My colleague Stephanie Gray and I arrived at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Centre at 1:30 PM and headed through security and up three flights of stairs to Courtroom 304. Defence attorney Jack McMahon was just finishing his closing arguments, jabbing his finger towards a jury box full of moderately impassive and ordinary-looking people passing off as the peers of a serial killer. “Have the courage to say no to the press,” he said coaxingly. “Show courage, and show integrity.
Integrity and courage in this case, of course, meant letting Dr. Kermit Gosnell, on trial for four counts of first degree murder, one count of the third degree murder of Karnamaya Mongar (or “reckless killing”), and some 250 other abortion-related charges, off with a slap on the wrist—and perhaps a warm handshake for all the work he did to apparently serve impoverished women. While Philadelphia is known as “The City of Brotherly Love,” the unfolding “Abortion Trial of the Century” is shining a light on a dark, grotesque underbelly of the city that defies the name—“brotherly love” scarcely describing the allegedly hundreds of instances of Gosnell and his gang slitting and snipping the necks of newborns.
The judge stood up and informed the court that proceedings would continue at 2:45. Just outside the building, reporters from FOX, NBC and ABC swarmed around McMahon, who parried questions with all the smoothness of a Nuremburg defence counsel.
“So you’re saying that it’s a fake—all the babies were already dead?”
“That was my argument.”
“You believe this prosecution is racist?”
“That’s what I said, yes.”
Most of the trial spectators seemed to be from anti-abortion groups—Father Frank Pavone and Brian Kemper of Priests for Life, Chris Slattery of EMC FrontLine Pregnancy Centers, and representatives of Maryland Right to Life, Americans United for Life, and Operation Rescue chatted just outside the courtroom. The defence counsel’s arguments had people worried in spite of the trite tactics, and everyone was eager to hear the prosecution recap the mountain of bloodstained evidence that would be presented to the jury to remind them of Kermit’s years of carnage. The remnants of his spree sat in front of the courtroom—a chair stained with what looked like blood as well as cat feces, a filthy operating table with stirrups, battered ultrasound equipment.
Close to 3:00 pm, Dr. Gosnell was escorted into the courtroom. An elderly man with a graying fringe of hair, he didn’t look dangerous at all—more Dr. Jekyll than Mr. Hyde, even though the evidence set up in front of the court belied that. He smiled at Father Pavone in the front row, and took a seat next to his lawyer. Assistant DA Edward Cameron, who apparently was running a fever, strode out in front of the jury and announced, “I’m going to talk for two hours. This is about Karnamaya Mongar and the four babies that were killed.”
Then, he said something profoundly absurd: “This trial is not about abortion.” The next two hours, as it turns out, were all about abortion.
Cameron started off his closing statement by pulling up the Hippocratic Oath on a PowerPoint, to the general boredom of both the jury (as far as I could tell, of course) and the courtroom at large. He pointed out that 54 prosecution witnesses had damned Gosnell’s career as an incredibly inept and barbaric tenure of botched butchery—assistants with crippling mental health issues, one only 15 years old, the “standard practice” of slashing the necks of wriggling, mewling newborns, and slapping women who protested his callous treatment. “What one of you women,” he demanded loudly of the jury, “would go to a doctor, sit on that chair [pointing at the filthy reclining chair and stirrups] while that…person—[pointing at an impassive Gosnell]—would hit you?”
Cameron began to warm up. One of the babies born in Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” was born alive at 29.5 weeks, and Gosnell’s assistant called him in a panic. Gosnell rushed to the clinic—and the child promptly disappeared. “That baby would have been four and a half years old,” Cameron said, “I wish to God there was something we could do so it could walk through that door. But it had scissors jammed in its neck, and suffocated to death.” He pointed at a steel basin sitting on a table. “Babies DO feel pain—you stick something in them, they’ll react. Babies were delivered into this metal pan while the doctor was out, and left to die.”
To my right, Gosnell’s bored face began to take shape on a court reporter’s placard. Cameron pulled up the next slide. It was an abbreviated quote from witness Dr. Karen Feusilin: “Babies never allowed to be born alive—Abortion 101.” Cameron paused. “Maybe that’s not the best way to put it,” he said uncomfortably—and the cat, as it were, was out of the bag screeching and clawing. This trial was about abortion—more than that, it was a stark and gruesomely perfect microcosm of our cultural schizophrenia that stipulates that if you want to kill someone, it’s all about location, location, location. Cameron only had one thing to quickly add to Feusilin’s blunt assessment of Gosnell’s legal troubles—“If they are born alive, and you do anything to speed up their death, you are guilty of murder.”
