Thoughts on Gosnell’s Sentence

Have you been following the Gosnell trial? Yesterday, the jury finished their deliberations and found abortionist Kermit Gosnell guilty of 3 counts of murder involving babies born alive and a count of involuntary manslaughter involving a patient who was overdosed at his clinic. The next thing the jury would do was decide whether Gosnell would be sentenced to life in prison or get the death penalty. I was just about to write on this when the news broke that Gosnell gave up his possibility for appeal in exchange for two life-in-prison sentences. He’s avoiding the death penalty. And I couldn’t be happier.

Well, maybe that’s not entirely true.

You see, I don’t believe in the death penalty, at least not in most cases. It’s simply not needed most of the time, especially in a country like ours where we have the resources to keep a dangerous person in prison for the rest of their lives. Why do we need it? In this case of Kermit Gosnell it would only serve one purpose: revenge. We would be playing God, just as Gosnell did.

So, I should be happy right? Gosnell is not going to die a senseless death that restricts the possibility that he will repent. Neither will he be wasting taxpayer dollars seeking appeal after appeal. Gosnell will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. He will no longer be able to hurt babies and women at his filthy “house of horrors” clinic. That’s what I wanted, yes.


Those 12 jurors never got to make the decision as to whether Gosnell deserved the death penalty; they didn’t even have much of a chance to consider it. (Let me pause here to say that the jury would not have had the final word in my mind. Their decision does not dictate what is morally acceptable. They are human and fallible. ) However, their decision would have shaped much in the abortion debate. It might have been looked to, years in the future, as a standard to which all other decisions should be held. But that won’t happen now.

We’ve sidestepped all that with this bargain. We’ll never know what those jurors, those people, would have decided in the case of their fellow human being. Would they have considered him worthy of the death penalty the prosecutors sought? What would that have meant for the abortion debate? The pro-life movement? If we are truly pro-life we would not have cheered to hear that another life was being unnecessarily ended. Would the jurors have considered that Gosnell was doing what the women wanted by killing their babies? Would they have considered his advancing age? His ? Would they have considered the state of his soul? Would they have considered that in killing Gosnell, they show themselves little better than Gosnell?

Would the jury have considered that Gosnell’s death would have sparked a whole new chapter among pro-lifers and pro-choicers? Some pro-lifers would have cheered at “justice”, others would have recognized the truth of what was happening: that another human life was being taken. Some pro-choicers would have been content with the decision, after all, what that man didn’t wasn’t abortion in their eyes, it was nothing like abortion. Other pro-choicers might have some strong words to throw at hypocritical pro-lifers and all those right-wing extremists.

The point is we will never know for certain what those 12 people would have done if they had the life of Dr. Kermit Gosnell–a fellow human being and an atrocious murderer–in their hands. That decision would have reflected on us all. While I am pleased and relived that Gosnell will not be killed for his crimes (as it is unnecessary in this situation) I wonder what those 12 representatives of our nation, our society, and our world would have decided and how their decision would have impacted us all.

We have avoided these questions and their answers by this bargain. But we’ve left an even bigger question hanging in the air, unanswered: what would have happened?

Just some thoughts…


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