Coverage of the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell

The Gosnell Murder Trial & the Liberal 'Conspiracy'

Commentary by Dick Polman

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Jane Rosenberg
    Kermit Gosnell, a former abortion doctor, sits in court as his attorney delivers closing arguments in his murder trial.

    Now that Dr. Kermit Gosnell's Philadelphia murder trial has finally gone to the jury, we should take a moment to debunk, once and for all, the delusional right-wing claim that "the liberal media" supposedly refused to cover the story because "the liberal media" supposedly didn't want to publicize the dark side of abortion.

    This claim of a media blackout conspiracy is laughable (no surprise there), as we shall soon see. But, the right's worst delusion is its belief that Gosnell — charged with four counts of killing fetuses during illegal late-term procedures — will be a boon to the national anti-abortion movement.

    Perceptions

    For instance, conservative litigator Jordan Sekulow thinks that Gosnell's trial "paints the stark and unmistakably abhorrent reality of abortion."

    In truth, Gosnell is a classic back-alley practitioner, the kind of quack who thrived prior to Roe v. Wade — and would again if the bad old days ever returned. Gosnell is actually an advertisement for why early abortions should remain legal, with government oversight to keep them safe.

    Gosnell has been on trial since March 18, and the testimony has been gruesome to the point of being unreadable.

    Impoverished women with late-trimester pregnancies went to his West Philadelphia clinic, which was like a charnel house. The horrific details were first released in a grand jury report back in 2011 — which was when I first learned of the case. I read about it that year, thanks to a pair of stories in The New York Times.

    Coverage in, and since, 2011

    Wait, there were news stories about Gosnell two years before he went on trial? What kind of a "liberal media" blackout is that?

    Gee, I guess the Times didn't get the conspiracy memo.

    Nor did the Philadelphia Inquirer, which has long tracked the Gosnell story.

    Nor did the Associated Press, which has run roughly 20 stories since jury selection.

    Nor did NPR, which did a Gosnell story two years ago.

    Nor did Time magazine, which started covering the story two years ago.

    Nor did Slate, the online magazine, which started covering the story two years ago — as did The Daily Beast.

    Nor did NewsWorks - the website you're now reading - which has been on the case since 2011.

    And that's just a cursory sampling.

    Care to guess who hasn't closely covered the Gosnell story? The conservative press.

    Lack of coverage

    The Washington Times, for instance, ran an AP story at the outset of the trial, but never sent a reporter to cover it. Instead, the paper has run half a dozen stories about how the "liberal" media supposedly isn't covering it.

    That makes good business sense. It's a heckuva lot cheaper to dream up fake conspiracies and complain about them, than to do actual shoe-leather reporting.

    But the real howler is the belief that Gosnell will be a great propaganda weapon for the antiabortion movement.

    Dream on

    The reality is that Gosnell is an extreme anomaly. As The Daily Beast site rightly pointed out — in its coverage 27 months ago — "Gosnell’s clinic was in no way representative of most abortion facilities, which is why the country’s largest organization of abortion providers, the National Abortion Federation, refused him membership and testified against him to the grand jury."

    Gosnell is accused of infanticide, which is obviously illegal. He's accused of doing procedures on women who were more than 24 weeks pregnant and, in Pennsylvania, that's illegal. All told, his sordid saga has no bearing on legal abortion as it's commonly practiced in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control, only 1.3 percent of annual abortions are performed on women beyond 20 weeks. Ninety two percent are performed on women before 14 weeks.

    To suggest that all abortions should be banned because of Kermit Gosnell is akin to saying that all financial counseling should be banned because of Bernie Madoff, or that all accounting firms should be banned because Arthur Anderson cooked the books for Enron.

    On the other hand, if we want more Kermit Gosnells, then, by all means, let's ban all abortions. Let's cut off all access to affordable and safe providers; let's make it tougher for women to find somewhere safe to go. That way, more back-alley butchers would thrive.

    Medical abuses would be so common that they'd cease to be newsworthy, and nobody in the press would bother to cover them — unlike the Gosnell story, a news staple since 2011.


    This story was reported through a news coverage partnership between NBC10.com and NewsWorks.org