Cameron’s next point, too, seemed to slip out of his mouth by accident, as he mocked Defence Attorney Jack McMahon’s assertion that a billboard in Gosnell’s clinic featuring “happy patients” revealed his scissor-less sweet side: “Abortion patients don’t send pictures of kids,” he pointed out. On the jury bench, jaws dropped. The tension was fleeting, but palpable. Again, Cameron seemed to realize what he had said and moved on, attempting a recovery by pointing at a graphic photo of post-utero murder victim “Baby Manning”: “That’s a baby, not a fetus,” he asserted lamely.
Quickly re-establishing his assertion that this trial was “not about abortion” by highlighting the testimony of an abortion doctor, Cameron brought up the assertions of a Planned Parenthood abortionist named only as “Dr. Benjamin.” Dr. Benjamin, who had the good sense to dismember his victims prior to their forcible eviction, was the perfect example of someone whom Gosnell should have looked up to: “Never was a baby born alive with a heartbeat—because he did things the right way.” His follow-up, again, defeated the point: “This nameless baby was one of the many killed by this man. We’ll never know who they were, or what they could’ve done.” As opposed to Benjamin’s some 40,000 victims, who apparently had no future whatsoever beyond a suction aspirator, medical waste container, and cremation.
The horrific details kept coming, from a baby delivered into a toilet and attempting to swim, to toilets backed up with baby parts (the word “fetus” mysteriously absent from Cameron’s vocabulary at this point.) I almost felt sorry for Cameron when he had to defend Pennsylvania’s 24-hour waiting period prior to an abortion, while maintaining support for abortion. The woman needs a chance to decide whether she “wants to keep the baby,” he told the jury, because “When the baby is done…er…when the abortion is done, it’s done.” One woman who attempted to change her mind but had her qualms ignored by Gosnell regrets her abortion to this day—because, Cameron pointed out, “This doctor wouldn’t take the time to tell her what abortion is and what it does to the fetus.” Cameron cleared up an ambiguity the courtroom had about this a few moments later: “The proper way to do abortions is under anesthesia and the…baby…is manually removed.”
The prosecutions’ closing arguments were powerful. The assistant DA appealed to the jury emotionally, appealing to their humanity. “My dog was sick recently,” he told them. “I took it to the vet, and it was put to sleep. These babies didn’t even get that. My dog was treated better than these babies.” Imagine, he asked the juries, being a pre-born child: “You live for months inside the mother—you go out into the light in intense pain…” only to be stabbed to death by Gosnell. At this point, Cameron seemed to be filled with genuine outrage, stabbing his finger in Gosnell’s direction. “Are you even human? To med women up and stick knives or scissors in their [the babies’] necks?”
Gosnell snickered. Perhaps he was considering the irony of being called inhuman in a culture that expects him to kill babies without the benefit of good lighting.
Cameron finished with a speech that sounded like something from a pro-life rally, calling Kermit Gosnell the captain of an abortion hell. “Baby after baby after baby…” he pleaded with the jury, “Be their voice.”
He sat down. One or two pro-lifers even ventured a clap. “The Abortion Trial of the Century” was over—and it was in the hands of the jurors, who have before them a case that encapsulates the sheer ridiculousness of the abortion movement’s “conflict of rights” rhetoric like none before.
In a culture filled with relativism and inherent contradictions, nothing for me was quite as simultaneously sickening and enlightening as watching an abortion doctor on trial in a country that endorses abortion. We’ve accepted one evil while trying to condemn evils proceeding directly from it—as Alexander Solzhenitsyn noted, “In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.” Or in this case, we’re actually ripping up new generations, limb from limb.
Perhaps the assistant DA himself summarized it best when he called Karnamaya Mongar, the immigrant woman Gosnell allegedly killed by giving her too much anesthesia, the “epitome of the American dream.” Indeed, this is now the American Dream—immigrate to America, adopt American values, and have your baby butchered. Gosnell, too, is then the “epitome of the American dream”—an entrepreneur endeavoring to provide a service in high demand—and innovative to boot. But when this trial pulled back the curtain on this American Dream, it revealed what we’re truly talking about—an American Nightmare, replete with severed limbs, beheaded babies, and corpses in the freezer.
We can only hope that this is enough to wake us up.