Nightmare on 3801 Lancaster

It shouldn’t take the Gosnell abortion clinic catastrophe to open our eyes

by Published: Apr 17, 2013

Jars of baby feet and fetal remains.

Bloodstained walls, sheets and women lying half life­less in chairs.

Babies born, cry­ing with life, then scis­sors to their necks, sev­er­ing their spinal cords. Some die imme­di­ately. For oth­ers it is slower, and they twitch about. A woman, strapped to a bed, cries out that she wants to keep her baby. But a mon­ster calls her the baby, and she is out­num­bered by staff who proceed.

She wakes up groggy but knows her baby is no longer with her. She weeps and asks to hold her child. But no one answers. They all ignore her.

Does this sound like some­thing out of a hor­ror movie?

It’s not. It’s real. It is the story of Kermit Gosnell and his abor­tion clinic in Philadelphia, Pa. on 3801 Lancaster Avenue. The doc­u­men­tary “3801 Lancaster” reveals the truth behind this nightmare.

For those of you not famil­iar with this story, Gosnell’s clinic was up and run­ning for many years. In fact, the last time a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the state depart­ment of health had inspected the clinic was 1993.

Gosnell pri­mar­ily per­formed late term abor­tions, in which the fetus is often viable. Various atroc­i­ties took place at Gosnell’s far below par facil­ity, includ­ing one woman suf­fer­ing a per­fo­rated uterus in 1996, another dying after an abor­tion in 2002, and another dead in 2009. One died because a gen­eral office worker started her anes­the­sia, and she suf­fered a lethal over­dose. The health depart­ment was noti­fied of all these incidents,

Not once did they investigate.

In addi­tion to these heinous crimes, seven infants expe­ri­enced Gosnell’s hor­rific snip­ping pro­ce­dure, live babies murdered.

As I type I feel my stom­ach churn, but I try to keep my words lucid and com­posed. I don’t know what infu­ri­ates me the most: The obscen­i­ties that occurred at this ter­ri­ble excuse for a med­ical facil­ity by this man and the irre­spon­si­ble work­ers below him, the utter neg­li­gence of those who are sup­posed to pro­tect our health and com­mu­ni­ties from these kinds of atroc­i­ties, or the fact that it takes an event like this for peo­ple to real­ize the hor­ror of abor­tion, for moth­ers and babies. There are those who will call this case mur­der­ous, but still jus­tify the killing of a human baby as long as it’s not viable. We demand rights for diverse sex­u­al­i­ties and gen­ders and eth­nic­i­ties and races and classes. Yet we fail to give the most basic right of life to the inno­cent who can­not speak up for themselves.

One woman had eight abor­tions by Gosnell in 14 years, and when she returned after her first, one of the work­ers explained how per­fectly nor­mal abor­tion is. For every abor­tion after, she viewed it as a form of birth con­trol. Reflecting in the doc­u­men­tary, she says she doesn’t know what she was think­ing, as she weeps bitterly.

Ferris women, this is you. You are those at risk. If this heart­break­ing story doesn’t change your views of abor­tion for the hor­ren­dous act that it is (and as polar as the issue of abor­tion is, I doubt it will), at least become an advo­cate for your health and the health of oth­ers by speak­ing up in the face of med­ical atroc­i­ties and become a pro­po­nent for qual­ity care. Those that are pro-choice argue the impor­tance of this plat­form on giv­ing women con­trol. Control of their lives and their bod­ies. But women, when you let your body into the hands of a mon­ster like Gosnell, or any­one who will take that life from you or put your life at risk, you relin­quish control.

My col­leagues, my fel­low stu­dents who have under­gone abortions—I don’t con­demn you. I can’t imag­ine the emo­tional toil, the pain and the pres­sure of know­ing the respon­si­bil­ity of a child—it’s impact on your hopes and dreams or the pain of car­ry­ing the child of rape. I can’t think of any­one who likes abor­tion. But don’t let peo­ple desen­si­tize you to it. Using pro­tec­tion if sex is your choice or mak­ing the choice with your body to sus­tain a life if you do become preg­nant is giv­ing you more power and con­trol than you could ever have in the hands of some­one who will take that new life away.

