Tag Archives: books

“Gosnell” Book: Tough & Challenging

Cross-posted at EllenKolb.com. This post contains an affiliate link.

Gosnell by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer is not easy to read. The style is smooth and fluent, but the topic’s a tough one: Kermit Gosnell, former abortion doctor, now serving life in prison. He killed children who survived attempts to abort them. He was found responsible for the death of a woman who came to him for an abortion and died under what passed for his “care.”

He committed terrible crimes. He is in prison now. Reporters covered the trial as it happened, once they were shamed into it by people like journalist Kirsten Powers. Three years after Gosnell’s conviction, there is now a book that sets down not only what happened, but tells more about the people who were involved. As McElhinney and McAleer tell their stories, the book becomes less about a court case and more about human beings, capable of good choices and bad ones.

I listened to McIlhinney and McAleer talk about their book at CPAC, a political conference in Washington. An odd venue, but perhaps that was the place to reach readers who might not otherwise hear of the book. McAleer was a quiet man, leaving most of the talking to his co-author (who is also his wife).

McIlhenney was not at all quiet. She was passionate and angry as she talked about Gosnell. She was indignant. She called Gosnell “America’s biggest serial killer,” and she meant it. She made no bones about it: she had no objectivity left regarding her subject.

Familiar as I was with the Gosnell case, and as impressed as I was by McElhinney’s passion, I wondered what could be new in the book. As I read, I quickly realized that the close attention to the individuals involved in the case, starting with the investigators, set Gosnell apart from anything else I’ve read on the subject.

The authors’ perspective is unique as well, as McElhinney explains in the preface: “I never trusted or liked pro-life activists. Even at college I thought them too earnest and too religious.”

Fast forward to April 2013 and Kermit Gosnell’s trial in Philadelphia, when everything changed….[T]he images shown in the courtroom were not from activists, they were from police detectives and medical examiners and workers at the 3801 Lancaster Ave. clinic….What they said and the pictures they showed changed me. I am not the same person I was.

Read the rest of the post at EllenKolb.com.

A different sort of gift guide


From the Leaven for the Loaf Facebook page: as Advent winds down, let me suggest two gifts that you can give any time of year.



 

Encore: look for this basic pro-life reference book

This post was originally published on Leaven for the Loaf on May 4, 2012. The text has been edited.

Voices of Post-Abortive Women

Aborted Women: Silent No More by David C. Reardon. 1987: Crossway Books, ISBN 0891074511.  Reissued 2002: Elliot Institute, ISBN 0964895722

I have the older edition on my shelf. It was the first thing I ever read about post-abortive women, beyond a few brochures from an outfit called Women Exploited by Abortion. With WEBA’s cooperation, Reardon surveyed 252 women in 42 states about their abortion decisions and the aftermath. The survey results would have fit into a short magazine article. What makes the book so enlightening and necessary are the many stories recounted by and about the women who agreed to speak to Reardon.

Reardon surveyed 252 women in 42 states. That’s a fairly small sample, and to a degree it was a self-selected group, since the women were part of WEBA. The stories and the numbers are powerful nonetheless. All the women cited in the book were determined to be “silent no more”. Their stories had, and continue to have, urgency and importance.

One of Reardon’s statistics stands out even today: over two-thirds of the women surveyed felt rushed to make the abortion decision. It’s ironic that lawmakers still argue now over whether a 24-hour waiting period is too great an imposition on a woman’s right to choose abortion.

This book is available on Amazon but might be hard to find in bookstores. Look on your church’s bookshelf. This one made a splash when it was first published, and a lot of faith communities with active pro-life ministries picked up the book.

Gosnell’s chilling words from jail: new e-book by Philadelphia reporter

book image from amazon.com
book image from amazon.com

Kermit Gosnell is in jail, and it’s unlikely he’ll ever get out. He is unremorseful after his convictions in the deaths of babies whose spines were snipped after surviving attempted late-term abortions. He’s not sorry about the conditions in his office that played a role in the death of Karnamaya Mongar. How does one get inside the head of such a man?

Steve Volk, a reporter for Philadelphia magazine, decided to give it a try. He didn’t aim to glamorize Gosnell, but he wanted to figure out why and how he wound up doing what he did. Communicating with the incarcerated Gosnell was a complicated process, but Volk’s persistence paid off. Now Volk has expanded his original magazine article into a short e-book. (I got my copy via Amazon.com, priced at $2.99.)

I can’t tell which side of the abortion debate Volk favors, although he clearly feels a sense of horror for Gosnell’s brand of medical practice. Volk sets out to be a scribe, not an advocate. He writes with unadorned clarity about what he saw and heard in the course of the Gosnell trial, along with his more recent communications with Gosnell. The result is a record of a crucial moment in medical and cultural American history – a moment too important to be left to fleeting headlines.

