Kermit Gosnell: Truths and Repercussions

Nancy Valko
September 14, 2013
Reproduced with Permission

When abortionist Kermit Gosnell went on trial for the horrifying killings of late-term unborn babies who survived his abortions and the negligent death of at least one of the mothers, the mainstream media and others tried to ignore it. But thanks to some courageous journalists like those on the Fox network and an electronic outpouring of outrage from the pro-life community, the shoddy veneer of "safe, legal" abortion was stripped away - at least for a short while near the end of the trial.

Court transcripts and the grand jury investigation and report1 on the Gosnell case showed that abortionist Gosnell had performed abortions for decades with many complaints and lawsuits. He was protected by state health agencies and boards who dismissed complaints or refused to investigate them. Holding abortion clinics to the standards we would expect for any other outpatient surgery has long been considered by abortion groups to be an obstacle to women seeking abortions. Thus, Gosnell was able to flout Pennsylvania abortion limits, cut the spinal cords of babies who survived his abortions, use unlicensed personnel to perform medical procedures, use and reuse unsanitary equipment leading to transmission of venereal diseases, store dead baby body parts for years, etc., with impunity.

In May 2013, Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of murdering three babies and of the manslaughter of a 41-year-old mother in an abortion and sentenced to life in prison. These were not all of the victims named in the beginning but these met the burden of proof for the jury.

The Controversy Continues

When Kermit Gosnell was convicted, it seemed that the media quickly dropped the story with apparent relief, but surprisingly, the issues in the case were reignited in unusual ways. When the national mainstream media finally started covering the Gosnell case, reporters went to the usual abortion activists and groups for comment. In the face of the convictions, these activists disowned Gosnell as a legitimate abortion provider and many even blamed the pro-life movement's opposition to abortion for "forcing" desperate women to go to him.

However, abortion activists had a much more difficult time responding to the issue of Dr. Gosnell's gruesome killing of late-term babies born alive after abortion. Abortion activists tried to dodge the issue at first. However, in testimony on a proposed Florida bill requiring doctors to care for babies born alive after abortion, a Planned Parenthood lobbyist stated "We believe that any decision that's made [regarding the fate of the baby] should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician."2

Then, in June 2013 the Texas legislature was ready to pass a bill that would prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks and hold abortion clinics to the same standards as any other ambulatory surgical center, when Texas representative Wendy Davis filibustered the bill for 11 hours. This allowed time to expire for approving the bill even though the votes for passage were a certainty. Overnight, Ms. Davis became a national sensation. The media devoted daily coverage to her "heroism." Abortion supporters - including paid demonstrators - poured into Texas. Some chanted "Hail, Satan," tried to throw obscene items, threatened physical violence, and generally tried to disrupt the next attempt to pass the bill. They were unsuccessful and the bill passed. But the intense media coverage of the Wendy Davis effort required coverage of at least some of the shocking behavior of the demonstrators. This was not the abortion movement's greatest public relations moment.

Newspaper editorials and op-ed abortion supporters then turned to strong condemnation of the Texas bill, mostly focusing on the 20-week legal limit for abortion provision. Once again, just as in the partial-birth late-term abortion debate, the specters of women with life-threatening pregnancies and babies with lethal birth defects were raised. A 20-week limit on abortion was decried as inhumane and judgmental.

The Truth Behind Late-Term Abortions for the Health of the Mother

During the debate on the proposed ban of late-term partial-birth abortion in the late 1990s, abortion activists maintained that such late-term abortions were rare and performed only for maternal health or devastating birth defects in the unborn child. The abortion movement was stunned when Ron Fitzsimmons, the executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, told the New York Times that late-term partial-birth abortions were primarily done on healthy women and healthy fetuses.3 But the myth has persisted.

Instead, according to a 2006 study in Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health4 involving hundreds of women who had second-trimester abortions (up to 27 weeks), the reasons the women gave for the delayed abortion were:

The researchers themselves noted that "many women seeking second-trimester abortions simply lacked pregnancy symptoms or were unaware of their last menstrual period and therefore took a long time to recognize and test for pregnancy" and concluded that the findings "underscore the need for second-trimester abortion to remain legal and accessible." Maternal risk and fetal defect were not mentioned in the study.

But while some women do have medically high-risk pregnancies, modern medicine has made great strides in protecting the health of both mother and baby. In September 2012, an international group of more than 140 obstetricians and other physicians met in Dublin and issued a statement denying that abortion is ever medically necessary for women.5

Take, for example, the case of a woman with breast cancer who finds she is pregnant. Many doctors used to feel that an immediate abortion was necessary to save the mother's life with chemotherapy and/or radiation.

Now, however, even the National Cancer Institute says "Because ending the pregnancy is not likely to improve the mother's chance of survival (with breast cancer), it is not usually a treatment option."6

Women with high-risk pregnancies deserve a doctor with high-risk experience who is willing to do his or her best to protect both mother and baby rather than quickly recommending abortion.

