Gosnell Verdict Forces Us to Ask: Is This What Roe Really Means?

Opinion   |   Maria Vitale Gallagher   |   May 15, 2013   |   2:38PM   |   Philadelphia, PA

It is hard to put into words my initial reaction upon reading in the Philadelphia press about the sordid tale of Kermit Gosnell. Revulsion may be the best word. As a journalist, I had covered my share of tragedy and trauma: a riot in a maximum-security prison…a house fire which took the lives of several little children…massive, deadly flooding and other catastrophes.

But I had never heard of something so depraved, so utterly bizarre as the Gosnell case.

He was ultimately convicted of killing three babies and unintentionally killing an immigrant seeking an abortion. But the grand jury estimated that he had murdered hundreds of other newborns. A state lawmaker told us that her cousin had also perished at the hands of Gosnell. We will probably never know the full extent of the horrors.

In the movie “Forest Gump,” the title character and his friend Jenny pass by her childhood home, where her father systemically abused her. She starts picking up rocks and hurling them at the house, and then collapses in a wave of pain and agony.

And Forest tells the audience, “Sometimes I guess there just aren’t enough rocks…”

I get the feeling that, for the women who were butchered by Gosnell, whose babies lost their lives in his “house of horrors,” there are simply not enough rocks they could throw at the Women’s Medical Society in West Philadelphia to express their anguish. If you view the documentary “3801 Lancaster,” (www.3801lancaster.com ), you see and hear women who appear as if the life was sucked out of them at Gosnell’s business practice on Lancaster Ave.

And the thing is, there are so many more whose voices we have never heard. Because Gosnell was in the abortion industry at its very beginning, before there was even a Roe versus Wade. I have seen estimates that he performed more than 40,000 abortions during his career. Each of those abortions represents a child who was an unrepeatable individual of infinite value. The present circumstance–that current law does not acknowledge that fact–does not make it any less the truth.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania responded to the horror of the Gosnell case with tough new regulations requiring the regular inspection of abortion facilities and demanding that they abide by the standards of outpatient surgery centers. Advocates of abortion fought this law, Act 122, vigorously, arguing that the standards were too difficult to meet.

What medical practice…or what business, for that matter…prides itself on less-than-high standards? As a woman, I find such arguments insulting and degrading.

The grand jury report stated that the National Abortion Federation knew about unsafe conditions at the Gosnell facility, but did not report him to the authorities. We have also been told of abortionists who referred clients to Gosnell because of his reputation for performing late-term abortions.

We’ve been hearing quite a bit in recent weeks about a possible “Benghazi cover-up.” What about the Gosnell cover-up? I’m reminded of another film, “Casablanca,” when Captain Renault says that he is “shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!“ In this gruesome Philadelphia Story , those who make their living from the misery of abortion are “shocked, shocked” to find a Gosnell in their midst.



Health officials need to subject abortion centers to strict scrutiny and regulation. Laws such as parental consent, informed consent, and 24-hour waiting periods are reasonable safeguards for teenagers and young women who find themselves at the abortion center doors. We need to invest in programs that offer hopeful alternatives to abortion, and that provide women the support and encouragement they need for themselves and their babies. These are all prudent measures in our post-Roe world.

But we also need to take a second look at Roe. Because it is that utterly tragic U.S. Supreme Court decision that brought us the horror of Gosnell.

In the end, there is just no good way to regulate the killing of babies and the wounding of their mothers. Now that the crimes of Gosnell have been brought to light, perhaps more eyes will be opened to the daily depravity that exists inside every abortion center’s walls.