Sometimes it’s because images are hard to look at that we feel compelled to view them. The video of George Floyd‘s murder shone a bright spotlight on racial injustice and police brutality. Photographs of murdered Ukrainian civilians revealing Russian war crimes appear daily in newspapers, often printed with disclaimers. In searing images like these, the truth speaks for itself.
So it is with the images of the five nearly full-term aborted babies recently surrendered to Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department. The babies in the photographs allegedly came out with the medical waste from a late-term abortion clinic in the nation’s capital. The photographs are unsettling in the extreme—little boys and girls, far along in their development and their bodies mostly intact, all of them not simply dead but killed. It’s not a coincidence that the police department’s homicide unit took custody of the five little bodies.
Naturally, we want to look away because the photos are ghastly, but even more so because we don’t want our hearts to break. But when we look away, it enables the barbarity to continue behind the clinic doors. In the comparable case of notorious late-term abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia, officials looked the other way for 17 years. Gosnell performed thousands of abortions, delivering many infants alive and “snipping” the backs of their necks to sever the spinal cord. Gosnell’s technique only came to light during a drug bust at his clinic, because he also dealt in illegal prescription drugs.
The photographs of the late-term babies allegedly aborted at D.C.’s Washington Surgi-Clinic are eerily similar to the images of Gosnell’s victims. Medical experts told pro-life group Live Action that the babies appeared old enough to survive outside the womb, raising the question of whether they had been born alive. D.C. police seem to be looking the other way, however, declining to do autopsies to determine cause of death. Sixty-nine members of Congress have written to the FBI requesting an investigation, since local detectives have demonstrated such a strange lack of curiosity.
D.C. police have (prematurely) declared these bodies are simply the result of five legal late-term abortions. They may be correct. Roe v. Wade allows abortion until birth under its broadly defined “health” exception, which includes “all factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age.” D.C. has no time limit on when a woman can get an abortion.
These babies were recovered in the shadow of the Supreme Court, which is right now considering whether to overturn Roe in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The abortion clinic is located just five blocks from the White House. President Joe Biden supports legal late-term abortion, and used his State of the Union address to promote a bill to make abortion legal through nine months of pregnancy nationwide.
Also just a few blocks from the D.C. clinic is a hospital with a neonatal intensive care unit that welcomes preemies as “little miracles.” D.C. has a “Safe Haven” law (the type of law noted by Justice Amy Coney Barrett during oral arguments in Dobbs) that encourages parents in crisis to leave their baby at a hospital as a “responsible alternative to abandoning or discarding a newborn.” If those five infants were “accidentally” born alive, they could have been left at the hospital, no questions asked, and welcomed by one of the millions of couples waiting to adopt.
The geography that matters, however, is not a matter of a few blocks. The difference between a legal and illegal abortion is mere inches. Place of death, oddly, is what determines the question. Whether these babies died in a legal abortion or were murdered rests upon which side of the birth canal they died on.
The abortion right created by Roe has always been based on subtle, soothing and slippery lies. It’s not really a baby. We don’t know when life begins. The baby isn’t viable. It’s not really violent. It’s not really painful. Women can’t succeed without abortion.
These new images of abortion victims—like those of civilians targeted in Ukraine or the last minutes of George Floyd’s life—challenge us to see through the lies. The abortion industry wants us to look away. But the faces of those five babies, and the thought of their wounded and exploited mothers, are five of the most powerful reasons to overturn Roe.
Maureen Ferguson is a Senior Fellow for The Catholic Association.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.