April 20, 2024

The Gosnell trial

Hi there, 

Complaining about the media is like complaining about the weather: just shut up and get on with it. However, sometimes the relative coverage given to stories is quite puzzling.

Take the Kermit Gosnell trial in Philadelphia. This is a gory story which reads like a first draft of the torture porn film Saw. Dr Gosnell is an abortionist who has been charged with the seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of third-degree murder. He allegedly killed seven babies who survived abortions and a Nepalese refugee who died after a botched pain-killer injection.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg of thousands of abortions that he did in a poor area of a major American city. Live viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy were delivered – and then murdered by snipping their spinal cords with scissors. One of them was so developed that the doctor joked, before snipping, “he could walk me to the bus stop”. He kept amputated feet in glass jars.

“My comprehension of the English language doesn’t and cannot adequately describe the barbaric nature of Dr Gosnell and the ghoulish manner in which he ‘trained’ the unlicensed, uneducated individuals who worked there,” said the Philadelphia District Attorney when he investigated the case.

As they say in the profession whose motto is “if it bleeds, it leads”, this is great copy.

But almost no newspaper or network, outside of Philadelphia, has covered it. As Indiana Congressman Marlin Stutzman told an empty House of Representatives, “How is it that, in our age of constant news, not a single major news outlet—not a single major news outlet—has devoted serious attention to the atrocities that weren’t committed halfway around the world but in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania? Has our national conscience been irreversibly seared by the deaths of more than 1.2 million unborn children every year in this country?”

OK, abortion is controversial. But isn’t the Fourth Estate supposed to be fearless in tackling controversy? Besides, the really important issue is not the guilt of one bad apple, but the failure of the state bureaucracy to detect and discipline him years ago, the failure of his colleagues to report him, the failure of “legitimate” abortion providers to blow the whistle. There was a complete bioethical collapse. The trial of Kermit Gosnell is, believe it or not, a bigger story than PSY’s new YouTube clip or even Kim Kardashian’s divorce. Why isn’t it on the front page? 

Michael Cook
Philadelphia’s shame is bioethics’ shame.