Late-Term Abortion for Birth Defects

While recent polls show support for a ban on abortions after 20 weeks,7 there is apparently still strong support for abortions for babies with lethal or serious birth defects.

For example, a July 2013 USA Today editorial tried to make the case against a ban on late-term abortion by arguing that a ban on abortions after 20 weeks was too soon because of potential lethal birth defects or even non-life-threatening conditions like Down syndrome.

Here is an excerpt from the editorial:8

While some genetic conditions, such as Down syndrome, can be detected with amniocentesis at 16 to 22 weeks, even then it can take two weeks to get results. Add specialists, research and time to reflect, and a 20-week ban forces women and couples to make heartrending decisions against a ticking clock.

Of course, killing an unborn baby does not prevent birth defects and there is an increasing amount of help (including perinatal hospice and support sites like for babies predicted to have life-threatening or other conditions.

However, I cannot help but take it personally when people with Down syndrome are singled out as the usual "hard case" in order to justify abortion. The problem lies not in the condition but in society's strange attitude that allows it to celebrate the Special Olympics and the accomplishments of people with Down syndrome while condoning the abortion of 90+% of unborn babies with Down syndrome.

Back in 1982 when my daughter Karen was born with Down syndrome and a heart defect, it was hard to find support from doctors or even from family. My main source of support and encouragement came from the parent-run Down Syndrome Association here in St. Louis and I will be eternally grateful to them. I lost Karen after only 5 1/2 months but I stayed involved in the association to help improve conditions, especially for children with Down syndrome.

I had never met such kind and generous parents like those I met in the Down Syndrome Association and I asked them if they had always had these qualities. Every single parent said exactly the same thing: "My child made me this way."

No wonder there is a waiting list of prospective adoptive parents for children with Down syndrome, including the hundreds who recently came forward to adopt after finding out that a Virginia couple was planning to abort their child!9 This child's life was saved and many more could be if people only knew the facts.

We would not shoot a child with disabilities after birth. Why should we tolerate the killing of that same child before birth?

A "Gosnell Effect"?

Kermit Gosnell first vaulted into public view in 1972 (before the Roe v Wade decision) when he staged a publicity event for abortion on Mother's Day.10 Dr. Gosnell brought 15 poor Chicago mothers to Philadelphia to undergo second trimester abortions using a so-called super coil that expanded into razor-sharp plastic coils. Nine of the 15 mothers suffered major medical complications and some dubbed the event the "Mother's Day Massacre." Dr. Gosnell survived that debacle with apparently no repercussions.

It took more than 40 years to stop Gosnell, but even with his recent convictions for manslaughter and infanticide, a May 2013 Gallup poll showed that 54% did not follow the Gosnell case.11

This is not surprising in view of the lack of coverage of the trial by the mainstream media but the repercussions of the Dr. Gosnell case are still spreading and his case may eventually prove to be a turning point in the abortion debate.

Texas just joined eight other states in banning abortions after 20 weeks12 and as of this writing, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has announced he will be introducing a 20-week abortion ban in the Senate. Several states are considering bills to increase oversight and regulation of abortion clinics in the wake of the Gosnell revelations.

Some members of the national mainstream media have admitted to bias in the lack of coverage of the Gosnell case and abortion groups like Planned Parenthood have shown that they do not support any limits on the timing of abortions. This is good education for the general public.

The full impact of the Gosnell case has yet to be seen but the exposure of the real truth of abortion has affected untold numbers of people and - most importantly - will save the lives of some mothers and their unborn babies.


1 "Report of the Grand Jury" January 14, 2011. Online at: [Back]

2 Ben Johnson, "Planned Parenthood official defends post-birth abortions". April 1, 2013. Online at: [Back]

3 "Partial-Birth Abortion: Separating Fact from Spin." February 21, 2006. Online at: [Back]

4 "Second Trimester Abortion: Logistics and Lack of Symptoms are Factors." Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Vol. 38 No. 2, June 2006. Online at: [Back]

5 "Abortion 'absolutely never medically necessary': maternal care expert symposium" by Hilary White. September 10, 2012. Online at: [Back]

6 "Breast Cancer Treatment and Pregnancy," National Cancer Institute, US National Institutes of Health. Online at: [Back]

7 "Late-Term Abortion Bans Have Support." Wall Street Journal. July 24, 2013. Online at: [Back]

8 "20-week abortion ban too soon: Our view" by the Editorial Board. USAToday. July 2, 2013. Online at: [Back]

9 Sarah Petersen, "Virginia pastor's Facebook post prevents abortion for unborn baby with Down syndrome". Deseret News, July 15, 2013. Online at: [Back]

10 James Taranto, "Back-Alley Abortion Never Ended". Wall Street Journal. April 18, 2013. Online at: [Back]

11 "Americans' Abortion Views Steady Amid Gosnell Trial.", May 10, 2013. Online at: americans-abortion-views-steady-amid-gosnell-trial.aspx. [Back]

12 "State Policies in Brief as of July 1, 2013". Guttmacher Institute. Online at: [Back]