At the Gosnell trial: It takes a village to wreck a child

by Andrée Seu Peterson
Posted on Friday, April 12, 2013, at 9:34 am

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

PHILADELPHIA—But what if you train up a child in the way he or she shouldn’t go? This was the proposition on trial in the courtroom during yesterday’s continuation of the Kermit Gosnell affair. The prosecution called to the witness stand Ashley Baldwin, 22, who was 15 when she started working at Gosnell’s abortion facility in 2006, a job she held until the FBI raided it in February 2010. At first cleaning and manning the front desk, by age 17 Baldwin was dispensing anesthesia and operating the ultrasound machine, even during abortion procedures. She spoke flatly of her observations while assisting abortionist Gosnell:

“They would come out, he would snip the neck, he would ask me to pass him one of the curettes [a hand tool with a gouge at the end], and turn on the machine, and suction [out the brain]. … Some of them were, like, bruised. Some of them were full babies, with nothing wrong with them.”

This teenager walked women to the restroom to “precipitate” into toilets. She described “a baby hanging on an umbilical chord.” She also observed babies with “their chest going up and down real fast.” She saw “a baby, a newborn baby … it had hair.” Another time: “I saw a big baby inside a basin.” When asked by Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, “How big?” Baldwin replied, “As big as mine when I had him” (referring to her own child, now 2). When asked if she was afraid the first time she witnessed such things, she replied, “I wasn’t afraid; it was just weird.”

What was weird to me is how Ashley Baldwin came to be employed at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society in West Philadelphia. If it takes a village to raise a child, it apparently takes a village to wreck one.Ashley’s mother, Tina Baldwin (who has pleaded guilty to corrupting a minor), worked at the abortion center first. Ashley’s high school signed off on her arrangement as part of a “work release” project by which she divided her education between school and an internship under Gosnell.

What a cocktail is this! You take a child, raise her in a household where Mom carries her lunch box to the abortionist office like other moms carry theirs to an accountant’s office. You give that child a school-sanctioned apprenticeship with an avuncular mentor. (Why not? Our culture says abortion centers are just as respectable as any other medical establishment.) So, layers of authority—the subtle authority of culture reinforcing the institutional authority of parent, school, and accredited training institutions—all coalescing to produce accomplices in evil.

And yet, the image of God is hard to snuff out. Defense attorney Jack McMahon, in his cross-examination of Ashley Baldwin, crescendoed to the question: “You wouldn’t kill children, right? It’s not your nature, right?” She replied, “No, it’s not my nature. … But if it’s told me that that’s what I have to do. …” Her voice then trailed off. Then when she volunteered too much, bringing up a certain baby’s arm movement, McMahon tried to salvage his line of interrogation by reminding her that Gosnell had called these “involuntary” motions, and said, “You understood that, right?” Baldwin replied tentatively, “To some extent,” and then “partially”: There was something about what her eyes had seen that didn’t settle right in her mind.

And as I left the courtroom at day’s end, I walked past Ashley Baldwin and a comely toddler in the hallway of Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center. She looked like any other loving mother with her little son.

Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.

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