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Friday, May 24, 2013

Gosnell's Conviction: Not the End of the Story

Last week brought the long-awaited “guilty” verdict of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who performed illegal late-term abortions under horrifying conditions. Medical examiners found that Gosnell routinely aborted babies older than 24 weeks, which is illegal in Pennsylvania; in addition, he frequently delivered the children alive and cut their necks to finish the process. Gosnell has been sentenced to life in prison for infanticide.

While it’s a relief to know that Gosnell will no longer be able to harm mothers and babies, there are still thousands of unborn children dying painful deaths during legal abortions every year.  Medical evidence shows us that unborn babies respond to touch by 8 weeks, and all the receptors necessary for feeling pain are in place by 20 weeks. Additionally, it’s likely that babies at this age have a higher sensitivity to pain than adults.  Gosnell was convicted because he severed the necks of live babies after he delivered them; during a legal late-term abortion, the abortionist kills the child within the womb by literally ripping her apart piece by piece. No matter which way the abortionist does it, the child suffers a great deal of pain during the abortion process.

These painful late-term abortions are far from uncommon. According to Guttmacher's fact sheet, in 2006 approximately 12% of abortions took place after 12 weeks of pregnancy (more recent statistics were not available). This means that an average of 144,000 unborn children die after the first trimester of pregnancy every year. Eighteen thousand abortions took place after 21 weeks, when the babies could definitely feel pain and would be considered viable outside the womb.

In North Carolina, abortions are legal during all stages of pregnancy. Up until 20 weeks, a mother may abort her child for any reason at a licensed facility or hospital. After 20 weeks, a mother’s life or health must be in question, and the abortion must take place within a licensed hospital. Although “health of the mother” sounds reasonable, in practice it means that if a mother wants an abortion, she will get one. In 2011, North Carolina residents had over 580 abortions past 16 weeks gestation.

Largely in response to the horrors brought to light by the Gosnell trial, a panel of the House Judiciary Committee is currently working on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (H.R. 1797). This legislation would prohibit nationwide most abortions after 20 weeks gestation, when unborn children can definitely feel pain. After all, if babies born after 20 weeks can survive such a premature birth, shouldn’t they be protected from a violent, painful late-term abortion?  If people are outraged by Gosnell’s treatment of a 25-week-old preterm baby, shouldn’t they be equally outraged by an abortionist’s treatment of a 25-week-old unborn baby? These are the questions the Gosnell trial has raised.

To view a list of the current cosponsors of H. R. 1797 in the U. S. House and Senate and read more about the legislation, click here

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