For the American people, the last year has been characterized by a series of senseless tragedies, from multiple mass shootings to the chaotic events of the last month. The images from both the Boston marathon bombing and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas still flicker in our minds and on our television screens when we turn on the evening news. After being broadcasted over and over again, these traumatic and devastating events stay with us through a series of familiar images.
Yet there’s one tragedy that the media has kept out of the spotlight —the atrocious murders committed by Dr. Kermit Gosnell at his Philadelphia abortion clinic over a span of 30 years. During the current ongoing trial, Gosnell is being charged for the murder of four babies after they were born alive and a woman who was administered a deadly dosage of anesthesia. There are a handful of other charges, including 227 counts of “failing to counsel patients a day in advance” as well as several for the dreadful sanitary conditions at the clinic.
An article published this morning by Atlantic Weekly describes the case perfectly:
“The grand jury report in the case of Kermit Gosnell, 72, is among the most horrifying I’ve read. ‘This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors,’ it states. ‘The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths.’”
After weeks of anti-abortion advocates complaining that the case wasn’t making front page news and was being pushed aside by most major news agencies, Anderson Cooper from CNN did an interview with filmmaker David Altrogge, who made a short documentary about Gosnell’s clinic called 3801 Lancaster. In the interview, after being asked why he thought mainstream media has disregarded the trial, Altrogge responded saying:
“I do think it’s because we’re uncomfortable talking about the issue of abortion, and unfortunately because we haven’t talked about it, these women and these babies are being forgotten. They’ve been quote on quote “blacked-out” and I think abortion has something to do with it.”
I’ll end this post with an observation I find extremely fascinating and yet terribly sad. Gosnell performed over a thousand abortions over a span of 30 years. In Pennsylvania, the cutoff for abortions is 24 weeks. Gosnell performed abortions at nearly all stages. Out of the countless human lives that were ended at Gosnell’s hands, these four babies (who were born and later murdered when their spinal cords were severed by surgical scissors) are the only ones whose humanity is being debated, while those killed in utero have not been considered persons, nor victims—or anything but a lump of cells for that matter. So this means that we decide when a child has the right to live or not—whether its 24 weeks, 30 weeks, or right before birth—based on a state law (since abortion laws differ from state to state). Apparently, life begins at different times for each state. No wonder this case is so complicated.
What is more disturbing? The fact that a state government chooses the span of time during which a child actually has the right to develop and enter this world, or Gosnell running an unsanitary and unprofessional clinic where four—just four babies were actually ‘murdered’?
On April 4th, CNN released a story of a young woman named Gul Meena. Like every other young girl, Gul had bright dreams of a beautiful, thriving and adventurous life. This dream ended when at the age of 12, Gul was forced into into a marriage with a 60 year old man. Not only did Gul enter into a marriage with a man who was five times her age, but, who was also an extremely abusive man. She was refused help from her family and friends. She admits to have attempted suicide several times. Five years into her marriage, Gul met a young Afghan man and in November 2012, she packed up a few of her belongings and the young couple made their way across the border into Afghanistan to the city of Jalalabad. Days into their trip, Gul’s older brother tracked the couple down. Armed with an ax, he proceeded to hack to death Gul’s boyfriend and cut open his sitter 15 times. Assuming that she was dead, Gul’s brother escaped back to Pakistan. Miraculously, Gul was taken to the Emergency Department of Nangarhar Regional Medical Centre by a passerby and survived the attack. Gul’s brother has not been caught and her family rejects the notion that Gul’s brother tried to kill her.
After two months in the hospital, Gul was transferred to the American-Afghan organization, Women for Afghan Women. Any story like Gul’s is extremely difficult to read and understand. The U.N. claims that 4,000 cases of violence of violence, like Gul’s, were reported to the Afghan Ministry for Women between 2010 to 2012. There are 14 women’s shelters in Afghanistan-only 14 shelters for thousands of acts of violence. At 2014, funding towards these shelters are most likely to end, due to international forces pulling out of Afghanistan.
I have been following the U.N.’s activities for months and years now. Without a doubt, when most people speak within the U.N. on “women’s health” or “women’s rights”, the discussion instantly turns to “reproductive health”. My question to the U.N. community, is how is giving a condom or an abortion to women like Gul going to improve their situation? Should we not place our focus on education and rescue missions to save young girls in these young marriages?
In a CNN interview, Basij-Rasikh, a young Afghan women who recently graduated from Middlebury College, stated that behind every successful woman was a man who believed in her dreams. Distributing condoms, which increases the mentality of promiscuous and violent behavior for men, does nothing to encourage men within the Afghan community to believe in the worth of their fellow women. The U.N. needs to seriously refocus their attention on how they approach the well being of women around the world to include both the practical encouragement of both men and women to live peaceful and whole lives without violence or condemnation.
Here is Gul’s article and Basij-Rasikh’s interview:
Over the last few weeks I think we’ve all noticed a new trend taking over our Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds; that is, the famous white equal sign on a red background. Actually, it varies. I’ve seen bacon strips equal signs, two sticks of butter, and basically anything else that helps prove their point. They want marriage equality for homosexuals, and they want it now.
