A jury of a Philadelphia Common Pleas Court will decide if Gosnell is guilty of seven counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of viable children who were killed after delivery and a count of third-degree murder in the death of a Virginia woman during a 2009 abortion.
Those seven babies were only some of hundreds at least six months into gestation who were killed outside the womb after induced delivery at Gosnell's West Philadelphia clinic, a grand jury reported in 2011. After delivery, Gosnell or another staff member would jab scissors into the back of a baby's neck and cut the spinal cord, according to the grand jury. Gosnell called the killing of these children "snipping."
After four weeks of a trial that may last as long as eight weeks, Baptist Press asked several Southern Baptist ethicists to respond to this question: "What is the lesson that should be learned from Kermit Gosnell's abortion practice and his trial?"
-- Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC):
"There are several lessons. First is the Gosnell trial exposes the murderous, ugly face of the killing of viable babies. While this doctor is on trial for murder, it should be noted that legally the only reason he is on trial is he was killing babies who were already born as opposed to fully viable babies who had not yet escaped their mothers' wombs. There is no moral distinction between what he did and what is being done in abortion clinics across America every day. This is the ugly reality of a procedure that has killed over 50 million Americans.
"A second lesson is that this shows the more one falls into the brutalization of human life, the more insensitive to that brutalization one becomes. How else do you explain the doctor's continued brutality and those who assisted him in it?
"The third lesson is the outrageous bias of the American media, which refused to cover the story until shamed into doing so by Fox News and Kirsten Powers' column on the subject. They refused to cover a story of national consequence because it presented the pro-choice position that most of them espouse in such a horrible light. What is being exposed in a Philadelphia courtroom is but a glimpse of what is taking place in abortion chambers across the land."
-- Russell Moore, president-elect of the ERLC and currently dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary School of Theology, as well as an ethics professor:
"The Gosnell trial demonstrates the uneasy American conscience on the question of abortion. The ambient culture is fine to talk of 'choices' and 'procedures' and 'pregnancies,' but averts its eyes when it comes to the reality of blood and bones and screams. What people want to ask in the face of such horror is the ancient question, 'Am I my brother's keeper?'"
-- C. Ben Mitchell, professor of moral philosophy at Union University and biomedical and life issues consultant for the ERLC:
"The Gosnell case reveals in gruesome detail that abortion on demand creates calloused consciences, not just among abortion providers but even in the wider culture. Once a culture permits the killing of its most vulnerable members, devolution into barbarism is not far behind. His clinic was a house of horrors, and the media silence in this case is an egregious symptom of the chilling of human compassion in the name of political ideology."
-- Steve Lemke, provost and professor of philosophy and ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary:
"The atrocities committed by Dr. Kermit Gosnell are sickening. His actions were racist (he treated black and Asian women differently than white women) and misogynous (his horrible medical practices caused physical harm to uncounted women and even caused the death of a couple of women). Most of all, his actions reflect a callous and heartless indifference to the sanctity of human life -- consistently and repeatedly doing late-term abortions by inducing the birth of these children and then beheading them by severing their spines while the babies screamed in pain, and then throwing away their lifeless bodies like trash.
"The lessons that I hope we learn from this tragedy regard the need to counterbalance the power in our culture that the for-profit abortion industry wields in covering up such atrocities as were going on in Gosnell's clinic. First of all, the Pennsylvania governmental and medical authorities who are charged with regulating the abortion industry overlooked these atrocities despite numerous and repeated reports alerting them to the problem. Second, the strange silence of the mainstream media about this trial and the unthinkable barbarity practiced daily in Gosnell's clinic -- a silence so deafening that it smacks of an intentional cover-up -- should lead us to doubt the objectivity in their reporting and to be wary of the liberal agenda that they appear to be promulgating."
-- Craig Mitchell, associate professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement:
"We can always count on the fact that when something immoral is made legal that we will eventually find unimaginable evil carried out. The fact that most of the media has not even reported on this situation shows the coarsening of the media and society as a whole. Such evil must be stopped, or the judgment of God will soon be upon us. The church is at least partially to blame for this state of affairs. We are to be salt and light to the world. That means that we must call sin, sin. It also means that we must tell people about the bad news before we give them the good news. Hell is a real place, and those who do not repent are sure to go there. We must remind lost people that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven. If we truly have Him, then we will live like it."
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.
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