Belatedly, the MSM is being criticized for ignoring the Kermit Gosnell story. He is the doctor who ran an abortion clinic in West Philadelphia. Clinic is a misnomer. The place was the stuff of which nightmares are made. In addition to horrifically unsanitary conditions, he is charged with the death of at least one patient and murdering seven babies born alive after botched abortions. He killed them using a number of methods including severing their heads, cutting their spinal cords, and more you don’t want to know about. He ran what a grand jury described as a baby charnel house.
It is tempting to dismiss Gosnell as an aberration, a sociopath lacking in empathy and conscience. But that is too facile an explanation. Much more is involved than the acts of a possibly deranged individual. Why did the media ignore the story? Is it because it doesn’t fit the pro- abortion narrative to which all good little media sycophants subscribe? But while that is true, it isn’t a complete explanation.
In 1993, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D., N.Y.) coined the phrase “defining deviancy down.”* Moynihan’s thesis was that, as a society, America has been “re-defining deviancy” so as to exempt conduct previously stigmatized, and quietly raising the “normal” level for behavior that was abnormal by earlier standards.
He sorts the methods of ”redefinition” into three categories. The second category is the one relevant to the Gosnell case. He calls this mode of redefinition opportunistic. It “reveals at most a nominal intent to do good. The true object is to do well, a long-established motivation among mortals.”
“The increase in what once was seen as deviancy has provided opportunity to a wide spectrum of interest groups that benefit from re-defining the problem as essentially normal …”
To illustrate he briefly reviewed the “accumulation of data showing that intact biological parent families offer children very large advantages compared to any other family or non-family structure one can imagine.” He pointed out that, nevertheless, cultural elites increasingly present heterosexual marriage as merely one “lifestyle option” including “homosexual, or bisexual single lifestyle; living in a commune; having a group marriage; being single parents; or living together.”
Moynihan wrote, the “disadvantages associated with other arrangements spill over into other areas of social policy that now attract great public concern.” He specifically mentioned diminished educational achievement and increased crime.
“Crime is a more or less continuous subject of political pronouncement, and from time to time it will be at or near the top of opinion polls as a matter of public concern. But it never gets much further than that. In words spoken from the bench, Judge Edwin Torres of the New York State Supreme Court, Twelfth Judicial District, described how, ’the slaughter of the innocent marches unabated: subway riders, bodega owners, cab drivers, babies; in Laundromats, at cash machines, on elevators, in hallways.’”
The judge’s personal communication with Moynihan on this topic is pertinent to the Gosnell case.
“This numbness, this near narcoleptic state can diminish the human condition to the level of combat infantrymen, who, in protracted campaigns, can eat their battlefield rations seated on the bodies of the fallen, friend and foe alike. A society that loses its sense of outrage is doomed to extinction.”
Desensitization is well under way. It is what enabled a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman to say, when asked whether an abortionist should be required to save the life of a child born alive: “We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician.” She obviously was not troubled that the “choice” she advocates includes infanticide.
In the early 19th century, the commonly held opinion among the majority of the white population in America and elsewhere, that blacks were an inferior race, made slavery acceptable. Nazis in the twentieth century justified the Holocaust by dehumanizing Jews and defended killing the elderly and infirm by designating them “useless eaters.” Similarly Stalin called the millions he exterminated “enemies of the state,” thus robbing the victims of their humanity and the perpetrators of compassion.
Lest these analogies be viewed as overwrought, consider this article from the Journal of Medical Ethics, published last year, entitled “After Birth Abortion: Why Should the Baby Live?” The authors contend that “killing a newborn should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled.”
“We propose to call this practice after-birth abortion, rather than infanticide, to emphasize that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus (on which abortions in the traditional sense are performed) rather than to that of a child. Therefore, we claim that killing a newborn could be ethically permissible in all the circumstances where abortion would be. Such circumstances include cases where the newborn has the potential to have an (at least) acceptable life, but the well being of the family is at risk. Accordingly, a second terminological specification is that we call such a practice after-birth abortion rather than euthanasia because the best interest of the one who dies is not necessarily the primary criterion for the choice, contrary to what happens in the case of euthanasia.”
The intent of the foregoing is not to brand anyone a Nazi or a Stalinist. It is to call attention to Moynihan’s proposition that “there is a limit to the amount of deviant behavior a community can “afford to recognize.” When “deviance is defined down,” the standards by which society lives change; that change is never for the better.