I have a confession to make. In tweeting up a storm about the media blackout surrounding the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who reportedly snipped the spines and cut the throats of babies born alive following late term abortions, I was actually being very hypocritical. I knew about this story some time ago, having seen it mentioned by US pro-lifers as well as reading about it last month in the Daily Mail and yet refrained from writing about it and raising awareness.
I’ll forgo the false modesty, I know that this blog is, on the whole, highly regarded in pro-life terms, I also know it is referred to by pro-choice advocates and activists and read by BPAS, Marie Stopes and, according to my stats, IP addresses that emanate from inside the Houses of Parliament. Over the last year, it’s become increasingly apparent that I do have a platform, which I need to remember to use wisely.
So why did I neglect to do my bit here?
1) I was scared. Last year when all the bullying nonsense was occurring, a certain tweeter was repeatedly (and falsely) claiming that I was a member of Abort 67, “an extremist, a bad egg, a fake pro-lifer who doesn’t care, who must be flushed out of the pro life movement”.
I’m not a member of Abort 67, but I’m not ashamed to state that I have enormous respect and admiration for their courage and what they are trying to achieve. Andy Stephenson doesn’t just sit about writing polemic on the Internet or chew the philosophical fat in smokey pubs, but he dedicates his entire life to trying to show people the horrors of abortion, at times risking his own personal safety and even his liberty, when he was subject to an illiberal and misguided prosecution.
Whilst I might have some reservations about the tactics of showing images outside an abortion clinic, actually I have no problem with the way Abort 67 try to reach University students on campus or lobby politically, such as outside the Houses of Parliament or at Speaker’s Corner. But I was worried that by talking about the grisly horrors of Gosnell, and the pickled human feet found in storage jars or dead babies in the freezer, I might be perceived as a sensationalist or extremist. The only coverage I’d seen was in the Daily Mail, a publication that garners much deserved disdain at times, I hadn’t read the Grand Jury report and was concerned that I would be accused of scare-mongering or spreading inaccuracies. A major tactic of pro-choicers (as I will demonstrate in a subsequent post) is to attempt to bamboozle with science and stats, nit-picking to the umpteenth degree and attempting to use semantics, in order that they can scream “liar”. I didn’t want to put my reputation on the line, or be seen to be posting graphic photos or perceived to be revelling in gore.
2) The other reason and perhaps most importantly, was that I didn’t want to think about what had gone on in Gosnell’s abattoir or engage with it. I’d read the reports and recoiled with horror. It was literally unbearable and had the capacity to drive me mad. No doubt the pop psychologists and misogynists will liberally apply the ‘hysterical’ label, but stories regarding the twisted and bloodied corpses of murdered babies, are too close to home for a woman who has had three babies in the space of as many years.
I saw the photograph of one of Gosnell’s victims which appeared without a prior warning, in yesterday’s Atlantic and had a meltdown. The photo depicted a beautiful baby girl, with a full head of black hair, all her features perfectly formed, bizarrely, her umbilical cord had been cut and clamped, and she bore a startling and uncanny resemblance to my youngest baby daughter, and in fact all of my children who were born with lustrous heads of hair and tiny delicate little features. Except she was lying there, lifeless, motionless, dead and cold, having been mercilessly killed by Grosnell, shortly after her cord was cut and clamped and she was breathing. She would never again twitch, her hands wouldn’t uncurl, her limbs wouldn’t fling out in the startle reflex, her mouth would never root around for the comfort of a nipple or teat, she would never have known the comfort of her mother’s, or any human arms, her life consisted of being prematurely forced out of her mother’s womb, then disorientated and distressed from birth, longing for warmth and food, she was brutally murdered and left like a piece of rubbish on the cold hard slab of the abortionist’s table.
It was like looking a photograph of my own babies, particularly my youngest who was born early, weighing 5lbs, less than one of the little boys who was killed, and whom Gosnell jokingly referred to as being big enough to walk to the bus stop. Like this baby, my own baby was tiny, with fragile spindly limbs and swamped by the smallest size nappy. Even the colour of the clip on the umbilicus was the same.
