For those who paid attention to the Kermit Gosnell trial in Philadelphia, with its revelations about the horrific conditions inside the clinic and the 17 years of official indifference to his practices, the question arises as to how many Gosnells we have murdering live infants that survive abortion procedures. Do we have any in our communities, and do our local and state authorities even care if we do? In Minnesota, as my friend Teresa Collett pointed out in the Star Tribune this week, the answer to the first question is we don’t know — because the answer to the second question is a very pointed no:
So what would happen if Gosnell’s clinic had been in Minnesota?
The Philadelphia jury was convinced that three infants survived Gosnell’s attempts to abort them. One of the babies was so large, Gosnell joked that “this baby is big enough to walk around with me.” The second was breathing for more than 20 minutes, and the third was delivered in a toilet and tried to use swimming motions to get out. All three died after Gosnell or a member of his staff “snipped” the newborns’ spinal cords.
Gruesome as the practice of snipping is, it is hard to distinguish from the dismemberment involved in the most common method of abortion practiced in Minnesota during late second- and third-trimester abortions.
In addition to the murder counts, Gosnell was convicted of performing abortions on women who were more than 24 weeks pregnant. That conviction would not be possible in Minnesota, because it is not a crime here.
In 1974, the Minnesota Legislature attempted to prohibit abortions after the baby was viable (capable of living outside the womb) except when the pregnancy threatened the mother’s life or health. However, the law was immediately challenged by a Minnesota abortion doctor and was struck down by a federal court in 1976.
In 2011, the Legislature voted to prohibit late-term abortions, but Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the law. This means that it is legal for a woman to obtain an abortion in Minnesota at any time up until birth.
How about the conditions of the clinic for the women who seek treatment in these abortion mills? Gosnell’s clinic was a nightmare of filth, trophies, building-code violations, and murder — at least as defined in Pennsylvania. If Gosnell had set up shop in Minnesota, would he still be going to prison? No, Collett explains, he’d still be laughing all the way to the bank:
Minnesota offers no regulations to protect the health and safety of women seeking abortions. In 1974, the Legislature passed a law (which is still on the books) requiring the health commissioner to license and promulgate rules for abortion clinics. The commissioner adopted clinic regulations in 1974, but a federal district court struck them down.
The Legislature attempted to remedy this dangerous omission by passing a clinic regulations bill in 2012, but Gov. Dayton vetoed the bill. He claimed the regulations were unnecessary because Minnesota clinics are adequately monitored by the National Abortion Federation, a national trade association of abortion clinics.
The NAF denied Gosnell certification for his Philadelphia clinic — but Gosnell also worked at an NAF-accredited Delaware clinic. He referred women ineligible for abortions under Delaware law to the Philadelphia clinic instead, and at least a few of the witnesses for the prosecution of Gosnell worked in that NAF-accredited clinic.
Besides, what happens if the NAF declines or rescinds accreditation of a clinic in Minnesota? Does the state shut the clinic down, or do they just continue to operate independently? I’d guess it’s the latter, since the law doesn’t have any way right now for the state to intervene. Also, in what other industries do liberals like Mark Dayton approve of the elimination of state regulation in favor of industry-based certification? This seems like a first to me.
So yes, it seems as though we may very well have a Gosnell in Minnesota, or maybe a whole lot more than just one. Clearly, Governor Dayton and the state has no interest in stopping a Gosnell either from murdering live infants that survive an abortion, or protecting women from the conditions found in Gosnell’s clinic. Without any penalties for committing these kinds of atrocities, it’s not hard to imagine that they occur more often than Minnesotans think they do, right here in our own back yard.
Gosnell flourished because he knew the state took no interest in what happened behind the doors of his clinic, even when women died as a result of his actions. Mark Rienzi wrote earlier this week about the moral implications of law and lack of law in USA Today, and how that forms our communities — and how the latter produces Gosnells:
The law can be a potent moral teacher, which is a good thing. Laws against slavery and discrimination have helped reduce prejudice. Laws requiring accommodations for people with disabilities have helped them gain visibility and greater acceptance in society. Many people on both sides of the gay marriage debate argue their position in terms of the important teaching power of the law.
It would be naive to think that our abortion laws do not carry a similar teaching power. Our abortion system undeniably treats small, dependent human fetuses in the womb as only conditionally valued. They are to be loved, protected and welcomed if wanted by their mothers, but can be killed and discarded if unwanted.
The last 40 years of Roe v Wade have certainly formed our public morality, Rienzi argues, and in a horrifying direction:
It could be that the teaching power of abortion law is eroding more than the moral sense of doctors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infant homicide is shockingly common. Its most recent 2002 report suggests that the day a person is born is, by far, the most likely day for them to be killed.
Although more recent statistics concerning day-of-birth homicides are unavailable, a look at homicide rates during the first year of life suggests that infant homicides have become considerably more common since Roe v Wade constitutionalized the right to abortion. According to the Child Trends Databank using data from the CDC and the NCHS, children less than a year old are roughly twice as likely to be victims of homicide today as in 1970 (a few years before Roe). In 1970, there were 4.3 homicides for every 100,000 children under age one. The rate peaked at 9.2 in 2000 and was at 7.9 in 2010.
It’s time to recognize the pattern and walk back from the dehumanizing public morality of Roe, Rienzi concludes:
A far better choice exists. As a society, we could agree that there really is little difference between killing a being inside and outside the womb. We should admit that our system of abortion law is dehumanizing. The better course is to protect even small voiceless human beings from more powerful people who would rather see them dead, whether that killing happens inside or outside the womb.
Let me close with an anecdote from my previous career in loss prevention and retail security. I worked with a brilliant visionary on the retailer side of this industry whose specialty was reforming internal operations and creating turnkey systems for loss-prevention departments, and then moving on to another challenge. He liked to work with our company because we delivered on enforcing strict discipline and oversight, even when personnel in the stores screamed at us for doing so. He could save retailers millions of dollars within a short period of time by cracking down on internal loss due to employee theft.
He visited us at the end of one particularly difficult implementation to thank us for our work, and to share with us some of the highlights of his investigations, including amazing confessions, surveillance videos, and the staggering amounts of money saved by his changes (and our work). Toward the end, the LP specialist stopped for a moment and asked us, “Who was morally responsible for these losses?” Most of us, myself included, said the employees that stole or their supervisors who didn’t pay attention. No, he responded; the company was responsible for these thefts in a moral sense, because they never bothered to show that the thefts were wrong. In fact, that was really the driving force behind his passion in loss prevention.
Now, that sounds absurd on its face. Of course theft is wrong, but … did the company stop anyone from robbing them blind? When employees stole merchandise and then cash with no consequences at all, what were the other employees to think? When store managers joined in the spree, and the chain did nothing and put no processes in place to stop the thefts, what lessons did that teach the underlings? If the company didn’t bother to express some sort of moral code for behavior through its rules and enforcement, why would anyone bother to act morally as agents within that organization — especially when the rewards went to those who acted immorally?
That was a powerful lesson about the moral impact of law and how it shapes communities. How are we shaping our own when we send a signal that we will not act to protect the most vulnerable among us in any degree whatsoever? What exactly are we rewarding? In Minnesota, the answer’s pretty clear.