CULTURE DIGEST: Gosnell's abortion clinic horrors described
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Testimony to the horrors inside Kermit Gosnell's clinic continues to mount in the Philadelphia abortion doctor's murder trial.
In a trial that began in March, Gosnell faces seven counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of viable children who were killed after delivery and a count of third-degree murder in the death of a Virginia woman during a 2009 abortion.
Those seven babies were only some of hundreds at least six months into gestation who were killed outside the womb after induced delivery at Gosnell's clinic, a grand jury reported in 2011. After delivery, Gosnell -- or another staff member in his absence -- would jab scissors into the back of a baby's neck and cut the spinal cord, according to the grand jury. Gosnell called the killing of these children "snipping."
In recent testimony regarding practices at the Women's Medical Society clinic in West Philadelphia:
-- Former Gosnell employee Steven Massof said April 4 a "snipping" is "like a beheading," The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Massof, serving a residency with Gosnell he later learned was unaccredited, performed abortions at the clinic. During his testimony, he guided jurors to feel the spot on the back of their necks where the children's spines would be severed. Several jurors did so, according to The Inquirer. When mothers were given drugs to induce sudden contractions, "[I]t would rain fetuses. Fetuses and blood all over the place," Massof said, according to Operation Rescue's Cheryl Sullenger, who was in the courtroom.
-- Lynda Williams said April 9 part of her job was to pick up the bodies of babies expelled from their mothers' wombs in the waiting room after receiving large doses of drugs to dilate their cervices. When a second-trimester child was still moving after being expelled into a toilet, Williams said she followed Gosnell's training by using scissors to cut his spinal cord. "I did it once, and I didn't do it again because it gave me the creeps," she said, The Inquirer reported.
-- Photos of several dead babies were shown to the jury April 2. Each had a "gaping wound" in the back of his neck, Sullenger reported.
-- Karen Feisullin, who performs abortions in her practice as an obstetrician/gynecologist, said April 2 she had never heard of a doctor "snipping" the spinal cords of babies, according to The Inquirer. She also said there was no medical reason for Gosnell's habit of severing the feet of babies and storing them in jars.
-- Philadelphia Fire Department Lt. Don Burgess testified March 25 that firefighters were unable to take a woman on a stretcher through the clinic's hallways because they were too narrow, The Inquirer reported. Paramedics were trying to save the life of Kamamaya Mongar, 41, who went into a coma during an abortion and died. Though an emergency door was near Mongar, it was chained shut and no one on staff, including Gosnell, had a key, Burgess said. Firefighters opened the door with a bolt-cutter to take her to the hospital, where she died.
Gosnell could receive a death sentence if he is found guilty of a first-degree murder charge. The trial is expected to last six to eight weeks.
DEATH TOLL FOR BABIES SURVIVING FAILED ABORTIONS: MORE THAN 1,200 -- The birth and death of a live baby after a failed abortion appear to be more common than Planned Parenthood desires for the public to realize.
Data for 2010 showed 1,270 babies died after surviving abortions, Rep. Cary Pigman told a Florida House of Representatives subcommittee March 27 in speaking on behalf of the Infants Born Alive Act. The proposal, sponsored by Pigman, would mandate an abortion doctor provide lifesaving care for a child who survives an abortion.
During the subcommittee meeting, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman testified against the bill, saying infanticide should be an option. Alisa LaPolt Snow told representatives the fate of a baby born alive after an attempted abortion should be left to "the woman, her family and the physician."
The Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, which Snow represented, said in an April 1 statement its doctors would provide care for both the woman and the surviving infant. It described the scenario of a baby surviving an abortion as an "extremely unlikely event."
Such a scenario, however, happens at least hundreds of times a year, said Pigman, an emergency medicine doctor.
There were 24,586 "perinatal" deaths in 2010 in the United States, he told the subcommittee. "Perinatal" is defined as beginning between the 22nd week of gestation and seven days after birth, Pigman said. Of those, 1,270 babies "were reported" in the category of "mortality subsequent to an abortion," according to the criteria of the International Classification of Diseases, he said.
"And I emphasize 'reported,'" Pigman said. In other words, an undetermined number of deaths of infants who survive abortion may go unreported.
The federal government enacted the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in 2002 after it learned babies who survive abortion were being left to die in some hospitals.
On April 4, Planned Parenthood said it had changed its position after Pigman amended the legislation. "[W]e are now able to withdraw our opposition to this bill," a spokeswoman said.
FATALITIES IN CHINA'S 'ONE-CHILD' PROGRAM MOUNT FOR MOTHERS, BABIES -- The human toll of China's coercive population-control policy continues to climb.
In recent reports:
-- Shen Hongxia, 42, died after being forcibly sterilized, according to ChinaAid. Family planning officials in Hebei Province forced the mother of two into a hospital March 19 to sterilize her for "illegal pregnancies." Though a doctor warned the officials sterilization would threaten Shen's health, they went through with the operation.
-- An unnamed mother lost her baby boy to a forced abortion March 22, when he was at seven months gestation, ChinaAid reported. Family planning officials in Anhui Province kidnapped the mother and killed her son by lethal injection.
-- Yang Yuzhi, 42, died of a reported suicide March 13 in Henan Province, according to Women's Rights Without Frontiers (WRWF). The mother of four was the victim of forced sterilization by family planning officials years before and had since experienced chronic pain. She repeatedly requested compensation from family planning authorities and had gone again to the local office the day of her death to petition the officials. She was found hanged in the office under suspicious circumstances. Bruises covered her body, and all her money was missing.