I broke down. There were no words. I usually grab snatches of Twitter or the net on my phone or tablet, often whilst cooking, and the initial response was like being hit in the stomach. I curled up in the foetal position on the floor by the fridge in floods of tears, completely unable to process either the image or my response to what had happened. There was a mixture of overwhelming grief, sadness, anger and despair. I wanted to kick the living daylights out of this man and anyone who may have aided or abetted him in any way. That feeling still hasn’t dissipated, nor have the questions – namely, how on earth could the people working in the clinic have brought themselves to do this, what made them so damaged as individuals that they were able to justify and disassociate themselves from their actions? How could they have become so desensitised to what was going on? What kind of society are we living in when we can allow this to happen and where most people are happy that the media do not report it?
Yesterday was a concrete manifestation of why I had deliberately avoided engaging with this and so writing about it. Because I didn’t have the courage, it was too close to home and I didn’t think I had the emotional resources to cope. I had a very disturbed night’s sleep last night and I still am struggling to rid my mind of those dreadful images as well as deal with the emotions they invoke, which make me want to do terrible things, tear my hair and clutch my head in horror. Whenever I read about dreadful cases of child abuse or murder which crop up depressingly frequently in our national press, it churns me up inside. I cannot envisage what might motivate a person to do such odious things to a little child, and it terrifies me that people can often lose control in such a way that they inflict and violate little children with acts of sickening violence and depravity. Any parent who denies having the odd flash of anger, is either a genuine saint, or lying to themselves, all of us occasionally, at the end of our tether, might speak a little more harshly to our children than we should, but what is that forces a person to cross that line and inflict acts of utter sadism? And the worst most harrowing thing, is imagining the terror and pain experienced by these little ones. Imagining their trusting little faces and lack of comprehension and fear as they are repeatedly battered or worse.
I can’t stop myself imagining the brief painful lives of these little babies, treated as human waste, what they must have gone through, and also the agonies endured by the women, many of whom suffered life changing injuries, permanent infertility, infections and two of whom died. No matter how opposed one is to abortion, we shouldn’t forget the ordeals suffered by the women, most of whom were vulnerable, either by virtue of age, or socio-economic circumstance. No woman would chose to give birth to a live baby to have him or her murdered in front of her eyes. Most women have no idea of what is entailed in a late-stage abortion until it is too late, and I would wager most women going for an abortion have no idea of what to expect, everything is couched in such vague clinical terminology involving ‘products of conception’.
I eschewed writing about Gosnell, because I didn’t want to have to process this emotionally, or deal with the horror, the images or the reaction that they would invoke. Much easier to stick one’s fingers in one’s ears and pretend that it doesn’t happen, or that this is simply an one-off aberration and not think about tiny bodies beheaded and contorted in pain, or women giving birth amongst animal faeces, with filthy tubing used for both inter uterine suction and breathing purposes and freezers and storage jars full of neonates or neonatal body parts.
I suspect that’s one of the reasons for the media blackout. Some things are just too repugnant to bear. We often read about sadistic crimes, such as those of cannibal killers, for example, or serial murders, with a sense of detachment, we can look at these monsters clinically and though be disturbed by their crimes, have a sense that these sorts of crimes are relatively rare and won’t happen to us. With Kermit Gosnell it’s different, in that he and his staff genuinely didn’t seem to have any awareness that what they were doing was in any way immoral and neither did anyone seem to wish to report it. These atrocities occurred at a state licensed abortion facility, which went un-inspected for 17 years due to the pro-choice policy of the Republican Governor of Philedelphia, Tom Ridge. This wasn’t something that just happened to people who had an unfortunate encounter or mixed with the wrong sort. This was something that happened to women who exercised their free and legal choice in one of the most developed and civilised countries in the world. This is what abortion entails. The wilful destruction of innocent human life, depriving babies of their basic right to life in an act of brutal violence, whether inside or outside of the womb. Every single member of humanity, every single person reading this post, has something in common with Gosnell’s victims, we all began the same way, we were all blastocysts, developing embryos and unborn babies too. We all went through those same stages of life, only we escaped the abortionist’s instruments because we were the lucky ones.
And like the media, and like those who knew but didn’t think to report, I sat on this story too, for my own selfish reasons, born out of fear. It once again proves Burke’s adage – all that requires for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.