Good Life

Clergy Column

On May 15, Kermit Gosnell began serving a life prison sentence. I will not describe the horrific crimes for which he is now infamous. If you don’t know about them, feel free to return to your cocoon. Suffice it to say in comparison to his filthy torture chamber, Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” reads like Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Sonnet 43.”

But what if Gosnell’s clinic was sanitary, his methods “humane”? What if the floor were covered with fresh carpet and not blood; the jars of body parts replaced with pictures of soothing seascapes and idyllic pastures? Instead of snipping babies’ spinal cords while they struggled for life, suppose he gave them sedatives before a lethal injection, while these “patients” were cuddled by “compassionate caregivers.”

If you say, “No; killing those abortion survivors was wrong no matter what the methods,” I agree. But if you believe abortion on demand is legitimate, you may want to examine your position for consistency.

In a March 2012 essay in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva argue in favor of “after-birth abortion” (aka “infanticide”). Essentially, they maintain that though both the unborn and newborn are humans, neither are persons because they are unable to formulate plans and set goals. Since the born and unborn are morally equivalent, after-birth abortion should be permitted for the same reasons pre-birth abortion is permitted.

My point? Contrary to anti-abortion argument and biological reality, pro-abortion rights forces us to deny the “humanness” of the unborn. They now concede (as seen in Giubilini and Minerva, the unborn are human but not “persons.” But how do we define “person”? If it’s defined by “self awareness,” “ability to formulate goals,” or some other nebulous, arbitrary criteria, then isn’t it perfectly logical to deny the personhood of the newborn, making it acceptable to kill them for any reason permitted for abortion on demand? Following the logical trail to it’s cold-blooded conclusion, Giubilini and Minerva think so.

And so did Gosnell. You may be repulsed by his grisly methods, but in terms of the killing, he did nothing logically inconsistent with Giubilini and Minerva specifically, or pro-abortion rights assumptions in general. If the unborn are not persons, then neither are the newborn, and the only thing for which we can question Gosnell are his slaughterhouse methods. Put a fresh coat of paint on the operation, and Gosnell now practices “after-birth abortion.” One could argue that, in his own crude way, Gosnell represents a new wave regarding “women’s health” concerns.

Psalm 139:13-16 affirms the humanity, personhood and worth of those still in the womb, teaching that we are a product of God’s providential care. Deny that, and no life is safe, and the Gosnells of our world become as logically inevitable as thunder after lightning. If you deny that logic, or applaud it, may God help you.