The Atlantic: Gosnell Horror Has Nothing To Do With Abortion.


In part of an effort to explain why the general non-coverage of the Kermit Gosnell trial is totes okay, Dashiell Bennett, writing at The Atlantic, insists that what Gosnell did has nothing to do with abortion. No, really:

Gosnell isn’t on trial for conducting abortions. He’s on trial precisely because what he did went beyond all legal definitions of abortion, and into the realm of murder. (He also killed one of his adult patients, committed numerous safety and health code violations, and is charged with several drug-related crimes.) Pro-choice or pro-life, there is no question that his actions would constitute a horrific crime that should be duly punished.

Legal definitions? Bennett should note, those of us making an issue of this are not horrified because Gosnell broke the letter of the law with regard to abortion (or murder), health standards, and drug violations. We’re horrified because he was snipping just-delivered babies’ spinal cords with scissors. The filth and jars of feet and remains and drug violations are disgusting, of course, but they are not as naturally abhorrent* as snipping a live baby’s spinal cord with scissors. Can Bennett agree with that?

A baby at twelve weeks. That is a really well-defined "lump of cells," no?

A baby at twelve weeks. That is a really well-defined “lump of cells,” no?

As for the distinction between abortion and murder, I don’t think that angle helps Bennett either.

I’ll bet if you ask Gosnell he would have no misgivings about what he was doing: abortions later than the arbitrary line of the law technically allowed. Who likes to admit that they’re murdering children? Surely not someone who is merely providing a service some women desire and are willing to pay for. And whether what we was doing was, by the legal definition, murder or an abortion probably would not matter much to him—he probably realizes, rightly, that the location-based distinction (is the baby still at least partially in the birth canal?) between murder and abortion is ridiculous. Bennett does not want to admit that.

I’ll bet if you ask Barack Obama he would have some mealy-mouthed thing to say that would include a lot of “uhs,” and “let-me-be-clears,” and perhaps another “that’s above my paygrade,” but the record shows that Barack Obama, while a state senator, personally blocked the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act.” If you’re not familiar, it would mean that a baby born during a botched abortion had a right to live and could not be set aside to die. Or worse, intentionally smothered with a pillow, or have its spinal cord snipped with scissors. That means that what Gosnell did, while perhaps in a cleaner environment and done to younger babies, was protected from criminalization by Barack Obama. Bennett probably does not want to admit the connection.

I’ll bet if George Tiller were still around he would have a hard time making a real distinction between what Gosnell did and what he would do. For a refresher, Tiller made lots of money delivering babies feet first to the neck, leaving the head still in the birth canal, then stabbing them below the base of the skull, jamming a suction tube up into the child’s cranium, sucking out the contents (brains, eyes, etc.), and removing the now-crushed skull. Again, while the head of the infant was still inside the mother, how is this different from what Gosnell did? Bennett is hung up on legal definitions here.

Bennett allows that even pro-choicers think his actions constitute a “horrific crime that should be duly punished.” Why? Why this if not those? Would it have been less horrific if the place were clean and sterile and the babies were younger? Would it have been less horrific if no mothers had died and drugs were administered properly?


* Reference here.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Tom Crowe is a cradle Catholic with a deep love for and commitment to Holy Mother the Church, colored by a rather interesting life-long relationship with her. Born during the great liturgical upheaval of the 1970s, Crowe was brought up in a parish that continued using the Missal of 1962—the Traditional Latin Mass—for which he developed a love. Crowe learned the faith as a child from the Baltimore Catechism, and didn’t stop learning and wrestling with the Church’s teachings at his Confirmation. Through reading and many conversations with friends and converts far smarter than he, Crowe came to know, accept, and love the Church and what she proposes far more intimately. For three years these conversation took place in seminary before Crowe, with the blessing of the formation team, determined that seminary was not right for him. In the wild and humorous ways of God, Crowe landed on his feet in Steubenville, Ohio, where he manages the online presence for Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he also trains altar servers and is the head master of ceremonies for the Mass in the Extraordinary Form on campus.

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