Kirsten Andersen

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Closing arguments heard in Gosnell trial, defense lawyer says “House of Horrors” is nothing but hype

Kirsten Andersen
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Kirsten Anderson reports directly from Philadelphia after attending today's court proceedings

PHILADELPHIA, April 29, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Closing arguments began today in the capital murder trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who stands accused of murdering three babies born alive at his West Philadelphia abortion clinic.  Workers at the clinic testified that they and Gosnell routinely severed the spinal cords of babies born alive after late-term abortions using scissors, a process they called “snipping.”  Gosnell is also facing a third-degree murder charge for the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Bhutanese refugee who was given a lethal overdose of narcotic pain medication.

The main point of contention in the capital murder case is whether the babies whose necks were severed by Gosnell and his staff were alive or dead when those injuries occurred.  Defense attorney Jack McMahon claims that it would have been impossible for the babies – whom workers testified they saw move and even scream – to be alive at birth because they received injections of Digoxin, a toxin designed to stop the heart from beating. 

But Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron said that during the FBI drug raid that first uncovered the filthy conditions at the clinic back in 2010, Digoxin was not among the drugs found on the premises.  Cameron also reminded jurors that clinic workers said Gosnell often missed the heart when giving injections, and that Digoxin “never worked.  The heart was always beating.”

Defense attorney McMahon accused the City of Philadelphia of running a “racist” prosecution against his client, who is black.  He said Gosnell “offered a service” to the low-income, largely minority clientele of his abortion business that they would otherwise have been unable to afford.  He accused the prosecution of elitism for comparing the cut-rate conditions at Gosnell’s filthy inner-city abortion clinic – where equipment was outdated and unsterile, gloves were reused across patients, and flea-ridden cats roamed and defecated freely – to the same standards as surgical centers serving wealthier neighborhoods. 

Gosnell “never turned away” desperate young girls who came to his clinic seeking abortions, said McMahon, even after 24 weeks, which is the legal cut-off for abortions in Pennsylvania.  “He offered relief … a solution to their problem,” McMahon said.   Gosnell is also facing 23 counts of performing illegal late-term abortions. 

“I’m not going to say that didn’t happen,” McMahon told jurors.  “I’d be lying to you if I did.”  But he argued that the government had not provided enough physical evidence with which to convict his client, and told jurors that a “not-guilty” verdict was not the same as finding Gosnell innocent. 

“’Not guilty’ just means ‘not proven,’” McMahon said.  “It doesn’t mean innocent.” 

McMahon acknowledged that the two-month long trial had been an emotional one, marked by horrifying testimonies and images of dead babies with holes in their necks.  “If it didn’t affect you, there would be something wrong with you,” he told the jury, but urged them to resist what he called a “tsunami” of “hype” against Gosnell.  He accused the prosecution of exaggerating the severity of the squalor inside the abortion center, claiming that the “House of Horrors” label it earned from prosecutors was “the most extraordinary hype and exaggeration in the history of the criminal justice system.”

He also said it was a distraction. 

“You can commit murder in the cleanest place in the world,” McMahon said.

Both McMahon and Assistant D.A. Cameron denied that the trial had anything to do with abortion.

“This is not a referendum on abortion,” said McMahon.  “Abortion isn’t pretty … it’s not.  It’s bloody and it’s real.”

Said Cameron, “Abortion is legal … as long as you follow the rules.”  But he said Gosnell performed “back-alley, coat-hanger abortions.”

Regardless of both attorneys’ insistence that the case has nothing to do with legal abortion, pro-life activists are pointing to the case as an example of the semantic gymnastics surrounding the issue. Not even Gosnell’s defense lawyer denies Gosnell was killing babies.  Over and over again, McMahon told the jury that babies were injected with Digoxin, which he called “the killing drug” in order “to kill the babies intrauteral [sic].”   But according to state law, as long as those deaths occurred in utero, they were not murder.  He said the burden was on the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the babies had survived until birth. 

The distinction “is maybe a 15-minute or half-hour time frame and 10 inches of physical space,” Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, told the New York Times. “I think it’s going to resurrect a debate about the humanity of the unborn child.”

