We’re Number Three!

Kermit Gosnell spent more than 30 years performing illegal abortions. Many of his clients were 6, 7 or even 8 months pregnant. If babies were born alive, as they often were, he killed them by snipping their necks. He punctured women’s uteruses, left fetal bits and chunks inside them to cause sepsis and infections. He cut off little feet, placed them in jars and arrayed them on a shelf. A woman would be given labor-inducing drugs, then told to sit on a toilet to “precipitate” her baby into the shitter. High on the wall outside Gosnell’s clinic, there’s a white metal silhouette of a man and woman swinging a child between them. “FAMILY PLANNING” is among the advertised services.

Gosnell is a well-known figure in Powelton Village, where his clinic is located, and Mantua, where he has a mansion on a hill, overlooking the Schuylkill River. Before opening his “baby charnel house” abortion mill, Gosnell operated the Mantua Halfway House. Even as he collected millions in government funding to rehab drug addicts, he dealt methadone. He even hired a noted artist, Joe Tiberino, to paint an anti-drug mural on the building where he sold drugs. At the Powelton clinic, Gosnell also dispensed pills illegally. Prescriptions were pre-signed, to be handed out by a 15-year-old receptionist. Hey, if Queen Victoria could push opium, and the C.I.A. ferry tons of heroin here and there, why shouldn’t this small time doctor drop a few tablets onto needy hands?

Mantua, also known as “The Bottom,” is a crime and drug ridden neighborhood. It’s curious that Gosnell, a millionaire, would buy a house there, albeit a Victorian mansion. He decorated it with oil paintings, hired Polish maids. Tall, well-educated and exercised, Gosnell belongs to a family that’s been financially comfortable for generations. The power and prestige of the black elite were undercut by racial integration, however. Your average black man could now enter a white restaurant, put his money in a white bank, open his mouth to a white dentist. Gosnell survived this sea change by selling drugs to his fellow blacks and by aborting or killing black babies. When white women entered his clinic, they were led to a cleaner area and treated with more consideration. As he explained, quite candidly, to his mixed race staff, “It’s the way of the world.”

Nearly half of all black pregnancies in America end in abortion. Whatever your politics, that should be an alarming statistic. (Worldwide, the highest rate of abortions belongs to the country of my birth, Vietnam.) A week before the Gosnell story broke, there was a news item about a Memphis high school where 90 girls were pregnant. High rates of abortions and teen pregnancies can only result in head and heart aches.

The sexual revolution coincided with better and more accessible methods of contraception, but as this sexual culture became all pervasive and entrenched, means for dealing with it responsibly have not always been available. Many poor women have no doctors, hence no birth control pills. Pregnant, they have inadequate or no prenatal care. Should they need an abortion, they must wait to come up with the cash. In Italy, home of the Catholic Church, where many nuns work in public hospitals and there’s a crucifix in every hospital room, abortions are performed for free. Why? Because they have universal health care.

Indicting Gosnell, the Philadelphia District Attorney stated, “Pennsylvania is not a third-world country. There were several oversight agencies that stumbled upon and should have shut down Kermit Gosnell long ago.” Casualties of his botched abortions were also routinely brought to local emergency rooms, yet no outside doctors intervened. In short, plenty of people saw what was happening, but they were either too callous, cynical or bureaucratic to care.

If bad, corrupt and neglectful government and atrocious health care are signs of third-worldness, then much of the United States is already there. We’re number three! Our brand of Third World is unique, however. We have managed to become both over and under developed. Unlike teeming Third World shanty towns, our slums are desolate and nearly devoid of street activities. Even before dark, everyone is bolt, chain and padlocked inside, watching 500 channels. Poverty always means the pettiest commerce, peddling and hustling, selling stuff and service from home or on the sidewalk, but this unregulated trade exists much less in America. With the strictest zoning laws on the planet, we basically outlaw survival on the lowest rungs. You can’t just set up a two table restaurant in your kitchen, offer candies and sodas on your stoops, or walk around mumbling, “Cigarettes, cigarettes,” though our poorest do try.

Recently, I sat in a bar in West Philadelphia, not far from Gosnell’s clinic. Within three hours, three men wandered in to sell incense, sheets of a Xeroxed, quite atrocious poem and (probably fake) Sex in the City perfume. Just outside Philly, in Chester, where Martin Luther King went to college, you can see men sell body oils, incense, clothing and nominal books on the sidewalks of its abject downtown. This mode of survival will spread, so the government should leave these tenacious Americans alone. What it shouldn’t neglect to do, however, is to protect our most vulnerable — and you can’t be more helpless than a newly born infant — from predators like Kermit Gosnell.

