The Good and the Wicked

The 38th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s shameful Roe v. Wade decision last weekend did not pass unnoticed.

On the positive side, hundreds of thousands descended upon Washington to pray, to march and to witness in defense of the beauty, dignity, sanctity and moral inviolability of all human life. They were greeted in Washington by many members of the most pro-life incoming class in the history of the House of Representatives, many of whom spoke at the Rally that inaugurates the March. The pro-life majority in the House, in addition to thanking and encouraging the growing and ever-younger pro-life movement, is also putting their pro-life principles into legislative action, introducing three bills that the U.S. Bishops are asking all Catholics to support.

The first is the “Protect Life Act,” which would prevent funds in the new health care law from subsidizing abortion or health care plans that cover abortions, would protect the consciences of health care workers who decline to participate in an abortion, and would ensure that the health care law cannot override state laws on abortion and conscience. The second is the “Abortion Non-Discrimination Act,” which will codify into law the longstanding policy of the Hyde/Weldon Amendment and give health care institutions that do not provide abortions legal recourse when faced with discrimination by government agencies. The third is the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” which would ensure that our money cannot be used to support and promote elective abortion. All three of these bills call the bluff of pro-abortion forces in the last Congress who promised — pretended is probably the more appropriate term — that there were no abortion-funding mechanisms in the new health-care legislation. If so, then these bills are superfluous and innocuous and there’s no reason for pro-abortion legislators to oppose them. The truth is, however, that while the bills should pass the new pro-life majority House, they will face an uphill battle in the pro-abortion majority Senate, and then will need to be signed by our abortion-supporting President to become law. So Catholic citizens should act and let their Representatives and Senators know how they expect to be represented with regard to them.

On the negative side of the ledger, there was much disturbing news. First was the publication of new abortion statistics that showed that, nationally, there were 1.21 million abortions in the United States in 2008, a slight increase after several years of decline. Figures for New York City in 2009 showed that 41 percent of all pregnancies within the five boroughs ended in abortion, including 60 percent of pregnancies in the African-American community and 72 percent of African-American teens. Big Apple Archbishop Timothy Dolan said that the results are “chilling,” emphasizing, “The New York community is rightly celebrated for its warm welcome to immigrants, for its hospitality, sense of embrace and inclusion, and gritty sensitivity for those in need. But we are tragically letting down the tiniest, most fragile and vulnerable: the little baby in the womb. New York does not deserve the gravestone, ‘Abortion capital of the world.’ Our boast is the Statue of Liberty, not the ‘Grim Reaper.’” His comments were echoed by a surprising source, Michael Benjamin, a recently-retired pro-choice state representative from the Bronx who penned an op-ed in the New York Post. “It is indeed heartbreaking,” Benjamin wrote, “that 60 percent of all unborn African-American babies are aborted. Just think about it: Black women in our city have three abortions for every two live births. The Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation are giving ‘fist bumps’ all around.” He publicly said he shared Archbishop Dolan’s analysis that “we’ve been hearing for many years from pro-choice supporters that abortion should be ‘safe, legal and rare.’ Well, if that’s the goal, we’ve clearly, abysmally failed, especially here in New York City.”

The New York abortion statistics — which show that African-American abortion rates are three times greater, and Hispanic rates twice as great as among whites — clearly demonstrate one of the facts about abortion in America that few pro-choice leaders, especially those from minority communities, have had the courage and integrity to face: abortion is not only not “rare” among their communities, but preferentially targets them. This corresponds to the much-documented eugenic hopes of the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger. If we were dealing with a situation in which blacks were suffering any type of violence or discrimination three times as much as whites, we would expect Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to make sure none of society could ignore it, and yet both of these hyper-voluble figures are remarkably reticent about what some have provocatively called the “black genocide.” Likewise, many social commentators have recently been focusing on the lamentable phenomenon of black-on-black violence, but almost none has had the audacity to tackle the most preponderant type of black-on-black cruelty, which takes place not on the streets but in abortion clinics. It is pitiable that our first African-American President would mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade not by using his office not to battle this discrimination — and the dehumanization and degradation on which it’s based — but to put out a statement in support of Roe and calling on Americans to “recommit” themselves “more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms and the same opportunities … to fulfill their dreams.” Through abortion many of those daughters — and sons — never have a chance to have dreams at all.

The most disturbing news of all, however, didn’t come from New York or Washington, DC. It came from Philadelphia, where abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell and several of his untrained associates were charged with a litany of crimes, including eight deaths. The 281-page grand jury report on Gosnell’s “Women’s Medical Society” clinic documents a series of almost unbelievable horrors that extend beyond one man’s sadism to involve several Pennsylvania state agencies.

The clinic was raided last February by the FBI and the Philadelphia DA’s office because Gosnell was running an illegal prescription business, allowing associates to sell prescriptions with his signature to Oxycontin addicts. Upon entering, the police were shocked by the squalor they encountered. “The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely,” the Grand Jury Report stated. “Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment — such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff — was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.”

That was, however, just the tip of the iceberg.

As law enforcement officials began a more thorough investigation, they discovered that Gosnell was breaking many Pennsylvania laws with regard to abortion: performing abortions well after the legal cutoff of 24 weeks, not following the mandatory 24-hour waiting period to have an abortion, conducting abortions on minors as young as 14 without the necessary parental or judicial consent, to name a few. They ascertained that he didn’t have any nurses on his staff at all, that two men were impersonating doctors, and that secretaries and even an employee’s 15 year-old daughter were administering anesthesia and other medicines to patients, with neither licenses nor training. They learned that two women had died because of Dr. Gosnell and his staff’s total negligence and incompetence, and that more than 40 other women had filed complaints and lawsuits because of perforated uteruses, infections, venereal diseases and other medical complications. And they found out that many of his abortions were not abortions at all, but outright infanticide. He would give women in the second- and third-trimester drugs to precipitate childbirth, sedate them so that they would not know what was going on, deliver their babies alive, cut the umbilical cords,  slit the backs of the crying infants’ necks, slide a tube in, and suction out their brains. One such baby was 6.6 pounds and 19 inches long, so big that Dr. Gosnell joked to a staff member that the baby was big enough to accompany him to the bus stop. He has been charged with 7 such murders of delivered babies, but his staff members said that they witnessed him carry out — and performed in his stead with his authorization — hundreds of others. Law enforcement also uncovered that despite dozens of formal complaints, the Women’s Medical Society clinic hadn’t been inspected since 1993 because, as the Grand Jury Report candidly noted, pro-abortion governors did not want to do anything to “put up a barrier to women” seeking abortions.

These revelations have shocked and disgusted the nation. They have brought to the fore the hypocrisy and schizophrenia of our nation’s policy on abortion, which gives abortion assassins like Gosnell a green light to massacre babies in the womb with techniques far more barbarous than slitting their spinal cords, but prosecutes them for murder — rightly — for executing the same victims moments after they’re delivered. It has also brought to the forefront the character of abortion of abortion doctors like Gosnell, who made $1.8 million a year as a serial killer of newborn and unborn human beings, while allowing women to die at the hands of medical imposters in squalid facilities. This should lead not only Pennsylvania State authorities to take responsibility for their own inexcusable negligence, but our whole nation. Kermit Gosnell is far less an exception than a fulfillment of the abortion ethos, which makes a killing from doing whatever it takes, however savage, to assist fearful and vulnerable girls and women to end the lives of their babies.

The new pro-life House, and generations of young pro-lifers marching in defense of life in Washington, are hopefully harbingers of a much different, better and moral future, in which abortion is rarer by the day and eventually becomes a choice that no society will allow and no mother will make.

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About the Author

Father Roger J. Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, who works for the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations. He is the former pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Fall River, Massachusetts and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

After receiving a biology degree from Harvard College, he studied for the priesthood in Maryland, Toronto and for several years in Rome. After being ordained a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Fall River by Bishop Sean O’Malley, OFM Cap. on June 26, 1999, he returned to Rome to complete graduate work in Moral Theology and Bioethics at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family.

Fr. Landry writes for many Catholic publications, including a weekly column for The Anchor, the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River, for which he was the executive editor and editorial writer from 2005-2012. He regularly leads pilgrimages to Rome, the Holy Land, Christian Europe and other sacred destinations and preaches several retreats a year for priests, seminarians, religious and lay faithful. He speaks widely on the thought of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, especially John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. He was an on-site commentator for EWTN’s coverage of the 2013 papal conclave that elected Pope Francis, appears often on various Catholic radio programs, and is national chaplain for Catholic Voices USA.

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