Why the pro-life movement must reject the death penalty for Kermit Gosnell
Is it any surprise that Dr. Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of murder? His trial, when people finally started paying attention, disgusted the nation for weeks. He killed babies, inside the womb and out, he discriminated on the basis of race, he put women in danger, he made the world an uglier place.
The world is a touch more just, now that he has been found guilty. But soon many will begin banging their drums with bloodlust, calling for the death penalty. But what good is responding to death with death?
In fact, pro-lifers often make the argument that responding to a violent act (rape) with another violent act (abortion), only perpetuates a cycle of evil and violence. This is not to say that putting Gosnell to death is the moral equivalent of aborting a baby conceived of rape, as putting Gosnell to death would not necessarily be unjust. But it is to say that fixating on the death penalty for Gosnell is focusing our attention in the wrong place.
Our Constitution may permit the death penalty, but our hearts should resist it. And in our modern world, where the human heart is so coarsened against the dignity and value of all human life, there is actually much good that can come of sparing the life of a criminal and causing him instead to live the rest of his life in penance for his crimes. Blessed Pope John Paul frequently made the case against the death penalty, arguing that the world had developed in such a way that, “society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform.”
Professor Robert George has gone so far as to suggest that a plea for mercy for the life of Gosnell from the pro-life community might touch the hearts of heinous criminals such as he. Pro-lifers must realize that we can condemn Gosnell’s murder and infanticide and the crimes committed by abortionists every day, without calling for their lives.
Rather than focusing on Gosnell’s punishment, we should instead turn our attention to the hellish world that legal abortion has created. The Gosnell trial brought to light just how hideous and gruesome second and third trimester abortions are, even when legal. It has forced us to come to terms with the reality that abortion still places women in danger. It has sewn death into the bedrock of feminism, depriving women of the knowledge that they have alternatives to midnight assaults on their wombs when they are pregnant and scared.
Don’t get me wrong, Gosnell’s crimes rank among the most vile I’ve ever known to transpire in my short life.
But clamoring for his death perpetuates a culture of death. Pro-lifers must stay focused on saving babies, not on killing their killers.
Ashley E. McGuire is a Senior Fellow with The Catholic Association and the editor of Altcatholicah.