Voices
Krieg Barrie

One monster among many

Abortion | Demonization was surprisingly difficult at the Kermit Gosnell trial

Issue: "Boy Scout dilemma," May 18, 2013

As I say goodbye to the Kermit Gosnell murder trial and take my life back, I would like to disentangle the layers of challenges I saw running concurrently throughout the weeks of my voluntary sequester at Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center. 

First the prosecution. Its challenge was to demonize Gosnell. You might think that isn’t hard, considering the man has (1) killed countless babies through abortion; (2) dismembered them in utero and sucked out their brains; (3) made no attempt to save babies accidentally born alive; (4) disposed of dead babies in a disgusting manner; (5) lost a woman on the operating table.

The problem for the prosecution was that its star witness, Dr. Karen Feisullin, has (1) killed countless babies through abortion; (2) dismembered them in utero and sucked out their brains (she called it a D&E); (3) made no attempt to save babies accidentally born alive (she covers them with a cloth and calls it “comfort care”); (4) disposed of dead babies in a disgusting manner. (I don’t know about No. 5. How does the typical hospital track record of patients lost compare to Gosnell’s one in 30 years?) 

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It was essential for the prosecution that the jurors never connect these dots. They must visualize a solid black line between Gosnell and the Feisullins of this nation. This has required a carefully choreographed dance in which the name of the tune is “legality.” It must be proved that Feisullin operates within the law while Gosnell is an outlaw. A refined sensibility that sees no moral difference between killing at 24 weeks (legal) and at 25 weeks (illegal) of gestation (assessments are never exact anyway) and between baby feet stored in a jar for rape victims and babies tossed into “hospital waste” must be discouraged.

The pro-choice media had their own challenge. They had to justify to themselves being no-shows at a trial that contained all the ingredients they usually salivate over—murder, race, lack of government regulation, the plight of disadvantaged women. Gosnell is actually one of their own—an abortion-rights champion. In another time, in another place, they would have made him a hero: “African-American doctor forgoes big salaries to serve the underserved of the inner city.” But instead they had to cut him loose because he had become a liability. He drew the spotlight on details that should never see the sun. Like the evil Caiaphas said to the religious leaders: “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:49-50). 

The pro-life faction had its own demonization dilemma. I sometimes sat next to a pro-life representative from Delaware. He went up to the prosecutor during break and told him they were rooting for him in his state. I said nothing but was thinking to myself that I couldn’t do that—couldn’t go up and encourage a man who is doing his level best to draw sharp contrasts rather than similarities (as the defense is) between business-as-usual abortion and Gosnell. 

Yours truly had her own challenges. Oddly enough, I found I had to de-sensationalize the Gosnell case, and then sensationalize it again. I would come home and read pro-life hypes talking up the “house of horrors” angle, and remind myself of the more complicated impressions I was gleaning in the daily disclosures of the courtroom. Then, having mentally restored proportions, I had to remind myself that just because Gosnell is not the only monster in the room does not mean he is any less a monster.

Besides watching the trial I was watching a reporter for a major magazine, and his evolutions. He started out a self-described “pro-choice anti-abortion” guy. The “anti-abortion” part was strengthened by the fact (Ah, the wisdom of God!) that he and his wife have two adorable 9-month-old twin boys. A few days in, S. told me the trial was “doing a number” on him. I knew his imageness of God was coming through. The magazine is giving him 10,000 words, he told me gleefully one day. Days later he said, “They’re letting me do it first person.” He added: “That’s where I’ll get myself in trouble.” 

Pray that the young man follows the light.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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