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HENDERSHOTT: When public policy protects the murder of infants

Gosnell verdict prompts no notice from the White House

- - Thursday, May 16, 2013

Now that the verdict is in on Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist convicted of delivering and killing babies — most of them black — perhaps President Obama might finally be willing to respond to the horrific crime. Silent on the facts of the case, it is curious that up until now, neither the president nor the first lady has been willing to comment on the house of horrors over which Gosnell presided.

Prior to the Gosnell case, Mr. Obama was quite willing to involve himself in violent cases — especially when the cases involved black children. In the days following the death of Trayvon Martin, the teenager shot last year by a neighborhood watch captain in a gated Florida community, Mr. Obama told a gathering of reporters in the Rose Garden, "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." In a speech earlier this month that addressed youth violence in Chicago, Michelle Obama compared herself to Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old girl slain there: "Hadiya Pendleton was me, and I was her."

Personally identifying with the victims of violence is something that the president and his wife have done often. Most recently, they brought the parents of children slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School to Washington to lobby Congress on gun control. Yet, neither the president nor his wife has said a word about the horrific descriptions of tiny screams, flailing arms and beheadings in the capital murder trial of Gosnell. Neither of them seems to have noticed that the pictures of the newborn victims at the clinic may have looked a lot like their own newborn children.

Ignoring the Gosnell case, Mr. Obama drew a standing ovation from Planned Parenthood staffers and supporters at their annual fundraising gala last month when he assured them, "You've got a president who's going to be right here with you fighting every step of the way." He is standing with Planned Parenthood despite the fact that the organization admitted to knowing about the conditions inside Gosnell's Philadelphia clinic, yet chose not to act to help end the killing of newborn babies.

Mr. Obama is choosing to stand beside an organization that lobbies for the right to abort unborn children in Philadelphia up until 24 weeks of gestation. It is not a coincidence, as World magazine has pointed out, that most of Gosnell's second-trimester patient files introduced at his murder trial have the number "24.5" written in the column, indicating gestational age.

Thanks to the lobbying efforts of Planned Parenthood, there are even higher odds of aborted babies being born alive in other states. In Oregon, Nevada, Michigan, Illinois, Massachusetts, Florida and Maryland, abortion is legal until 23 weeks, six days. In Colorado and New Mexico, women can have a legal abortion until the 26th week.

There are also loopholes for those who want even later-term abortions if there are concerns for the "mother's health," which can include physical, emotional, psychological and familial wellness. These abortions can be done at any time — even in the final days of the full-term pregnancy.

Mr. Obama has tacitly supported the ability of doctors like Gosnell to kill newborn babies through his support for public policy in Illinois in 2001 and 2002. Then-state Sen. Obama voted against the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, which would have defined the term "born alive infant" as an infant that is expelled or extracted from his or her mother that exhibits a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles." Sen. Obama voted against providing this protection to the newborn, saying, "It could interfere with a woman's right to an abortion as established through the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision." Each time he had the opportunity to do so, Mr. Obama voted to deny basic constitutional protections for babies born alive from an abortion.

Today, Mr. Obama will not acknowledge this. In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Mr. Obama accused the National Right to Life Committee of lying about his lack of support for the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act. The Washington Post, however, said the president misrepresented these facts. On Sept. 10, reporter John Hicks wrote: "The evidence suggests we could have awarded four Pinocchios to the former Illinois senator for his comments to the Christian Broadcasting Network."

Mr. Obama's promises to the adoring Planned Parenthood audience ensure that he will continue to support public policy that leads to horrors such as those occurring in Philadelphia. Criticizing states that have passed more-restrictive abortion laws in the past few years, the president claimed that such efforts were an attempt to send the country back to a time before Roe v Wade. For the unborn — and now, the newborn — that was a much safer time.

Anne Hendershott is a professor of sociology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, and the author of "The Politics of Abortion" (Encounter Books, 2006).