Gosnell Wasn’t Ghoulish, and Abortion isn’t “Murder”

Should we stop referring to abortion as murder?

Prior implies that abortion in the United States is not murder because The Supreme Court has spoken. She later posted what was simultaneously a doubling-down and a back-tracking: “To clarify: I am unwavering in my belief that according to God’s law, abortion is murder, despite its current definition in civil law, and in my belief that God hates the shedding of innocent blood. Having volunteered 17 years at crisis pregnancy centers and offering help to women outside abortion clinics for 10 years, I was trained not to use the word “murder” in trying to persuade them to choose life. I continue to believe this is wise counsel.”


This week Karen Swallow Prior, part of the Southern Baptist “Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission,” wrote an article for Christianity Today called “Loving our Pro-Choice Neighbors.” She appealed for Christians to be more loving to those who practice abortion, and one practical example she gave was that we should stop referring to abortion as murder.

Here are her words:

“[R]eferring to abortion providers as “abortion ghouls,” clinic volunteers and workers as “deathscorts” or “bloodworkers,” and women who obtain abortions as “murderers” is worse than inflammatory: it is unchristlike. Calling legal abortion “murder” when it isn’t (it is, to our shame, lawful) is to say what isn’t true, at least in a civil (not church) context.

The purpose of language, its God-given raison-d’être, is to reveal truth, eternal and unfailing. It needs not the props of exaggeration or distortion of our feeble words. The truth about abortion demands no inflammation or embellishment. It is, rather, the purveyors of abortion who must veil the truth with charms. The hurt abortion causes to women and children and society can be communicated in plain terms.”

There is much to say about these paragraphs, and she has since given a clarification on the “murder” comment. But I am even more troubled that she says that abortion providers should not be called “abortion ghouls,” and then links to a post about Gosnell’s clinic as an example of what she calls “exaggeration” and “embellishment.”

Gosnell, if you have forgotten, was a murderer even by Prior’s reasoning. He was charged, tried, and convicted of murdering three people, although at trial everyone pretty much granted he had done the same to countless others. His victims included at least one adult who was seeking an abortion. The grand jury called his clinic a “house of horrors.” It smelled of urine, had baby feet in jars, bodies in the fridge, and blood splattered all over the wall.

Prior says that we should not call that “ghoulish.”

Actually, the article that Prior links does not even call abortion providers “ghouls.” Here is what Ken Connor, who wrote the post that drew Prior’s ire, did call ghoulish:

“There simply is no way to put a gloss on this. Dr. Gosnell is a product of a culture in which the rhetoric of choice has too long gone unchallenged. He is the product of a political climate in which fear of offending the pro-abortion lobby led our president (while an IL senator) to oppose giving medical treatment to infants that survive abortion. Gosnell’s ghoulish practice of killing abortion survivors is the logical extension of such a policy.”

That is the only use of “ghoulish” in his post, and Connor was, of course, describing Gosnell’s low-budget way of doing abortions. He would simply induce labor, then clip the new-born’s spine (he called it “snipping”). Once he dropped a new born in the toilet and the nurses watched him try and swim.

Prior says that calling that “ghoulish” is “worse than inflammatory, it is unchristlike.”

Let’s move past Gosnell to Prior’s key sentence:

“Calling legal abortion “murder” when it isn’t (it is, to our shame, lawful) is to say what isn’t true, at least in a civil (not church) context.”

The assertion seems straight-forward: because abortion is legal, it is not murder.

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