On this date in 2009: the death of Karnamaya Mongar

Four years ago today, a 41-year-old Asian immigrant went to Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion facility to have her advanced-term pregnancy terminated. She died the next day after a drug overdose administered by Gosnell’s staff. Her death led to one of the convictions for which Kermit Gosnell is now in prison.

Her name was Karnamaya Mongar, a married woman, already a mother and grandmother. She came to the United States from a refugee camp in Nepal. Yes, she was determined to abort her child, but she had no reason to expect she’d be drugged to death – a death made inevitable by the inability of emergency responders to get her out of the cluttered building, once Gosnell’s staff finally noticed that Mongar was unresponsive.

Let the grand jury report on Gosnell’s activities speak for itself. The account of Mongar’s death begins on page 6. In part:

Gosnell set up his practice to rely entirely on the untrained actions of his unqualified employees. They administered drugs to induce labor, often causing rapid and painful dilation and contractions. But Gosnell did not like it when women screamed or moaned in his clinic, so the staff was under instruction to sedate them into stupor.

May she and her unnamed child rest in peace. Don’t forget them. Don’t let your legislators and health departments forget them, either.

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On this date, 2012: the passing of Nellie Gray

Nellie Gray, founder of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., died one year ago today. When she organized the first march, held in 1974 on the first anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, I doubt she had any idea how important her project would become. In this four-minute video from the March for Life organization, released after Nellie’s death, some pro-life heroes in their own right share their appreciation for this remarkable woman.


Thank you, Mrs. Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013 (Wikipedia photo)
Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013 (Wikipedia photo)

No one coming of age today can understand fully what it meant to be a young politically-inclined woman when Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s Prime Minister. I mourn her now and will honor her memory.

In the early 1980s, I was in college studying political science. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my degree, but public policy fascinated me above all. Little did I realize back then how my formal education was coinciding with an extraordinary moment in history. Of all the texts I devoured in those days, none save our nation’s founding documents was more important than the daily newspaper.

Pope John Paul II was revolutionary in his definitive solidarity with oppressed people worldwide, especially those in eastern Europe. Ronald Reagan from his earliest days in office was unlike any President I could remember. Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who had been exiled from the Soviet Union in 1974, was in Vermont continuing to bear witness to the gulag. The Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran was showing us that overthrowing one oppressive government didn’t necessarily mean good times in the new one. Those men were changing the world.

Thatcher stood out to me at first simply because she was a woman. I looked up to women in politics. There was no shortage of female activists. Female leaders, on the other hand, were rare. Thatcher got my attention because she was unique.

I rolled my eyes at that straight-from-the-Fifties hair style. When she started talking, though, matters like hair style went out the window.

No apologies for being Prime Minister over so many men. No hesitation about working with other leaders as an equal. No backing down to bluster or caving in to threats. All of this left an impression on me.

All this, and she could win elections, too. It’s easy for Americans to forget that Britain’s Prime Minister has to keep her or his own little constituency happy, or else it’s back to private life.

Thatcher could take me aback. Two decision points come to mind. Her government outlasted a long and contentious strike by coal miners. (As I write this, at least one miners’ union official is calling her death “a great day.”) More dramatic to me was the way she nearly succeeded in making Bobby Sands into a sympathetic figure. One could almost but not quite forget that Sands, who died in prison after a two-month hunger strike, was a hero of the Provisional IRA. His death left Thatcher unmoved. “Mr. Sands was a convicted criminal. He chose to take his own life. It was a choice that his organisation did not allow to many of its victims.”

Stern stuff, and no apologies, on all sides.

More stern stuff: she cooperated with Reagan and Pope John Paul in fostering the conditions that ended the Cold War. Other writers, notably John O’Sullivan, have treated that relationship at length. Thatcher gave the lie to nonsense about Reagan and John Paul giving women second-class treatment.

O’Sullivan, who worked with Thatcher, has spoken of how kind and supportive she was to the Downing Street support staff whose wholly non-political work was done out of the public eye. At the same time, according to O’Sullivan, she was demanding and exacting when government ministers reported to her. They were working for the nation, not for her.

My interest in public policy abides to this day. My path has been nothing like Margaret Thatcher’s. Undeniably, though, she was an inspiration to me. She broadened my view of what politics means and what it can cost. She did not dwell in the realm of the theoretical. She governed knowing that she was affecting people’s lives. She was impossible for me to ignore and she’ll be impossible for me to forget. May she rest in peace.

Choice In Connecticut

It’s hard for me to take in the full horror of yesterday’s massacre of children in Newtown, Connecticut. The culture of life can seem like a lost cause in the face of this atrocity. That’s “atrocity,” not “tragedy.” A tragedy is something that happens due to an element of mischance or mistake, devoid of intention.

Choice matters. The fact that we are able to make choices cannot be where the lesson ends. What Adam Lanza chose yesterday made a horrible and bloody difference. He wasn’t striking a blow for some philosophical “right to choose.” His “choice” was to kill people. I may never know his reasons, though I am sure some enterprising journalists are even now digging for clues.

I can barely fathom the grief and anger of the parents who survive their children. There’s more than enough suffering to go around: the first responders who found the children and their teachers dead and dying; the family of Adam Lanza; the surviving children who had to learn much too soon that evil is real. I pray for the consolation of every one of them. And I wonder how many parents of troubled children are thinking to themselves “there but for the grace of God …”

I have no lessons to share. I am simply venting some of my own shock. I don’t blame God. Yesterday’s news came from human free will at its worst.

And about that free will: one of the most challenging prayers in my faith tradition was written by Ignatius Loyola, a 16th-century man of tremendously constructive energy and faith. I find myself praying it now. It’s called the Suscipe, and it’s sometimes known as “The Radical Prayer,” in the sense of getting to the root (radix) of a matter.

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.


Chuck Colson, RIP

Chuck Colson died today at the age of 80.  I owe him thanks,  and so does anyone else who holds dear religious freedom and the right to life. 

When I first heard of him, he was a villain of the Watergate scandal. I was a teenager at that time, in the early stages of political activism, and Watergate’s figures were clearly divided in my view between the Good Guys & the Bad Guys. Colson was decidedly and unapologetically one of the Bad Guys, seeming to deserve the media characterization of him as a “hatchet man” for Nixon. He wound up in prison for a brief time, where he experienced deep and fundamental conversion of heart. Like many people, I was skeptical that a “Bad Guy” could change.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. I was humbled to realize how mistaken I could be. He wore himself out in life-affirming ministries, most famously prison ministry.

Among the gifts he left us is the Manhattan Declaration from 2009, a “call to Christian conscience.” (Among Colson’s other work, he was a champion of ecumenical progress.) 
Discover it for yourself here.