Gosnell considered babies who survived abortion attempts to be already dead, despite movements clearly indicating life, leaving him with no qualms about the “snipping” for which he is most notorious. His determinations of fetal age were sometimes more political than medical, as he listed many patients as being “24 ½ weeks” pregnant; state law limited abortions to 24 weeks. Yet despite grand jury findings and the outcome of the trial, some of Gosnell’s former patients who knew him before the days of his “Women’s Medical Society” still don’t believe that he did the things for which he was convicted.

Volk’s account is hard to take in some sections. That’s the nature of his subject. The book is important lest we forget what happened at 3801 Lancaster in Philadelphia.

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Basic Books: an MLK classic

CAM00263I found Why We Can’t Wait in a cardboard box at someone’s used-book sale a few years ago. I pounced on the little Signet paperback because it was by Martin Luther King Jr., not about him, free of celebrity blurbs and explanatory essays by scholars. King wrote it in 1963-64, in the midst of civil rights ferment, to explain the movement and his philosophy to a general audience. It’s a dispatch from the culture-of-life struggle, short but insightful. With the 50th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech coming up in a few days, this is a good book to re-discover.

His words here about nonviolence in the civil rights movement are timely as ever. “Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon. It is a weapon unique in history, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it.”

One chapter of Why We Can’t Wait is the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which can be found in other anthologies as well as on its own. King wrote the letter in response to some clergy who found his nonviolent demonstrations “unwise and untimely.” Anyone who has worked to defend the right to life since 1973 has surely heard those words from someone in authority. Read King’s letter for a thought-provoking reply.

Anyone who thinks the pro-life movement has no business being mentioned in the same breath as the civil rights movement should read this book. Nonviolent defense of human rights wasn’t just a ’60s thing.

Side note: late in the book, he makes a strong pitch for what we now call affirmative action to compensate for past discrimination. If he were alive today, I wonder what he’d think of what affirmative action has devolved into. When does one say “okay, we’re even”?

My copy of the book is a 1964 paperback, priceless to me not only for the contents but also for the dry little note on the cover about the author: “Martin Luther King, Jr., is a clergyman and author … and is a frequent contributor to national, as well as religious, periodicals.” How strange to see him described in his lifetime as though he were just another scribbler. Some of his best work lay ahead when Why We Can’t Wait was published. Without knowing anything about what came before or after the book, though, it stands up well on its own.

 

 

 

Check out Metaxas on Wilberforce; also “Courage, New Hampshire”

My life isn’t all politics; it just seems that way. I am a voracious reader living amid stacks of books. I love a good movie, preferably an oldie, although I’m open to discovering something fresh. Let me tell you about a couple of things I’ve enjoyed lately.

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cover of "Amazing Grace"New Hampshire’s Cornerstone Policy Research, a nonprofit group for which I’ve worked, gives its annual Wilberforce Award to someone in public office who has gone above & beyond to strengthen respect for life & family. William Wilberforce, after whom the award is named, was a British Member of Parliament who in the late 18th century became an abolitionist, fighting the African slave trade. I recently picked up a Wilberforce biography by Eric Metaxas, whom I wrote about after his stirring speech on religious liberty at CPAC this year. I’m now a fan of Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (HarperOne, 2007, ISBN 9780061173882). Wilberforce was a persistent man, and ultimately a successful one after decades of work. Metaxas is thoroughly delighted by his subject, and in fact writes with so much enthusiasm that I want to tell him to relax. Wilberforce’s work would be just as impressive if it were described with cool detachment. Whatever the author’s tone, I recommend this book. Wilberforce’s story is powerful in itself, and I believe he carries lessons for all of us today who are working on the right to life, another supposedly “settled” issue.

Metaxas puts Wilberforce into the context of his time, a time in some ways not unlike our own. “The acutely Christian character of the British abolitionist movement is undeniable, for its leaders were all consciously acting out of the principles of their deeply held faith. For the pronounced enemies of abolition, however, the notion of human equality had no objective basis …”

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A friend recently treated me to a few episodes of a video series called “Courage, New Hampshire,” set in the western part of our state in the days just before the American Revolution. It took me about an episode & a half to get into it, but once it grabbed me, it grabbed me good. It’s drama, not a documentary, but there are plenty of facts behind the plot. Calling “Courage” a history lesson or a period drama doesn’t do the story justice. The story drew me in and left me with a sense of what it must have been like to live on the colonial frontier in those days. It’s easy to forget that none of the New England farmers in the early 1770s knew how revolution would end. The “Courage” in the title refers to the village in which most of the action takes place, and of course it also about one of the most valuable traits for an early American. Independently produced by Colony Bay Productions, it has been shown on KVCR in California, a PBS affiliate, and is soon to come to cable on the INSP Channel. Episodes are available for streaming beginning at $1.95 per episode. Check out colonybay.net for more information.