Although I say this, my intention for this blog post is not to discuss gay marriage in America and why it should or shouldn’t be legalized. I’m sure there are many other blogs, articles, papers that have or are conducting lively discussions regarding the topic. What I want to say is that this whole social media phenomenon really made me think about what serious inequalities exist in today’s world.
As I kept scrolling, I found this picture:
Beneath the picture, this was written:
If most of my Facebook friends are going to support people who are gay by posting the red equal sign, I am going to post two feet, the feet represent the millions who never get to breathe the air of this world, who never feel love let alone get married, those who never have the chance to have children or go to school or do anything many gays are afforded the privilege to do. They are never given this chance because a human decides that their life is unimportant because of a defect or coming at an inopportune time for the person who conceived them. This is for the millions of children aborted yearly. Talk about rights being denied.
As a person—not just as some ‘pro-life blogger’— I believe the most fundamental right in question today is the right to life. I don’t know, maybe I say this because I’m American and I know the First Amendment—my right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—like my ABC’s. Yet, growing up as the third of eight children, it means more than something written on parchment 229 years ago by our founding fathers. I’ve seen how every child in my family was welcomed with open arms, and each of my siblings has their own personality, problems, talents, accomplishments, and we all share the same need to feel loved. I think that life—in all its difficulties, joys, and confusion—is the one right that no mother, government, agency, or clinic should ever have the right to take from any living person, at any stage, from conception until natural death.
It’s true that some children aren’t welcomed the way my siblings and I were; however, I think what is permeating our society and popular thought is the solution of death. The person disappears and is no longer a problem and a burden. Left out of so many human rights discussion at the UN and at Planned Parenthood International, and cut off from their source of life because they were despised before they were ever loved; the unborn are a marginalized population who are denied of their most fundamental right. What is scary is that many of the same people that want the legalization of same sex marriage are those that endorse the right for a woman to abort her child.
In celebrating his first Holy Week, Pope Francis certainly sent out a message to all who were watching. Francis has demonstrated, through his words and deeds, an example to serve and help one another, and be there for each other. And certainly the new Pope is sharing the message of doing so at the cost of not living so comfortably. As seems to be Francis’ style, he broke tradition in many instances, in order to live accordingly with his lifestyle of simplicity and service.
On Palm Sunday, the Holy Father’s message contained some pro-life themes, as pointed out by Father Frank Pavone, of Priests for Life. Highlights include:
We must not believe the Evil One when he tells us: you can do nothing to counter violence, corruption, injustice, your sins! We must never grow accustomed to evil! With Christ we can transform ourselves and the world. We must bear the victory of Christ’s Cross to everyone everywhere, we must bear this great love of God.
And this requires all of us not to be afraid to step outside ourselves, to reach out to others. In the Second Reading, Saint Paul tells us that Jesus emptied himself, assuming our condition, and he came to meet us (cf. Phil 2:7).
Let us learn to look up towards God, but also down towards others, towards the least of all! And we must not be afraid of sacrifice.
Father Pavone already points out that “We must never grow accustomed to evil” indeed is an encouraging message for pro-lifers to remember, as we are living in a world, and many of us, in nations where abortion is not only legal but also prevalent. But as pro-lifers we know that we are fighting a tough but noble battle, and that we are on the side of truth and love. It is thus encouraging to have Francis lend his support with messages that pro-lifers can really take to heart.
Such statements need not only be encouraging from a pro-life perspective, however. For in all that we do, whether it is fighting for rights of the unborn or already born, Francis is right in his suggestion of “Let us learn to look up towards God, but also down towards others, towards the least of all! And we must not be afraid of sacrifice.”
On Holy Thursday, in a move which was deemed by some controversial and gained much talk and attention from both sides, Francis broke with tradition, and what has been recently done, in the washing of the feet ceremony. Rather than wash the feet of 12 priests, Francis went to the Casal del Marmo, a juvenile prison in Rome, and washed the feet of 12 there, including 2 girls. While some have criticized the new pope for not only washing the feet of men, it is also worth noting that as the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he included women before in the washing of the feet.
Regardless as to one’s stance on the pope washing the feet of two women, those watching can be assured that Francis does not believe in women being ordained as priests. Thus, the new pope has included women in his act of service, but surely does not intend to break with Church law and come out in favor of women being ordained as priests. In choosing to include women in the washing of the feet ceremony, the pope has acted well within his bounds. To ordain women as priests for instance, would be acting out of bounds. Francis knows this. As pope, Francis is acting on a style preference which may be different from others.
It is also welcoming to hear what Francis has been reported saying on the Holy Thursday visit:
Speaking to the young offenders, including Muslims and Orthodox Christians, Francis said that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion in a gesture of love and service.
“This is a symbol, it is a sign. Washing your feet means I am at your service,” Francis told the group, aged 14 to 21, at the Casal del Marmo detention facility in Rome.
“Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us,” the pope said. “This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty. As a priest and bishop, I must be at your service.”
On this Holy Thursday, however, Francis had a simple message for the young inmates, whom he greeted one-by-one after the Mass, giving each an Easter egg.
“Don’t lose hope,” Francis said. “Understand? With hope you can always go on.”
One young man then asked why he had come to visit them.
Francis responded that it was to “help me to be humble, as a bishop should be.”
The gesture, he said, came “from my heart. Things from the heart don’t have an explanation.”