Several days have passed since this story broke, yet there’s no uproar from the mainstream or even alternative media. This is the biggest mass murder in U.S. history. Within walking distance of downtown Philadelphia, and merely six blocks from UPenn, a $40,000 a year, Ivy League school, hundreds of babies were butchered as government officials looked the other way. With failure and depravity on so many levels, there has been no national mourning or soul searching. That, in itself, is a tragedy.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a novel, Love Like Hate. He's tracking our deteriorating social scape through his frequently updated photo blog, Postcards from the End of America. Read other articles by Linh.

6 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. bozh said on January 24th, 2011 at 9:53am #

    well, [speaking for self only] why wldn’t i expect just that from people who wage nescience, poverty, supremacism, etc?

    in which media participates with even more vigor than politicians. alternate media, tho, embraces, seems, thousand and one currents; thus, cannot be ever wrong; i.e., all outcomes r covered! tnx

  2. Gary S. Corseri said on January 25th, 2011 at 1:22pm #

    Thanks for taking this on, Linh Dinh!

    Too often, “Progressives” have been knee-jerk reactionaries when it comes to the issue of abortion–mouthing, unthinkingly, the “woman’s right to choose” ethos! What a reversal! We used to think that “reactionaries” were those who held fast to fossilized positions–overtaken by science, technology and/or new mores. But, I prefer to use the term in the sense of reacting without careful thought and analysis.

    You show the human tragedy of our hypocritical system that will not fund health care for abortions, but allows butchers like Gosnell to scam the system.

    Your article is provocative, and it works on various levels.

  3. linhdinh99 said on January 25th, 2011 at 3:06pm #

    Hi Gary,

    Yesterday, Common Dreams reposted Chris Hedges’ article, “Where Liberals Go to Feel Good.” Like other commentators, Hedges points out how gullible, feeble and cowardly our liberals are. While congratulating themselves on having the correct posture, they never go far enough. They are impotent and complicit.

    Commenting on this, I said that what Hedges is describing sounds like what happens on Common Dreams itself. There, liberals can fret over Obama and root for the Democratic Party as the country goes to hell. I also said that their progressive calisthenics don’t include outrage or sadness over the worst mass murder in U.S. history. There is nothing on there about the Kermit Gosnell case, not even a stray mention in a comment. Yesterday, Common Dreams had an article called “Freedom of Choice: Living for What You Would Die For.” This, I pointed out, is “ironic and outright creepy,” considering their indifference to the killing of babies and women by a hack abortionist.

    My comment provoked at least a couple of responses, one very thoughtful that agreed, yes, the Gosnell case should cause more of a national uproar. I stepped out for a few hours. When I came back, my comment has been erased! The responses to my comment have also been erased.

    Common Dreams has revealed itself to be thin-skinned and completely undemocratic. Only approved opinions are allowed on there, apparently. This soft forum is where liberals go to feel good. I am both bemused and disgusted.

  4. mary said on January 25th, 2011 at 4:03pm #

    Previously, Gary Corseri has interviewed other authors and the conversations have been published on this site. I for one would really be interested to read a dialogue between Gary and Linh where they discuss our present dire condition and what they see ahead.

    I have just seen Michel Chossudovsky’s article on Global Research which makes grim reading, Global Poverty, Food Riots, and the Economic Crisis.{http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=22926}

  5. Don Hawkins said on January 25th, 2011 at 4:54pm #

    So beware rightwingers posing as heretics. Throughout government and the corporate press, the guardians of the status quo present themselves as edgy and dangerous, kicking against the system, overthrowing accepted truths. But they wage war against one sector of the establishment only to the advantage of more powerful players. They rail against climate scientists, while defending the interests of big oil and big coal. They rant about doctors, to the benefit of companies who want a chunk of the health service. They lambast “health and safety Nazis”, but not the careless corporations the inspectors try to restrain. George Monbiot

    Solar flares and the weather vane cuckoo,
    We click out a mordant Morse Code
    About Liberty, and God, and our free will. Gary Corseri

  6. hayate said on January 25th, 2011 at 6:53pm #

    My main quibble with how abortion is practiced is that people who should have been aborted went on and became the current war criminals running this world. We need to develop some sort of early warning method in which it can be determined if the person will grow up to be a soul less war criminal so we can abort them before they become a problem.