Facing the Horror

Testimony and evidence from the trial of Philadelphia abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell is slowly seeping into the national news, and it is all horrifying and heart-breaking. Gosnell stands accused of seven counts of first degree murder against newly born infants who had somehow survived his attempts at very late-term abortions, although a grand jury report suggest numerous other cases of similar infanticides, as well as another charge of third-degree murder in the case of a woman who died under his care, although the grand jury report and trial witnesses document appallingly unsanitary conditions and sub-standard practices that endangered or ruined the health of countless other patients at his “Women’s Medical Society.”
Much of the coverage thus far has been about the conspicuous lack of coverage from the establishment media, and most of the networks and the big city papers seem to have been reluctantly goaded by the noisome new media into paying even scant attention to the case. The Washington Post insists it has “banal” reasons for not covering a mass murder trial relating directly to an abortion issue that is usually one of its favored subjects, and CNN has attributed its lack of air-time on the story to a “small staff,” but the widespread suspicion that such news outlets are daunted by the implications of the story seems more plausible. Gosnell’s trial involves late-term abortions of viable fetuses, a gruesome procedure that is opposed by most of the country and even many of those who would consider themselves “pro-choice,” it also raises the issue of infanticide when fetuses survive abortion, a practice once supported by Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama and other prominent members of the press’ favored party, and the fact that Gosnell is black and reportedly acted with an extra brutality toward patients who were also black further raises the very sorts of racial issues that the press studiously avoids.
The “banal” reasons and “small staff” excuses given for the lack of media attention seem especially far-fetched here in Wichita, Kansas, where the convulsive battles over abortion have always seemed to attract a horde of out-of-town media. For many years this conservative, church-going town in the heart of a conservative, church-going state with the world’s most permissive abortion laws was home to a clinic that provided late-term abortions to patients from around the globe, a situation that sparked the massive “Summer of Mercy” blockades and brought much unwanted national attention. When the doctor was charged with a series of misdemeanors relating to some arcane regulations regarding second opinions the trial once again drew reporters from around the country, and the doctor’s later assassination in his own church by a crazed gunman was given even more attention. Each of these incidents reflected poorly on the anti-abortion movement, as the movement’s more responsible leaders always recognized and conceded at the time, but the Gosnell story is less suited to the unusual storyline.
One woman took to “Twitter” to comment “Meh. The story needn’t be nationalized. It’s being used to attack reproductive health care for women,” and we applaud her honesty in admitting that her side of the debate will be better served by ignoring the horrors of Gosnell’s clinic. Still, averting one’s eyes from accounts of women being shackled to tables as unsanitary abortions were forced on them by untrained staff, as testimony claims happened routinely in Gosnell’s clinic, seems a most peculiar way of furthering the cause of reproductive health care for women.
The past decades of abortion battles here in Kansas have polarized the public to an extent that neither side will make the slightest concession for fear of losing further ground in the next legislative session, and the abortion rights advocates now steadfastly oppose the same regulatory scrutiny of abortion practices that they insist on for every other medical procedure for fear that governmental zealots will abuse the power. We suspect that a similar political calculation was responsible for the state of Pennsylvania’s failure to prevent Gosnell’s alleged misdeeds, and that in its earnest efforts to protect women from the horrors of back alley abortionists and coat-hanger procedures, the abortion rights movement has wound up enabling a legal abortionist who is allegedly every bit as bad. The more responsible elements of that movement should recognize and concede this, and adjust its tactics and rhetoric accordingly.

– Bud Norman

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