Two Houses of Horror



A tale of two cities, Philadelphia and Cleveland dominated the news this week with the Kermit Gosnell abortion trial revelations and the decade long child abduction and recovery in Cleveland of 3 women and 1 child. While the ending in the Cleveland case is far more joyous with four live humans recovered literally from the chains of slavery, these cases share gruesome similarities and point to some tough lessons for our culture. The curtain which shrouded both these houses in mystery is now being pulled back and the gruesome details are on display for everyone to see.

The Gosnell trial recited countless examples of governmental inertia and incompetence on the part of Pennsylvania health department bureaucrats who failed to investigate complaints and conduct yearly facility health checkups. For 19 years, Gosnell’s abortion mill was never visited by a health inspector. Complaints were lodged against the clinic by women who had suffered severe complications and were admitted to the hospital as a result of Gosnell’s shoddy procedures and filthy conditions. Yet no one cared to act to protect the  victims at that clinic.

Think of the countless lives that could have been saved had just one government official charged with inspecting this clinic had done their job. The average public servant can make a difference in a life. No one did in Philadelphia when it came to Kermit Gosnell and his house of horror.

Although the details of the Cleveland dungeon are only beginning to leak out, some troubling behavior mirrors the Gosnell case. In 2004, law enforcement responded to a call about a woman screaming at the house on Sycamore St. No one answered the door so the police never returned to follow up on the complaint. We know now that all three teens were being held captive in that house in 2004. Had the police aggressively responded to the complaint, the girls might have been spared another 9 years in captivity. Neighbors claim that they called the police about other disturbances at the house to no avail, but law enforcement disputes these allegations.

Seemingly simple acts by government workers, responding to a 911 call, and investigating unsanitary condition in a health clinic have profound consequences.  Yet, lives were lost mired in governmental complacency.

Looking for missing children requires the active engagement and participation of the public. In fact, the public solves most missing children cases by providing tips and leads to police which result in the recovery of missing children. The public are the eyes and ears for clues to child abduction cases. Oddly enough, outright strangers, people unknown to the child anonymously call a hotline and report a sighting or lead of a missing child. These cases would never be solved without the public as a partner to law enforcement.

There is one major difference between the Gosnell case and the Cleveland case. Amanda Berry, the abducted teen, was able to escape and call 911. The babies born alive in Gosnell’s horror chamber couldn’t call for help.  Both sets of children need the public to care, to get involved, to save their lives. The chains and shackles on the three abducted children confined them to a living hell, and denied them a life. The scissors that severed the spines of the newborn babies denied them life.

Missing children flyers of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were posted throughout Cleveland. Neighbors tied yellow ribbons around their trees in memory of the missing teens. Rallies, searches and candlelight vigils were held to encourage action to find these girls. However, the streets around the Gosnell clinic are empty and barren, all the children are missing from the clinic; all the children are dead. However, for the first time, we have seen their picture and they have been named, Baby A-G. Where are the yellow ribbons, rallies, candlelight vigils for them?

They have not died in vain. We have seen their face. We know that they are missing.

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


About Author

Elizabeth Yore served as Special Counsel at Harpo, Inc. for the last 5 years. In that position, she acted  as Oprah Winfrey’s Child Advocate both with the Oprah Winfrey Show and in South Africa at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. Prior to that position, Liz was General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Illinois statewide child welfare agency. At DCFS, Liz created the first missing child unit, which required the DCFS to immediately notify the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children when a foster child went missing. Illinois has been the leader in that initiative. She also spearheaded a program to aggressively prosecute human trafficking cases in the department.  Prior to DCFS, Liz was General Counsel at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia, and its first Director of the International Division handling international child abduction cases. She now blogs at, twitters@elizabethyore and consults internationally in child exploitation cases.

Leave A Reply