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(Photo credit: Erik Wemple/Washington Post)

(Photo credit: Erik Wemple/Washington Post)

By William Saunders

Kermit Gosnell got the verdict he deserved — his wanton cruelty in killing born-alive infants and his callous disregard for the women who came to him are revolting. What he did violated the law, and the jurors are to be congratulated for doing their duty.

But, though he did appalling things, it is dangerous to demonize him. Gosnell is not out of the ordinary. He operated in a society that permits the dismemberment of the same infants so long as they are in their mother’s womb, a society that abandons women to abortion as the solution for unplanned or unwanted pregnancies and calls that “empowerment.” In some ways, what he did is a logical consequence of a society that permits such things.

Gosnell demonstrates what can happen to us — to an entire society — if we forget that every human being, regardless of age or location or disability or anything else, is one of us. Each human being deserves all the care and protection that any of us do. When we start to see some humans as fundamentally unequal, as being fit subjects for lethal violence, we begin a process of dehumanization that, in a kind of twisted logic, leads to the horrors Kermit Gosnell committed.

We must guard against a natural tendency to think that this verdict closes the chapter on these horrors. While it does mark the end of the actual trial of Gosnell, it marks the beginning, in a sense, of the trial of the rest of us. What lessons will we learn? What will we do to make our society more just and more compassionate?

IRD board member William Saunders is senior vice president of legal affairs and senior cousel at Americans United for Life.