Perhaps the name of Dr. Kermit Gosnell will become a household word after all.
His name might still become as well known as that of Adam Lanza, the Newtown murderer; or Jared Loughner, who wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed a half-dozen others in Arizona; or even George Zimmerman, who has yet to be put on trial for the Florida shooting of Trayvon Martin nearly 14 months ago.
Those names were all over the major media, and yet the media are just beginning to cover Gosnell’s trial, which began on March 18.
He stands accused of multiple counts of first-degree murder, including killing seven babies — whom he delivered before slaughtering them in vicious, horrific ways — and one woman who died in his “care.”
But some don’t cavil at killing babies after birth: In Florida, a Planned Parenthood official, Alisa LaPolt Snow, told a legislative committee recently that when a baby somehow survives an abortion, it’s up to the woman, her family and her doctor to decide that child’s fate.
In Philadelphia, however, court documents say only the statute of limitations, and his destruction of evidence, prevented Gosnell from being charged with more than 100 murders.
Some say the trial was initially ignored because publicizing Gosnell’s bloody killings — said to be illegal only because they occurred a few seconds after birth, instead of before it — would make people look at the issue of abortion differently.
The logjam was broken last week, however, and thanks go not to any pro-life source, although conservative media, particularly on the Internet (along with, honorably, the liberal online magazine Slate), have been drawing attention to Gosnell.
Instead, two liberals broke the major media’s silence. One was Kirsten Powers, a former Democratic political consultant who worked in the Clinton White House. She now writes for a liberal website, The Daily Beast, and is a commentator for Fox News (yes, as a liberal.)
In her April 11 piece in USA Today, headlined “We’ve Forgotten What Belongs on Page One,” she wrote, “Infant beheadings. Severed baby feet in jars. A child screaming after it was delivered alive during an abortion procedure. Haven’t heard about these sickening accusations? It’s not your fault. … There has been precious little coverage of the case that should be on every news show and front page … (that) should shock anyone with a heart.”
And on April 12, Conor Friedersdorf, a writer for The Atlantic’s website, wrote “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s Trial Should Be a Front-Page Story.”
He said, “This isn’t solely a story about babies having their heads severed, though it is about that. … It isn’t even solely a story of a rogue clinic that’s awful in all sorts of sensational ways, either. Multiple local and state agencies are implicated in an oversight failure that is epic in proportions!”
It has been 19 years since Gosnell’s facility was last inspected by a state agency.
Local media have covered the case, but one reporter transmitted a photo during the trial that has gone viral — a shot of 40 courtroom seats set aside for the media that held only one reporter.
Things have changed. But what’s at stake? Here’s a small part of the grand jury report that led to the charges:
“(Gosnell) regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy — and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels — and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.”
To which abortion defenders will say, “Nevertheless, such actions are illegal.”
But they are also very close to methods used in many legal abortions, in which unborn babies are dismembered in the womb; and even more similar to late-term abortions, in which babies are partially delivered feet first and their spines punctured with scissors. Because the baby’s head is held in the womb, it technically isn’t “born.”
Thus, publicizing the Gosnell case could potentially cause more people to question exactly what abortion entails and how it is regulated.
Indeed, in an April 15 story headlined, “The Media After Gosnell,” John Fund, national affairs columnist for National Review Online, noted that “two former nurses at Planned Parenthood of Delaware told WPVI-TV in Philadelphia” that the group’s clinic where they worked had “a meat-market style of assembly-line abortions,” creating a substantial risk of “getting hepatitis, even AIDS” due to “ridiculously unsafe” conditions.
The nurses, Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich and Joyce Vasikonis, told the station they quit “in order to protect their medical licenses.” The clinic, which the station reported was not routinely inspected by the state, has now closed.
Will all this finally lead the major media to become curious about how abortion is provided across the country?
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: