When the news about Kermit Gosnell first came out, I was appalled. I read the entirety of the 261 page Grand Jury Report. Afterwards, I tried to figure out just what about the case horrified me so much. Yes, he killed babies, but that’s what abortionists do. That he killed them a few weeks later and on the other side of the womb doesn’t change the end result. The fact that he had a high school student dispensing drugs and delivering dead and dying babies is sickening all unto itself. That there was not a single certified person working at that clinic, himself included, is also appalling. He was an abortionist without a painted on veneer of professionalism. When pro-lifers picture an archetypical abortionist, Gosnell is what springs to mind. There is not one of our claims about abortionists that Kermit Gosnell fails to fulfill; from hurting women to being serial-killer-esque and collecting body parts.
I think it’s important to remember that though Gosnell is on the far end of the abortionist spectrum, he is still on the spectrum. The bureaucracy isn’t the only thing that failed that community. Pro-lifers failed them too. I could be wrong. Maybe there were sidewalk counselors outside that clinic, pleading with women for the lives of their children, but somehow I doubt it. I searched online for sidewalk counselors and after fifteen minutes I could only find one group that counsels at only one of the four abortion clinics in Philadelphia (five before Women’s Medical Society was closed). And they only counsel for an hour on Saturday mornings.
If sidewalk counselors had been there, they could have saved so many lives. They could have used the Chicago method of counseling and told women about the numerous suits that were pressed against him. (He was involved in the Mother’s Day Massacre in 1972) Counselors could also have observed some of the outside conditions of the clinic and the condition that patients arrived and left in. They also would have been able to observe the advanced state of pregnancy that many of his patients were in. We also have a tendency to get to know the staff, and I would expect that they would learn early on that a fifteen year-old was working in the clinic.
Now, there would be little that sidewalk counselors would be able to do directly. We can only tell others what we have observed. However, we are tenacious. If a single counselor had made a complaint against them and then spread word to their friends, who would spread word to theirs, the DOH would have been forced to make at least a cursory look into the clinic. If only one inspector had walked into this clinic, it might have been shut down.
Also, we need more people like Lila Rose, who would have gone into the building and recorded what she saw. This again might have made the difference in the lives of so many women and children.
I feel that we, the pro-life community, failed these women and their children. We were not there, we did not try. I do not expect us to immediately make a radical difference on the large scale. We are fighting an uphill battle. But we are capable of changing the hearts of individual women. We can get them to see the humanity of their unborn children. We can make sure that the clinics abide by the regulations that are in place so that less harm is done. We can provide resources for pregnant women and new mothers AND we can let them know that these resources exist. Though we are limited by law, we can still make a difference on the small scale and we can attempt to broaden this. If we do not try to save lives (whether by trying to change laws, minds, or hearts), then what are we doing?