Monday, February 7, 2011

What are we doing?

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?


Suzanne said...

I have thought the EXACTLY same thing.

Where were the counselors? Where were the Joe Scheidlers warning the women about the lawsuits?

It has actually spurred me to more activism. I'm just a mom with 3 kids, but I'm doing things behind the scenes that I hope will help. God Bless You for your reminder. This horrific episode should lead to a lot more pro-life soul-searching.

M Hastings said...

I have lately felt strongly compelled to activism in the form of sidewalk counseling. However, I am having trouble finding support in the form of an organization at all. I don't know if I'm looking in all the wrong places, or what. Any advice? said...

M Hastings, could you send me an email? I'm happy to help you out, and I'm sure Amelia is too. It's

AmeliaLinne said...

It can be a pain to figure out how to get started. There are a couple of easy Google searches you can do to find out if there is a sidewalk counseling group in your area.

1. Google "sidewalk counseling" and your town (or the nearest city) and see if anything turns up. I'm assuming you probably tried that and it didn't turn any thing up .

2. Google "Pro-Life Groups" and your town. Then email the contact and ask them.

3. Google "abortion clinic" and your zip code. Google the results and sidewalk counseling.

4. Find the 40 Days for Life group nearest you. Email the representative and participate with them. They're nice people and the next campaign starts in 28 days. They would also know who normally sidewalk counsels in the area.

5. You could call a crisis pregnancy center in your area and see if they know any sidewalk counselors. We refer women to them, so they usually know who we are.

I'm glad that you want to sidewalk counsel. We definitely need more caring individuals out there, especially women. Emotionally, it's a very hard thing to do but a group of other counselors can help to support you.

RF said...

I don't understand. The Grand Jury report as well as news articles (both from last March when the first news of this was breaking, and from after the Grand Jury report last month) talked about how various groups tried to call officials' attention to the situation but were denied a voice. The CHOICES referral hotline was told by the medical board that only a patient, and not a third party like CHOICES's director, could file complaints; a doctor at Children's Hospital reported him based on multiple patients he referred there returning with the same infection, and never heard back; the civil suits against Gosnell didn't get the attention of the DOH; ultimately authorities raided his office on drug charges. So what could have been different if anti-abortion people had been standing on the sidewalks? Would authorities have listened to them, given that they didn't listen to the people who did try?

The other thing worth noting is the report from one former patient of Gosnell's (I can't remember if she was one of the patients who filed a suit or not) who said that the reason she went there was that when she went to a local Planned Parenthood clinic she was "scared half to death" by protesters outside. So you're probably right in guessing that Gosnell's sidewalk was not (or less?) populated by anti-abortion people, but if anything it seems like stationing yourself there could have led women to resort to an even more dangerous place, given that that's what happened at Planned Parenthood.

So in my view, increased sidewalk activity would probably not have helped, and possibly even have been harmful. I think it might be better to prioritize other strategies in spotting and stopping Gosnell-type practices.

AmeliaLinne said...

"So what could have been different if anti-abortion people had been standing on the sidewalks? Would authorities have listened to them, given that they didn't listen to the people who did try?"

Media attention. You seem to be a caring and intelligent individual. If you saw women being hurt on a regular basis, would you accept that you were not able to file a claim or would you contact someone with media influence? (On our side of the issue, it would be Jill Stanek or Lila Rose.) The civil suits are a matter of public record and could probably be used in a media setting.

Also, we're quite friendly with the police. (Here they get called if we cross our magic line about 30 feet from the clinic door.)Whenever they get called about us (how dare we help someone with car trouble), they also go into the clinic. From all reports, it only would take one officer going into the building for them to no something was wrong.

Our goal at that center would be to get an inspector into that building. I agree with you that sidewalk counseling alone isn't going to stop Gosnell; additional steps must be followed. But, if we're not there to see what is happening, we can't do anything at all.

"So in my view, increased sidewalk activity would probably not have helped, and possibly even have been harmful."

Addressing this point, there are several sidewalk counseling strategies, some more helpful than others. As you're a choicer, you're probably most familiar with the fire and brimstone variety. I agree that no one will ever be helped by someone who screams at women, calls them whores, or tells them they're going to hell. This style might have been popular in the past, I do not know, but it is not tolerated by any counselor I have met. Uniformly, individuals who chose to behave in that manner are asked to leave.

The most common method nowadays is to demonstrate the humanity of the unborn child and to offer aid to the mother. This is done out of general caring and a desire to help both mother and child. Signs should only have positive messages and pictures of living preborns. They should also be taken down when a woman walks out after her abortion. This is the easiest, effective method.

The method I think would have been most effective in the Gosnell case would be the Chicago method. This involves gathering information about civil suits and client testimonies again the doctor and the clinic. Patients (and some employees) who are dissatisfied with their treatment at the clinic will often complain to us, especially if they are unwilling to complain to a higher authority. A sign that says, "Gosnell killed (patient name) on (date). Will you be next?" or "Get yourself tested. Gosnell has infected X patients with syphyllis" would be extremely effective at getting patients to go somewhere else, hopefully (in this case) to a Planned Parenthood. Or, if they were far enough along, maybe they would decide to keep their baby or give it up for adoption instead of risking death.

My view is that with little or no effort, sidewalk counselors could have improved the lives and health of a handful of women. With a great deal of effort, we might have been able to get an inspection of the place and Karnamaya Monger might have lived.