Because of such advocacy—not in spite of it—he was appointed to the world’s most prestigious endowed chairs in bioethics at the misnamed Center for Human Values at Princeton University.

This raises a cogent question: How is what happened in Philadelphia morally different from what Peter Singer’s “ethical” supposedly “human values” would allow? At a 2010 Princeton conference Singer explicitly said, “The position that allows [late term] abortion also allows infanticide under some circumstances…If we accept abortion, we do need to rethink some of those more fundamental attitudes about human life.

So, to answer my own question, other than technical issues of clinical procedures and sanitary methods, and absent the jars of trophy body parts found at the Gosnell clinic, I can’t think of a single reason why Singer’s values would not permit a “professionally” operated abortion/infanticide abattoir.

So would the ethics of the authors of “After Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live,” published in the Journal of Medical Ethics. As I discussed last year here at tothesource, two bioethicists supported infanticide on the basis that aborting a fetus and killing a born baby are no different morally, stating, “The position that allows abortion also allows infanticide under some circumstances. . . . If we accept abortion, we do need to rethink some of those more fundamental attitudes about human life.”

Blatant infanticide isn’t just talk in the Netherlands. Rather, it is a technically illegal but widely accepted extension of the country’s legalized euthanasia policy. Not only are Dutch doctors who kill babies rarely prosecuted, and never meaningfully punished, but in 2005 the New England Journal of Medicine—perhaps the world’s most prominent medical journal—respectfully published “The Groningen Protocol,” in its august pages.

What is the Groningen Protocol, you ask? A bureaucratic checklist published by a Dutch pediatrician by which doctors at the Groningen Medical Center determine which terminally ill or disabled babies should be euthanized.

So this is where we are: Late term terminations are part of abortion practice in the United States. Many prominent voices believe that legal abortion amounts to a right to a dead fetus—no matter how late in the pregnancy. Late term abortions, in turn, sometimes result in the killing or lethal neglect of born babies, e.g., infanticide. And infanticide is actively promoted as ethical among some of the most prominent bioethicists and in medical journals in the world, and practiced in the Netherlands without meaningful consequence.

It is tempting to dwell on these shocking events and thereby miss the bigger picture. Late term abortion and infanticide are merely the most provocative front in an all- war being waged in medical clinics and Ivory Tower publications against Judeo/Christian morality based in human exceptionalism and adherence to the principle of universal human rights. We ignore that bigger picture at our substantial moral peril.

Wesley J. Smith

Chair and Senior Fellow, Center on Human Exceptionalism
Wesley J. Smith is Chair and Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism. Wesley is a contributor to National Review and is the author of 14 books, in recent years focusing on human dignity, liberty, and equality. Wesley has been recognized as one of America’s premier public intellectuals on bioethics by National Journal and has been honored by the Human Life Foundation as a “Great Defender of Life” for his work against suicide and euthanasia. Wesley’s most recent book is Culture of Death: The Age of “Do Harm” Medicine, a warning about the dangers to patients of the modern bioethics movement.