As the liberal media and the pro-choice lobbyists start to comment on the Gosnell case, it is worth keeping a sharp focus on the most important issues and considering how to refute the claim that it exemplifies the need for easy, early abortion.
The first thing to stress, and to keep coming back to, is that whilst Gosnell did many horrendous things, the most serious repeat offence was deliberately snipping the spinal cords of newly-born living babies. The killing of mothers was also, of course, a great evil, but it was never the intended outcome, whereas the murdering of the babies clearly was.
The testimonies of the workers at his abortion centre, and the distressing pictures, leave one in no doubt about both the fact of the practice, and the fact that these were human babies, not merely 'clumps of cells' or 'products of conception.' They were these, too, of course, just as you and I are clumps of cells and the product of conception.
Don't allow those who are confused by the propaganda battle (waged by those seeking to use Gosnell to further a pro-choice agenda) to duck the question: was that wrong or not? If not, then they are saying that infanticide is morally permissible. That is a morally consistent position for abortionists, but fortunately it is still one that is abhorrent to most people.
If they agree that it was wrong to cut the spinal cords of these babies, the question is: why? Merely to say that it was against the law will not do. If that line is used, ask if they would condone it if legal: if so they are back to infanticide. If not, press on why not?
That then leads to the question: if it is wrong once the baby is delivered, is it also wrong when the baby is partially delivered?
One can then progress backwards: if wrong when the baby is so completely formed, what about a week earlier? And a week earlier? And so on.
Keep the focus on these questions, as they are the key moral issues. What we are seeking to make clear is that all abortion is precisely about the killing of innocent, unborn human beings.
What Gosnell's crimes have forced into the light of day is the humanity of his victims: not just the poor, desperate women who went to his clinics, but also their children, murdered for cash.
Our job is to help people, who will be resistant to this, to understand that what he was doing is what all abortions do.
There is a need for sensitivity here, of course: the odds are that anyone you talk to about this will have direct or proximate experience of abortion, as I noted in a previous post. It is both difficult and essential to balance clarity of intellectual argument with human sensitivity and compassion. Veritas and Caritas...
Be ready, too, for the counter-attack: 'So you want to return to the days of back-street abortions!'
That is more a rhetorical and emotive argument than a rational one. Nobody argues that we should licence the killing by gangs of their rivals, to ensure no innocent people get caught in the cross-fire, on the basis that such killings are going to happen anyway, so we should minimise the damage.
The first question is, is it morally permissible to kill another innocent human being? If it is not, then how can we minimise that, and also do so in a way that minimises other harms that may arise?
The evils of back-street abortions, or maternal suicides, are real and terrible risks, and should be engaged with as best we can as a society: but we cannot sacrifice thousands of innocents on the altars of these risks. We must strive for solutions to all aspects of this evil, seeking the good of the mother and the child in equal measure; and also of the father, the medical profession, and civil society.
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