As the day began, a lone pro-abortion protester stood in the rain in front of the Juanita Kidd Criminal Justice Center holding a sign that read “More restrictions = More Gosnells.” 

But attorney Jeanneane Maxon of Americans United for Life spoke to reporters outside the court Monday and said her organization plans to use the Gosnell case to push for additional safety legislation for abortion, including Born Alive Infant Protection laws to mandate lifesaving treatment for babies who survive attempted abortions, and stricter standards for abortion facilities.

“This is today’s back-alley abortion situation,” Maxon said of Gosnell.  “This is not an aberration.  Situations like Kermit Gosnell occur across the country.”  She said that in the last three years, fifteen states have had abortionists under investigation for similar crimes.

Maxon said she doubted Gosnell’s lawyer’s claim that only dead babies had their necks “snipped.”  “Why are they snipping the backs of the necks of these babies if they were not born alive?” she asked reporters. 

She alleged that at one point during the trial, McMahon said “We don’t have the answers [as to why their necks were snipped].  Maybe they were feeling pain.”

Said Maxon, “Why would a dead baby feel pain?”

Now that the trial has come to a close, the jury will have to decide whether to find Gosnell guilty of murder. If they find him guilty of the three counts of murdering infants, he could face the death penalty



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Planned Parenthood closes Iowa abortion facility because of low business

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DUBUQUE, Iowa, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Planned Parenthood closed an Iowa abortion facility on Friday, noting low business that left the facility unsustainable from a financial standpoint.

Although Planned Parenthood of the Heartland announced in January that it planned to close the Dubuque, Iowa, office, pro-life sidewalk counselors were overjoyed on Friday to read the sign in the window that read: “Our office is closed, effective April 28, 2016.”

The office did not perform surgical abortions but did provide medication abortions to the community of about 58,000.

“Rejoice with us for the lives of unborn children saved!” Iowa Right to Life said in a statement after the closure.

As with numerous other closures, Planned Parenthood, which styles itself a provider of “care no matter what,” emphasized it was closing its doors to preserve its bottom line.

“After assessing the shifting health care landscape, changing demographics, and the challenges of operating in areas with low patient volumes, we made the tough decision to close the Dubuque Health Center,” the group said in an announcement. “This change allows us to expand hours and see more patients in Cedar Rapids, where there is unmet demand due to lack of clinician hours.”
“While we regret making this change, we know it is a necessary step in order to continue our mission to provide, promote and protect reproductive and sexual health through health services, education and advocacy. Patients have been notified, and if they wish, they can receive a broader array of services at our health center in Cedar Rapids, where we have expanded hours to accommodate more patient,” Planned Parenthood said.

American Life League’s vice president, Jim Sedlak, remembers speaking to the county right to life group nine years ago.

“I told them at the time that they needed to protest outside Planned Parenthood at least once a week,” he said. “They told me they would do better than that. Over the last eight years, these dedicated pro-lifers were outside Planned Parenthood every hour it was open. And now...it’s closed for good.”

That aligns with advice that David Bereit, the founder of 40 Days for Life, once told young people who wanted to know how to end abortion.

Be loving and compassionate, he said.

Your peaceful, loving presence out there flies in the face of all the stereotypes they want to throw onto us,” he added. “When you show them love instead of condemnation, when you show them peace and joy instead of anger and judgment, that will begin to break down the walls.”

Iowa Right to Life credited just such tactics with closing an office in Red Oak that performed webcam abortions. “Planned Parenthood shut down in Red Oak in large part because of the constant, prayerful presence outside their clinic,” the group said.

Upon hearing of the latest abortion facility shuttering, the Dubuque County Right to Life said that Planned Parenthood isn't the only group that will move its base of operations. “We will probably put our efforts in Cedar Rapids and will continue to spread the pro-life message,” said Executive Director Marian Bourek.



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Ted Cruz confronted by mom who supports aborting disabled babies…just like hers

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MARION, Indiana, May 3, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Senator Ted Cruz was met on the campaign trail by a mother who strongly opposed a state pro-life law that would have protected children with birth conditions – like her own.

