My Response to the Gosnell Case

Trigger warning – the first part of this article holds a graphic description.

Only hours before I boarded our flight to Istanbul I read the first article I had seen about the Gosnell case. It was an article easily missed in the NY Times. For those who may have missed this story, this is a doctor on trial for the murder of seven babies aborted in the third trimester of pregnancy. He thrust scissors into their necks and cut their spinal cords. He called this “snipping” and had allegedly done this to hundreds of babies through the years. He was also responsible for the death of a woman who was pregnant. He was operating out of a licensed clinic in Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Department of Public Health, though given ample reason to be concerned, did not act in any sort of responsible manner.

As I read the account I felt I would be sick. I wanted to immediately respond – but I couldn’t. The response to this kind of horror is not easily articulated with mere words. In the week following, I would periodically think of it and rapidly push it from my mind. Then my nephew, Tim, sent me a long article from The Atlantic, urging me that Communicating Across Boundaries folks needed to hear the story, that it was a story that would elicit righteous, appropriate outrage.

Since that time many others have written and the articles range from excellent to completely frustrating. I knew I couldn’t respond in the way others had so I’ve decided to tell a story. A story that happened 17 years ago in Cairo, Egypt. I ask you to join me in this journey back in time.

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“Take care of your baby!” 

The words were authoritative and stern, coming from my Egyptian doctor. He knew the value of babies – he was a fertility specialist and women from all over Cairo came to him because they wanted a baby. The irony of this was not lost on me and my husband – I was pregnant with my fifth child.

To say this was unexpected was a royal, first-class understatement. Our fourth had been born three years prior and everything ‘baby’ was gone. Crib, snuggly, swing, walker, toys, clothes – maybe even a rocking chair had been willingly and eagerly given away. With four children ages three to nine and a half we were set.

Two boys. Two girls. Two Egyptian Siamese cats. A life overseas. Done we were!

I had it all planned. We would live in Cairo until we retired. Our kids would enjoy and thrive as third culture kids, knowing how to navigate the world at early ages.

But earlier in the fall unexpected events had catapulted into a crisis. The joy and comfort that surrounded our lives crumbled to pieces like some of the artifacts around the ancient pyramids. Our life was crumbling before our eyes and this was the last straw, the proverbial needle breaking our poor, aching camel backs.

And so there I was, in a sterile examining room watching the strong heart beat of a tiny babe through the wonders of modern technology.

Truth is – I though I had lost this babe. I had been in London only a couple of days before and had begun to bleed. Bleeding in the first trimester often means one thing – a miscarriage. I was with my best friend Betsy and she had begged me to rest, begged me to be careful. I had said a tearful goodbye to this baby that was unexpected to me, but fully known by the God who weaves all life together, sperm and egg uniting to form a unique being. God – author of our stories; creator of our lives.

And now? This baby was alive! It would live and a Muslim doctor was exhorting me, no – commanding me to “Take care of my baby”.

He knew the value of life. 

I headed out of the office and I began to weep. My tears fell on dust-covered streets that had not seen water for months. The crisis of the fall, the dark night of our souls, had given birth to Life.

In a blur of tears and with the help of tomato soup and bread made with the loving hands of a friend, I knew without doubt that this baby was His Grace. God’s opinion that our marriage, our family, our lives would go on.

I write this today as my statement, my response to the Gosnell case. Because the two physicians could not be more different.

For one scorned life, while the other protected it. The one discarded life as though it was food that had rotted in his dirty, godless refrigerator. And the other? He valued life and saw it as a fragile gift from God, to be nurtured at all costs.