"These sterilizations too often leave women butchered and maimed, and can at times be deadly," said Reggie Littlejohn, WRWF's president. "We need to fight forced sterilization as much as forced abortion in China."
The Chinese Health Ministry reported March 14 the world's most populous country has aborted 336 million unborn children and performed 196 million sterilizations since 1971.
Under the "one-child" policy instituted in 1979, China generally limits couples in urban areas to one child and those in rural areas to two, if the first is a girl. Parents in cities may have second babies if the husband and wife are both only children. Couples who violate the policy face the possibility of not only forced abortions or sterilizations but of large fines, job loss and imprisonment.
The policy has resulted not only in many reports of authorities carrying out forced abortions and sterilizations, but there also have been accounts of infanticide, especially directed at females because of the cultural preference for sons.
FILM CRITIC EBERT EXPRESSED PRO-LIFE SENTIMENTS BEFORE DEATH -- Popular film critic Roger Ebert expressed pro-life sentiments weeks before his death. Ebert, who wrote film reviews for the Chicago Sun-Times for more than 45 years, died April 4 after a long battle with cancer.
Writing March 1, Ebert said he supports "freedom of choice" but added, "My choice is to not support abortion, except in cases of a clear-cut choice between the lives of the mother and child. A child conceived through incest or rape is innocent and deserves the right to be born."
Ebert considered himself Catholic "with this technical loophole: I cannot believe in God," Ebert wrote. "I refuse to call myself a[n] atheist however, because that indicates too great a certainty about the unknowable."
ARMY LISTS CATHOLICS, EVANGELICALS ALONGSIDE TERRORISTS -- Critics blasted the Department of Defense for a presentation that defined Catholicism and evangelical Christianity as "extremist" religious groups alongside al Qaeda and Hamas.
According to the Washington Free Beacon, the U.S. Army Reserve presentation included a slide titled "religious extremism" that included white supremacist groups, street gangs and violent religious sects alongside Catholics and evangelicals.
"Men and women of faith who have served the Army faithfully for centuries shouldn't be likened to those who have regularly threatened the peace and security of the United States," Col. Ron Crews, a retired Army chaplain and executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty, told the Free Beacon.
The Free Beacon also reported that the Archdiocese for the Military Services, a Catholic organization that trains and endorses military chaplains and priests, said in a release that it was astounded that Catholicism was included in the presentation. The AMS urged the Pentagon "to review these materials and to ensure that taxpayer funds are never again used to present blatantly anti-religious material to the men and women in uniform," according to the Free Beacon.
An Army spokesperson told the Free Beacon that the slide "was produced by an individual without anyone in the chain of command's knowledge or permission." The Free Beacon reported that the Army removed the slide after receiving complaints.
ALABAMA'S NEW SAFETY LAW MAY SHUT DOWN ABORTION CLINICS -- Alabama has enacted legislation pro-choice organizations say could close all five of the state's abortion clinics.
Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, signed the Women's Health and Safety Act into law April 9. The measure requires abortion clinics to meet the same health and safety requirements as outpatient care centers. It also mandates abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
Three of Alabama's abortion clinics -- Planned Parenthood centers in Birmingham and Mobile and Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery -- do not have doctors with local admitting privileges, according to The Birmingham News.
Both Planned Parenthood and the ACLU warned of the law's effect on clinics. The regulations "could force most, if not all, of Alabama's abortion clinics to close down," according to the ACLU, The News reported.
Republican Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, the bill's House sponsor, said in a written statement the state's women "deserve the highest standard of healthcare, particularly at such a difficult time.... For far too long, Alabama has had more health regulations in place to protect our cat or dog at a vet clinic than it does for a woman receiving an abortion; this law will correct that shameful disparity."
KANSAS LAWMAKERS PASS NEW ABORTION RESTRICTIONS -- The Kansas legislature passed a sweeping anti-abortion bill declaring that life begins at fertilization, banning abortions based solely on the baby's gender and blocking tax breaks for abortion providers.
The Associated Press reported that the legislation passed the Kansas House 90-30 and the Senate 28-10 on April 5, and it will go to Gov. Sam Brownback, whom the bill's supporters expect to sign it.
According to AP, the bill also prohibits abortion providers from involvement in public school sex education classes and mandates that doctors provide certain information to women seeking abortions.
"The human is a magnificent piece of work at all stages of development, wondrous in every regard, from the microscopic until full development," Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Republican who supported the bill, told the AP.
The bill's opponents accused the legislature of mandating government intrusion into women's lives, with Rep. John Wilson, a Democrat, telling AP that the bill is "about politics, not medicine."
The bill specifically would require doctors to give women information on breast cancer as a possible risk of abortion. According to AP, both sides of the debate agree that carrying a fetus to term decreases the risk of breast cancer, but doctors continue to debate whether abortion increases the risk of developing the cancer.
AP reported that the legislation is less restrictive than anti-abortion laws passed in North Dakota and Arkansas, but that abortion opponents view it as progress.
"There is a clear statement from Kansas with respect to the judgment on the inherent value of human life," Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee Chairwoman Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Republican, told AP.
Compiled by John Evans, a writer in Houston, and Tom Strode, Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).