Beyond the Rhetoric: Gosnell and the Late-Term Reality

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Donor Officer

“It is a highly needed and valuable procedure.”

That statement above is referring to late-term abortion. In other words, says, it is highly needed and valuable that deadly poison be injected into the heart of an unborn child if the mother so chooses.

This reveals a cruel irony of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, the man convicted of murdering viable children after they were born alive during his abortion procedures. He claimed the babies were dead before leaving their mother’s wombs because his intra-cardiac injection had stopped their hearts, and therefore, he wasn’t guilty of murder. A matter of inches in one direction makes it “a guiltless procedure,” but in the other direction it’s murder, resulting in the 72-year-old Gosnell sentenced to life in prison.

Those who advocate for the legality of late-term abortion repeatedly refer to disability and genetic abnormality because they think the stories of disabled children blunt the extraordinary brutality of murdering unborn infants.

Pro-Choice Colorado explains that their state is one of the few where a late abortion can be obtained. “Outpatient abortion is available up to 26 weeks. In addition, medically indicated termination of pregnancy up to 34 weeks is also an option for conditions such as fetal anomalies, genetic disorder, fetal demise and/or severe medical problems” (NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, italics added). The Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice says that “on the rare occasion when a woman has a late abortion it is because the fetus has severe or fatal anomalies or because the pregnancy endangers her life or health” (italics added).

Misguided and Dishonest

It is a sad and horrible thing for a child to go from wanted to unwanted based on the measure of their health. And yet, despite what is said, most late-term abortions are not done for reasons of disability.

This was true in the abortion clinic run by Gosnell. In most cases, it had nothing to do with fetal anomaly, genetic disorder, rape, incest or the mother’s health. And abortion providers know it. cites reasons such as a breakup with the baby’s father or loss of financial stability, or “numerous other situations that occur on a daily basis that may cause a woman to want to terminate the pregnancy.”

Ron Fitzsimmons, then executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, already has said this about late-term abortion during an interview with American Medical News more than 16 years ago:

What abortion rights supporters failed to acknowledge, Fitzsimmons said, is that the vast majority of these abortions are performed in the 20-plus week range on healthy fetuses and healthy mothers. “The abortion rights folks know it, the anti-abortion folks know it, and so, probably, does everyone else,” he said. (Diane Gianelli, Medicine adds to debate on late-term abortion. American Medical News, March 3, 1997, 54)

Most Americans are really uncomfortable with late-term abortion; a sizable majority think even second-trimester abortion should be illegal. The way those who advocate for late-term abortion push through those objections, it seems, is to raise the specter of disability. They fall back to talking about the “quality of life” and how to minimize suffering. As misguided as this thinking is in itself, referring to disability for late-term abortion is more rhetoric than reality.

Trusting God Together

Here is where the Church has a huge advantage and opportunity because Jesus taught us how to approach issues like unintended pregnancy, disability, and genetic anomalies: we should trust God and his promises.

Disability, disease, and suffering of all kinds are found throughout the Bible. It is no surprise to God. And he calls us to move toward each other in love and to serve each other as each has been given gifts. This includes finding, developing, and benefiting from the gifts of those who live with disability.

But because disability is so hard in this culture, and because there is real suffering associated with it, and because our own sin creates doubts that God is purposefully working, we are pressed to truly believe the promise from God that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”

This is true even for the babies who will only live a short time or who will live their entire lives with suffering, for they also live in the reality that “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. . .” (2 Corinthians 4:17). Here especially is an opportunity for those who cling to Jesus to love hurting families in ways that make God look strong, good, and worthy of our hope and trust.

Late-term abortion is legal in several states, but we don’t need to wait for changes in law or court decisions. Trust God, move toward the moms (and the dads) in love, welcome the children, and watch God make the idea of abortion unthinkable in people you never, ever believed could change.

(@johnpknight) is a Donor Officer at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne, and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments, and a seizure disorder. John writes on disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.