Yes, Let’s Talk About Kermit Gosnell
Is Gosnell’s trial getting the same level of coverage on cable as, say, the Jodi Arias trial? No. But that’s a question about the media’s priorities in general, rather than some sort of ideologically-driven fear that the pro-choice position would be exposed. Proponents of safe, legal abortion do not fear any light shed on this awful episode. To the contrary, they were some of the first to condemn Gosnell when the details of a grand jury report were made public in January 2011 and Gosnell was first charged.
As Irin Carmon shows, there is no media cover-up of Gosnell. If you’ve missed the story, “It’s probably because you failed to pay attention to the copious coverage among pro-choice and feminist journalists, as well as the big news organizations, when the news first broke in 2011.” Among it: Tara Murtha’s extensive coverage in the Philadalphia Weekly.
Other prominent examples include Michelle Goldberg writing in The Daily Beast, “Here is something the most doctrinaire pro-choice and anti-abortion advocates can probably agree on: If Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell is guilty of even a fraction of the carnage he’s been charged with, he should spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Rachel Walden, writing at Women’s Health News: “Let me be perfectly clear: it is an abomination when women cannot receive safe, legal abortion services. What happened at Kermit Gosnell’s ‘clinic’ is unacceptable at any time, in any place.”
In The Nation, Katha Pollitt hardly minced words:
Blood-spattered floors. Cat feces. Broken equipment. A 15-year-old giving anesthesia. Two women dead, countless more maimed and injured. Third-trimester fetuses delivered alive whose spines were then severed by the doctor. This was the Women’s Medical Society in West Philadelphia. This is what illegal abortion looks like.
Now conservatives are suggesting that reporters are in the tank for the pro-choice cause and are (preposterously) therefore afraid to cover the trial that will reveal the moral bankruptcy of the cause. (Kermit Gosnell no more proves that abortion providers are evil than this guy proves that all dentists are evil.) Dave Weigel suggests, “if you’re pro-choice, say, and you worry that the Gosnell story is being promoted only to weaken your cause, you really should read that grand jury report,” because it tells a story of lax, incompetent, or under-funded regulatory system, or possibly one fearful of the politics of a fight over an abortion clinic. No one is actually worried about Gosnell weakening their cause, yet Weigel concludes: “Social conservatives are largely right about the Gosnell story.” He needs to read some background material.
Two years ago, just after Gosnell was charged, Carole Joffe, a sociologist who studies reproductive rights and health, made clear at RH Reality Check that reproductive health advocates are not afraid that the lax-regulator-angle hurts their cause, but rather, like anyone concerned with health and safety, want answers: “What remains baffling is how long this clinic was allowed to operate, in spite of numerous complaints made over the years to city and state agencies, and numerous malpractice suits against Dr. Gosnell. Indeed, it was only because authorities raided the clinic due to suspicion of lax practices involving prescription drugs that the conditions facing abortion patients came to law enforcement’s attention.”