Indifferent to life

  • April 25, 2013

A doctor on trial as an alleged serial killer would normally be front page news. But the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, on trial in Philadelphia for seven first-degree murders, has received little media attention.

His trial follows a grand jury report that alleged the doctor systematically murdered hundreds of babies he brought into the world, often by severing their spinal cords in his delivery room. His medical practice was found to be routinely racist, exploitive and negligent in its treatment of mostly poor, desperate women. The details of all the allegations against him, the specifics of all the horrors, are too grisly to be repeated here.

Yet, until recent days, until faced with a barrage of embarrassing questions, the American mainstream media virtually ignored the story. Why? Mostly because Gosnell operated an abortion clinic.

It is a telling statement on the state of the abortion debate that the media adopted a three-monkey response — see, hear and speak no evil — to a story about serial murder in an abortion clinic. Likewise for politicians and other agencies. The murdered babies were born healthy to women who sought illegal third-trimester abortions in a rundown clinic and received unsafe drugs from Gosnell to induce labour. This should have been a major story, and probably would have been if the murders had occurred under any other circumstance.

It’s easy to suggest Gosnell is an aberration and a case like his would never happen here. But late-term abortions, like all abortions, are legal in Canada. In January, three MPs asked the RCMP to investigate 491 known cases of late-term abortions that resulted in live births and subsequent deaths of babies who, once born, deserved full legal protection. For making their request, the MPs endured a media flogging and political bruising, so it remains unknown how those babies died.

MP Stephen Woodworth received a similar public lashing when he tried last year to have Parliament study the fundamental question of when life begins. Last month, Mark Warawa was strafed by the media and fellow MPs for suggesting Parliament condemn sex-selective abortion.

Baby deaths in filthy clinics, media silence and political inertia are what happens when society becomes indifferent to life issues. It can be a small step between legal, early term abortions and illegal, late-term ones, and for some it’s an easy step to take when no one is keeping watch. Gosnell operated in the state of Pennsylvania, where late-term abortions are illegal. Canada has no such legal restriction, just a hope that doctors will act responsibly in the absence of abortion laws.

Are there Dr. Gosnells in Canada? Who knows. The way the media sits, the law stands and Parliament leans, it seems no one cares to find out.

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