Five years and five months ago a West Philadelphia doctor was convicted of murder, and only avoided lethal injection through a plea deal. The press ignored the case – a hot potato – because it focused on a monster, who performed hundreds of illegal late-term abortions, covered up his crimes, and also killed many living babies who briefly survived his sloppy and unsanitary procedures.
This Friday night, the movie describing his crimes, “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer“, will debut on 600-750 screens nationwide. The media, for the most part, will ignore the film.
Some may picket it, but anyone who goes to see it, will be horrified.
The film, produced in 2014, was blocked after Jeffrey Minehart, a judge on the case, sued the filmmakers. Minehart claimed that the movie (and a book) portrayed him as part of “Philadelphia’s liberal corrupt government.”
There was a virtually complete news blackout at the time. The networks ignored it. No cameras. No video. No cries for the victims. No condemnation of the killer.
The Washington Post’s Melinda Henneberger explained:
We didn’t write more because the only abortion story most outlets ever cover in the news pages is every single threat or perceived threat to abortion rights.
In fact, that is so fixed a view of what constitutes coverage of that issue that it’s genuinely hard, I think, for many journalists to see a story outside that paradigm as news. That’s not so much a conscious decision as a reflex, but the effect is one-sided coverage
One colleague viewed Gosnell’s alleged atrocities as a local crime story, though I can’t think of another mass murder, with hundreds of victims, that we ever saw that way. Another said it was just too lurid, though that didn’t keep us from covering Jeffrey Dahmer.
One employee of Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Center recalled:
The killings became so routine that no one could put an exact number on them. They were considered ‘standard procedure.
Here is a brief trailer for the movie, starring Dean Cain, as dogged detective James Wood:
When Gosnell was sentenced, Cecil Richards, of Planned Parenthood, tweeted that “justice had been done.”
But now Planned Parenthood is no fan of this film, Dr. Susan Berry, a psychologist, explained:
In Austin, the local Planned Parenthood is so afraid of people learning the truth about their industry that they bullied the local Hyatt Regency Hotel into canceling a screening of the film. Why? Because it coincided with Planned Parenthood’s $400-a-plate fundraising gala. According to Sullivan, the producers had more than 250 people registered only to be told the event was viewed as a “security” risk.
Gosnell was not prosecuted for performing abortions, but because he ignored regulations for public safety, sterile conditions, qualified staff, proper records and preserving the lives of breathing, moving, delivered babies. He operated in squalor, and even had a 15-year-old girl acting as the only medical staff at times.
The film focuses on the lack of regulation by Philadelphia health and other departments. They didn’t even inspect Gosnell’s facility for more than a decade, despite lawsuits, complaints, and repeated hospital emergency room care for his mistreated victims.
And there’s much more to the story for me.
I met Gosnell in 1955 at the tryouts for the Central High School of Philadelphia Vocal Ensemble, a four-period a week minor, that he and I attended for the next four years.
The future pastor of President Barack Obama, Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, was also in that vocal ensemble and also in my class’ yearbook. Today’s fiery preacher was then described as “always ready with a kind word, Jerry is one of the most congenial members of the class.” Wright was a good musician, selected for the All Philadelphia High School Orchestra.
Both of them were also in the All Philadelphia High School Chorus, which was drawn from the city’s 16 public secondary institutions, a big honor that avoided me.
Known for his freckles, Gosnell was an athlete – varsity track and cross-country, He ran for class secretary and only lost by a few votes. As in later years, he raised tropical fish, and had decided on a career in medicine.
That career led to the Women’s Medical Center, which ran a weekly ad in the West Oak Lane Leader newspaper. I managed that publication from 1975 to 1993. It served a middle-class African-American neighborhood of about 60,000 in Northwest Philadelphia. Gosnell never came into the office, and often paid his bills late.
I look back and wonder how many girls or their families responded to that perfectly legal ad – victims, who were tortured, maimed treated as human garbage.
I join others who wish if only we had known.
First week box office sales were more than $2 million, but 28% of theaters dropped the film this weekend. In one case it was the number six movie in sales at a 22-screen theater. As of Oct. 22 at noon, Box Office ticket sales were not even reported for this past weekend for Gosnell, which allowed the media to put Gosnell near the bottom of films, despite it being #13 as recently as Friday. Some theaters not selling tickets, despite showing film. American values? Monday evening, weekend sales were finally reported, placing the movie in spot #14, with more than $2.4 million in sales.