The Tale of Two Monsters


 Gosnell and Castro should force us to reconsider some pro-choice  assumptions

By Celeste McGovern


America has given the world two glimpses of man’s capacity for the worst kinds of evil in recent weeks.  On Monday, after 10 days of deliberating, a Philadelphia jury convicted abortion doctor Kermitt Gosnell on three counts of first-degree murder for stabbing the spines of babies who survived his first attempt to kill them by late-term abortion, including one that was so big he said it could “walk to the bus.”  On Wednesday he received the last of three life sentences without parole for the murders as well as a 2 1/2 to five-year sentence for the death of one of his patients, a 41-year-old refugee, by overdose of anaesthetics. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams called Gosnell “a monster” and almost invariably throughout the five weeks of trial testimony, his abortion clinic was described as a grisly “house of horrors.”

In the midst of that gruesome trial, a second house of horrors was uncovered, in Cleveland Ohio. Almost unbelievably, two teenage girls and a young woman abducted a decade ago and imprisoned as sex slaves in a house near the city’s downtown, escaped their captor when one of the women clawed through a screen door and screamed to bewildered neighbours for help.  Last week, prosecutors said that as well as charging 52-year-old Ariel Castro with  kidnapping and rape, they were considering also charges for “each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies” in light of the fact that he allegedly starved one of the women and pummelled her abdomen after impregnating her,  to induce her to miscarry, at least five times.

Apart from the joyous reunion of the women and their relatives, there was another heartbreakingly poignant point of light: a little girl, the only baby known to have survived the depravity. Six-year-old Jocelyn was born in the Cleveland hellhole to Amanda Berry who was abducted the day before her 17th birthday a decade ago. The photo that shot around the world showed Berry’s sister , Beth, and Berry, leaning over a hospital bed, her arm cradling the head of a dark-eyed, gap-toothed grinning girl, the girl’s hand holding her mother’s.

“Yes, she’s my daughter,” Berry said when she spoke on the telephone with her emotional grandmother for the first time .“Born on Cristmas.”   

Later, DNA testing established Castro as the father of Jocelyn. And harrowing details of the girl’s birth emerged. She was reportedly delivered in an inflatable kiddie pool, because Castro wanted to minimize the mess. Another of his captives. Michelle Knight, was told to help deliver the baby and that he would kill her if it died. At one point she reportedly told police she gave the baby mouth-to-mouth resuscitation when it stopped breathing.

Knight had apparently born the brunt of Castro’s rage, being pummelled repeatedly by him with hand weights, she will likely require facial reconstruction surgery, but she also told police she was starved for two weeks when Castro discovered her pregnancies, then beaten to induce miscarriage at least five times.

Comment about this aspect of the women’s ordeal is noticeably absent from the mainstream media. The implications of charges of “aggravated murder by terminating a pregnancy,” even though they hinge on the mother’s wanting the pregnancy, force Americans to ask questions like how one pregnancy termination can be murder, but another can be legal abortion. And to consider how and why any baby conceived in rape, could have a right to a life, or for that matter be wanted.  

Because the decriminalization and enshrinement of abortion as a “reproductive right” owed to all women was developed on these “hard cases” – on the assumption that no good could ever possibly come from a child conceived in rape, and that only cruel religious zealots could fathom a woman willingly carrying a pregnancy conceived in such circumstances or that child having any inherent value of its own.

The media tried to ignore the Gosnell trial because it raised unsettling questions about the horror of abortion and highlighted the breathtaking arbitrariness of defining life based on its location (inside a birth canal versus outside a birth canal),  or age (a “fetus” at 23 weeks versus a “baby” at 26 weeks.)

So too, apart from Rebecca Hagelin’s piece in the Washington Times  about Berry’s incredible testimony to mother love, they have been remarkably quiet about baby Jocelyn. The UK’s Daily Mail carried an interview with a behavioural scientist who said the little girl likely helped both Amanda and the other women to survive, by distracting and engaging them and giving them a sense of purpose.

All of this makes rather hard work ahead for the pro-choice movement as they try to distance themselves from the monsters who share their regard for unborn life. They also have to ignore that a child conceived by a monster has a beautiful face, gave his victims hope in the midst of horror, and is loved.

This article first ran on in May, 2014