Andrea DeBruler, a 41-year-old nurse, confronted the presidential hopeful in the city of Marion as Cruz campaigned with Gov. Mike Pence.

DeBruler first asked Cruz, then Pence, about House Bill 1337, which bans abortions performed due to the child's race, sex, or disability, such as Down syndome.

DeBruler held up a picture of her daughter, Jania, who was born with cerebral palsy. “This was a choice,” she said.

She asked Sen. Cruz if he supported the bill, which made Indiana the second state in the nation to ban abortion for Down syndrome, after North Dakota.

“I'm not Governor Pence,” he replied. “But I'll tell you this: I believe in protecting human life.”

Pence, who endorsed Cruz in today's make-or-break Indiana primary, listened to her objections.

“I'm not here as a Republican, I'm not here as a Democrat. I'm here as a woman, a woman with choices, choices that you guys should not make,” DeBruler said.

After hearing that she felt many families lacked sufficient resources to care for children, especially in an area like Marion, Gov. Pence offered to connect her with social services.

“God bless her,” he said, looking at Jania's picture, “and God bless you.”

Though it may be unusual to encounter a woman arguing for the right to abort her own child, the governor handled it calmly. Pence had specifically reflected on “precious moments” he spent with “families of children with disabilities, especially those raising children with Down syndrome” when he signed the bill into law in March.

"We are truly thankful for the passage of this historic legislation by the Indiana House and applaud the new civil rights protections this bill creates for unborn children, as well as the new provisions this bill establishes for the humane final disposition of aborted babies," Indiana Right to Life President Mike Fichter said at the time.

DeBruler told the UK media outlet The Independent that H.B. 1337 “means you can no longer have an abortion based on deformity. I’m against this law, because I think it should be a woman’s choice” to abort for any reason.

Congressional Democrats made similar statements during hearings last month for Rep. Trent Franks' federal Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA), with Congressman John Conyers saying the bill is “patently unconstitutional,” because a woman has the right to abort a child before viability for any reason.

Both leading contenders for the Democratic nomination expressed their displeasure with the law, which protects unborn children from racial or sexual discrimination, as well as discrimination on the basis of an inborn trait like mental capacity.

When Gov. Pence signed the law, Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted:

Hillary Clinton later said, “I commend the women of this state, young and old, for standing up against this governor and this legislature.”

DeBruler told The Independent, despite her comment about not being a Democrat or a Republican, she is in fact a Democrat and will vote for Hillary Clinton in today's primary. 



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This year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an honor on Vice President Joe Biden, the silence from the Catholic hierarchy is deafening. Drop of Light / Shutterstock.com
Phil Lawler

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The moral challenge to Cardinal Wuerl in pending Notre Dame outrage

Phil Lawler

Ask Notre Dame not to honor pro-abortion Vice President Joe Biden. Sign the petition!

May 3, 2016 (CatholicCulture) -- In 2009, when the University of Notre Dame invited President Barack Obama to deliver a commencement address, dozens of American bishops lodged loud public protests. Yet this year, as Notre Dame prepares to confer an even greater honor on Vice President Joe Biden (together with former House Speaker John Boehner), the silence from the hierarchy is deafening.

Back in 2009, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston said that Notre Dame’s invitation to President Obama was “very disappointing,”, while then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan termed it a “big mistake.” The late Bishop John D’Arcy, then leader of the Indiana diocese in which the university is located, spoke of “the terrible breach which has taken place between Notre Dame and the Church.” For the first time in his 25 years of service to the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, Bishop D’Arcy declined to attend the Notre Dame commencement exercises; instead he addressed a protest rally organized by pro-life students, faculty, alumni, and staff.

These prelates and others explained their dismay by referring to the statement “Catholics in Political Life,” released in 2004 by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. In that document, the bishops reflected on the need to maintain a consistent public witness in defense of human life, and therefore to distance themselves from public officials who support legal abortion. The statement set forth a clear policy that Catholic institutions should not give public honors to “pro-choice” politicians:

The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.

