True Evil

Greg Smith, Managing editor

At the conclusion of a speech to the House of Commons describing the horrors of the slave trade in 1791, English abolitionist William Wilberforce said “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know.”

Our society isn’t always interested in knowing the truth. We avert our collective eyes and employ clever euphemisms in order to feel protected from the shared moral consequences of our awful communal “choices.” This explains why so many of us are completely unaware of Kermit Gosnell and the “health” clinic he operated for several decades in Philadelphia. Just as state health inspectors ignored the clinic, the media ignored Gosnell’s 2013 trial for murder. Critics now ignore a movie that tells the truth.

“Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer” is the film that tells the ugly truth of Kermit Gosnell, who is now serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for murder. An abortion doctor, Gosnell was convicted of inducing live births of infants and then killing them by cutting their spinal cords with a scissors. Precisely how many times Gosnell did this is not known, though witnesses testified that he may have murdered over 100 children.

Kermit Gosnell was a monster. And he managed to escape the scrutiny of state health inspectors because Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge told state inspectors to avoid any interference with “reproductive rights.” Sadly, those inspectors complied, and the clinic avoided any scrutiny until it was learned that Gosnell was selling illegal prescriptions for OxyContin and other controlled substances. When local and federal law enforcement descended upon the clinic for a drug bust, they found a horror show in progress.

Gosnell was also convicted of performing abortions on unborn children that were well beyond the 24-week gestational age permitted by Pennsylvania law. I watched the movie with Dr. Kat Duque, M.D., a pediatric anesthesiologist, who indicated that she had participated in surgeries on infants who had been born well short of 24 weeks—“premies” or premature babies, who were viable but needed special care. (She saves the lives of children of a similar gestational age.) Gosnell, however, went well beyond 24 weeks. At one point depicted in the film, Gosnell joked that one of his victims was so big “he could have walked me to the bus stop,” right before he killed the child with his scissors.

Interestingly, the film includes absolutely no graphic depictions of abortion—no photos or films Gosnell’s victims who were killed before being born or who were born alive but then “terminated” by Gosnell. It really didn’t need to, as the courtroom dialogue, taken almost entirely from trial transcripts and grand jury testimony, was powerful enough. (The grand jury report is available online.)

That dialogue reveals an interesting strategy employed by Gosnell’s defense attorney, who argued that his client’s unusual technique of delivering live children and then killing them with a scissors was really no worse than the entirely legal practice of performing a late-term abortion. What difference does it make if the baby/fetus dies moments before or moments after she leaves her mother? The argument is, of course, repugnant, but one can hardly blame the lawyer, who was pointing out a rather minor distinction in order to save his client from the death penalty. It will never make any sense to me why some consider one side of that distinction to be healthcare.

The film does touch upon the media blackout and the mainstream media’s unwillingness to touch a story that could reflect badly upon the abortion industry. At the outset of the trial, prosecutors were prepared for a media onslaught, and multiple benches were reserved for the media in the back of the courtroom. But the benches sat empty for days, as the mainstream media completely ignored the story until a social media campaign forced them into covering the trial.

The media malpractice and the critical blackout of the Gosnell movie show that even those who are supposed to be unbiased arbiters of the truth look away when confronted with inconvenient and ugly realities. In view of the way the events have been covered, I can’t really blame anyone who was unaware of Kermit Gosnell before reading this. But you should try to see this movie. Although the subject matter is heavy, it is well-directed and well-acted. And if you cannot see this film, you should at least type “Kermit Gosnell” into Google and educate yourself. Do not look the other way.