The story of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortionist who ran what a Grand Jury report referred to as “a baby charnel house,” where viable babies—“big enough to walk around with me or walk me to the bus,” as Gosnell joked—were delivered and then outright killed with a “snip” to the spinal cord, their feet sometimes severed for souvenirs, is one the press quickly consigned to the memory hole. It is not being talked about by the “strong feminist” voices on daytime TV, or on night time cable news. There are no headlines, no feature articles in leading magazines.
The mainstream media, confronted with a house of horrors that was gestated and born of a single-minded mania for “protecting choice for women” had no choice but to report on Gosnell being charged for the murder of one woman who died while under his dubious “care” (another woman’s death had been “settled” for a financial consideration), and they mush-mouthed their way through his killing of at least seven living, viable babies, but they did not like this story.
They did not want to discuss that authorities had repeatedly received reports of Gosnell’s mayhem and had chosen to look the other way. They did not want to have to mention that Gosnell’s disgusting, “third-world” abortion mill—a place where women were abused, manhandled, disrespected, over-sedated, punctured, infected, sterilized, interiorly ripped, and otherwise treated like pieces of meat—would still be running, unimpeded, were it not for an investigation into illegal drug trafficking.
The Gosnell story—a story that by any measure deserved in-depth coverage, some serious discussion about regulation and responsibility, and a few features forcing the nation to consider just when a “late-term” abortion slips into the category of “infanticide” or what our leadership and politicians really think of all of this—proved too big and too messy for the mainstream media.
They did not want light shed on dark truths that cannot be prettied up with euphemisms and nebulous notions of “choice.” They did not want to have to ponder the likelihood of Gosnell’s stinking, body-piled-and-bloodstained rooms being replicated in other cities, in other states, where other authorities chose to look away from the carnage, rather than address it.
But replicated the story may well be. Andrew Rutland, for example, an abortionist working in southern California, has given up his medical license for a second time after a woman died in a botched abortion in July 2009. The abortion was performed
at a filthy and ill-equipped acupuncture clinic in San Gabriel that Rutland ran where he also did abortions. Rutland killed Chen by administering anesthesia to her and not knowing the proper dosage. . . . This is the second time Rutland has surrendered his license—as he did so in 2002 for severing a baby’s spinal column during a forceps delivery, then lying to the parents by telling them that their baby suffered a stroke. The baby later died. His license was reinstated in 2007 and Rutland was placed on five years probation with the restriction that he operate only under the supervision of another physician.
So, there we see two doctors providing “legal” abortions—in facilities described as “filthy”—in two different states, and working without fear of over-regulation, or even of regular inspections. Are we to believe these are the only two instances of abortion facilities operating under standards that would be illegal for a tattoo shop? Gosnell himself was connected to at least two other facilities in other states; we may assume neither of them were sterling examples of medical professionalism.
Post-Gosnell, Pennsylvania has inspected seven abortion centers and found problems in three, one of which lacked resuscitation equipment, monitors, or oxygen.
Three out of seven is a troubling ratio. Only a fool would believe—would make the choice to believe—that more abusive, poorly-staffed, filthy facilities are not currently in operation all over the country. In a recent piece for Politics Daily, editor Melinda Henneberger remembers the abortionist, Stephen Brigham, who began his late-term abortions in New Jersey and finished them in Maryland, and who (like Gosnell) was only caught by accident. She remembers New York’s Abu Hayat, the so-called “Butcher of Avenue A,” and other macabre practices in Florida.
Do a quick run-through of the search engines. Beyond some perfunctory coverage on the day the Gosnell story broke, there has been little attention paid, no follow-up by the mainstream media. This is an ugly story; it touches too many social shibboleths and indicts too many philosophies. The press wants Kermit Gosnell and his scissors to go away, and to that end they are simply not talking about him.
So, allow me to ask the impolitic question I have hinted at elsewhere: in choosing to look away, in choosing to under-report, in choosing to spin, minimize, excuse, and move-along when it comes to Kermit Gosnell—and to this whole subject of under-regulated abortion clinics, the debasement of women and the slaughter of living children—how are the press and those they protect by their silence any better than the Catholic bishops who, in decades past, looked away, under-reported, spun, minimized, excused, moved-along, and protected the repulsive predator-priests who have stolen innocence and roiled the community of faith?
The press was quite right (and duty-bound) to report on the shameful failures of our bishops and the sins of our priests. They reported; they followed up. They dug through records. They sought out histories. They looked for more, because they understood that if filth existed in one diocese, it likely existed in others. They courageously did their jobs, unworried about fallout or repercussions; they were looking at a big issue, and were thus unintimidated by big names, and rightly unreserved in their outrage.
They pulled neither punches nor headlines. They even dared to peer at the very uppermost seats of authority and leadership, to see if there was any culpability, there—any mismanagement, any looking-away.
In the wake of Kermit Gosnell, however, in the wake of Andrew Rutland, Stephen Brigham, and Abu Hayat, there is no following-up, no digging through records; there is no curiosity about filthy, women-maiming, spine-snipping facilities existing in other cities; there are no big names to go to for quotes. These crimes—when they are covered at all—are treated like “local” aberrations. No one peers in at authority or examines the pro-abortion leadership. There is no one in government, apparently, to ask about criminal-neglect, lack of scrutiny; no one to accuse of mismanagement or of looking-away.
The mainstream press, made uncomfortable by a 261-page grand jury report detailing what might well be called a decades-long and heinous crime against humanity, abetted by the spectacularly willful looking-away of those in authority, itself turns away from the story and neglects its duty to the public trust.
In doing so they bring to mind the words of Saint Paul to the Romans: “The evil which I hate, that I do.”
Elizabeth Scalia is the Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos and blogs as The Anchoress. Her previous articles for "On the Square" can be found here
Grand Jury Report (pdf)
A scientist “unflinchingly” sees only “meat”
LifeNews, Practitioner Loses License, Killed Woman in Failed Abortion
Clark Forsythe, The Supreme Court’s Back Alley Runs Through Philadelph
LifeNews, Attorney General to Probe Second Gosnell Abortion Center
LifeNews, Abortion Centers Correct Problems Following Gosnell Horror
Melinda Henneberger, Kermit Gosnell's Pro-Choice Enablers (Is This What an Industry That Self-Regulates Looks Like?)
Elizabeth Scalia, Abortion, Language and Looking Away