By giving President Obama an honorary degree and offering him an opportunity to speak at graduation, Notre Dame clearly violated that policy. University officials could offer only garbled partial defenses, claiming that they were honoring Obama not because he supports unrestricted abortion, but because he is President of the United States.

This year the university cannot offer even that lame defense of the decision to award the Laetare Medal to Vice President Biden. Unlike Obama, Biden is a Catholic, and by granting him this award the university is explicitly saying that the Vice President has “illustrated the ideals of the Church and enriched the heritage of humanity.” In other words, Notre Dame is honoring Vice President Biden as a Catholic political leader despite his unwavering support for abortion and same-sex marriage.

Give credit to Bishop Kevin Rhoades, the current leader of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese, for raising a lonely voice of protest. “I believe it is wrong for Notre Dame to honor any ‘pro-choice’ public official with the Laetare Medal, even if he/she has other positive accomplishments in public service,” Bishop Rhoades said. But if any other bishops have joined him in that rebuke to Notre Dame, I must have missed their public announcements.

Some observers, of liberal political sympathies, have argued that it is wrong to honor John Boehner, too, because the former Speaker disagreed with the US bishops’ stand on immigration. This is a tired old argument, conflating disagreement with the bishops on a prudential political decision with defiance of Church teaching on a fundamental moral principle. But it is noteworthy that Notre Dame officials saw fit to make a joint award, no doubt in a cynical effort to dodge political criticism by choosing one honoree from each side of the political spectrum.

“We live in a toxic political environment where poisonous invective and partisan gamesmanship pass for political leadership,” said Father John Jenkins, the president of Notre Dame, in announcing the Laetare Award recipients. (Notice the pre-emptive suggestion that those who criticize the school’s choices may be engaged in “poisonous invective.”) He went on to make a tortured argument that although Notre Dame is honoring two politicians, it is not honoring them for what they have done in their political careers:

In recognizing both men, Notre Dame is not endorsing the policy positions of either, but celebrating two lives dedicated to keeping our democratic institutions working for the common good through dialogue focused on the issues and responsible compromise.

By now we all know the familiar dodges. The politician claims to oppose abortion personally, but to feel a delicate reticence about imposing his views on others. He says that we must be willing to compromise (even on life-and-death decisions). He insists that he is not “pro-abortion” but “pro-choice.”

That last bubble of rhetoric was unceremoniously burst by Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, DC, when he celebrated Mass at Georgetown after Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richard had delivered a lecture there. “The word ‘choice’ is a smokescreen,” he said, “behind which those killing unborn children take refuge. Every chance you get, blow that smoke away!”

Now Cardinal Wuerl himself has a chance to “blow that smoke away.” As things stand, he is scheduled to celebrate Mass at the Notre Dame commencement, and to receive an honorary degree. He could pull out; he could absent himself from the ceremonies, to ensure that he does not become part of an event that pays homage to a “pro-choice” Catholic politician.

And there is a precedent. Back in 2009, the Harvard legal scholar (and former US ambassador to the Holy See) Mary Ann Glendon was chosen to receive the Laetare Award. But when she learned that President Obama would be speaking, she announced her decision to decline the award. Clearly annoyed that her presence might be used to quiet the critics of the honor for Obama, Ambassador Glendon wrote that she did not want to be used as a counterweight, nor did she see the Notre Dame commencement as an appropriate venue for a genteel debate about legal abortion:

A commencement, however, is supposed to be a joyous day for the graduates and their families. It is not the right place, nor is a brief acceptance speech the right vehicle, for engagement with the very serious problems raised by Notre Dame’s decision—in disregard of the settled position of the U.S. bishops—to honor a prominent and uncompromising opponent of the Church’s position on issues involving fundamental principles of justice.

Could Cardinal Wuerl do this year what Ambassador Glendon did in 2009? Even at this late date, his withdrawal would send a powerful message of support for the right to life: an unmistakable rebuke to politicians who hide behind the smokescreen that the cardinal himself identified. To be sure, if he did withdraw, the cardinal would be caught in an avalanche of public criticism; he would suffer for his public witness. But there is a reason why cardinals wear red.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. Reprinted with permission from Catholic Culture.



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