One point made in the doc­u­men­tary addressed the preva­lence of abor­tion clin­ics in inner-cities, African American com­mu­ni­ties, and minor­ity com­mu­ni­ties, tar­get­ing those already oppressed. They offer their ser­vices as if they are the only choice. They aren’t. You have options. The road won’t be easy choos­ing life, but nei­ther will choos­ing abor­tion. Make the choice that saves lives and pro­motes health for all.

 
 
  • Guelettis

    As an indi­vid­ual that believes in pro-choice rights, let me state the fol­low­ing:
    “We hate him just as much as you do.”

  • lib­er­al­babe

    I’m pro-choice, as well. For a long time, I’ve been privy to the fact that what we need for ALL women is uni­ver­sal access to birth con­trol. Sex is unavoid­able (and/or desir­able) for most, so until the pro-life cam­paign can fully con­vince the gen­eral pub­lic that they should abstain from their nat­ural urges thor­oughly enough to pre­vent all preg­nan­cies, bc needs to be read­ily avail­able to all women (for lit­tle to no cost) through health clin­ics every­where.
    And yes, it’s true, “We hate him just as much as you do.”

  • lib­er­al­babe

    I’m pro-choice, as well. For a long time, I’ve been privy to the fact that what we need for ALL women is uni­ver­sal access to birth con­trol. Sex is unavoid­able (and/or desir­able) for most, so until the pro-life cam­paign can fully con­vince the gen­eral pub­lic that they should abstain from their nat­ural urges thor­oughly enough to pre­vent all preg­nan­cies, bc needs to be read­ily avail­able to all women (for lit­tle to no cost) through health clin­ics every­where.
    And yes, it’s true, “We hate him just as much as you do.”

  • lib­er­al­babe

    I’m pro-choice, as well. For a long time, I’ve been privy to the fact that what we need for ALL women is uni­ver­sal access to birth con­trol. Sex is unavoid­able (and/or desir­able) for most, so until the pro-life cam­paign can fully con­vince the gen­eral pub­lic that they should abstain from their nat­ural urges thor­oughly enough to pre­vent all preg­nan­cies, bc needs to be read­ily avail­able to all women (for lit­tle to no cost) through health clin­ics every­where.
    And yes, it’s true, “We hate him just as much as you do.”

    • Rachel

      Your com­ment is true about birth con­trol. I am pro-life but have absolutely no prob­lem with birth con­trol and oral con­tra­cep­tives and think respon­si­ble sex needs to be hap­pen­ing. I don’t know if you imply that those who are pro-life are against birth con­trol and all hold absti­nence only plat­forms, but this is not the case. It’s been proven that absti­nence only edu­ca­tion is inef­fec­tive, but I digress, as that could be another opin­ion in it’s entirety. Birth con­trol does need to be avail­able for women, so that “birth con­trol” via abor­tion is not the choice, or the way I view it, murder.

      I rec­og­nize that there is no one (expect per­haps sickos such as Gosnell him­self) who likes abor­tion. It’s sim­ply a mat­ter of where you stand and whose/which rights you sup­port more–the right to life of an infant who can­not speak for him/herself, or the right for a mother to choose to carry a preg­nancy to term or end it.

      Truly, the les­son from this hor­ror story is that we need to be advo­cates for bet­ter health all around and not turn a blind eye to med­ical atroc­i­ties such as this. But, as a pro-life advo­cate, I can­not ignore my out­rage at the fact that it takes late term killing of babies to make peo­ple infu­ri­ated, as if some­how before 24 weeks these infants are not human, not wor­thy of life or defending.

      Regardless of stance, pro-life or pro-choice, we do need to work together to pro­vide edu­ca­tion and con­tra­cep­tives to women, and look past our dif­fer­ences to be pro­po­nents of health for all and save lives, as my col­league Jax wrote about. Maybe then abor­tion will not even be an ques­tion (in a per­fect world of course), though I wish it wasn’t now.

      Thank you both for you com­ments; you make good points in remind­ing both sides of the issue that abor­tion is not prefer­able (though from my view point, is not even accept­able) and that there are clearly fail­ures in the sys­tem that need to be addressed.