‘Gosnell’ Shows Us The Worse Angels of Our Nature

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2019/01/28/gosnell-shows-us-the-worse-angels-of-our-nature/

Medical Examiner:  During a legal abortion a doctor would definitely have to empty the skulls to get ‘em through the birth canal.
Assistant District Attorney:  So if we could prove the skulls weren’t emptied?
Medical Examiner:  That would mean they were probably delivered alive.
Assistant District Attorney:  How do we know if the skulls were emptied?
Medical Examiner [holding a scalpel]:  We look.

—  Gosnell:  The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer

A sick society looks for technicalities to determine if something that seems obvious and horrible might actually be somehow acceptable. A healthy society does quick math and arrives at the right conclusion.

Seeing the difference is one of the benefits of the movie Gosnell, which became available online last week via video on demand, after appearing in a smattering of theaters nationwide in October 2018. The movie holds a mirror up to America and lets us see what’s wrong, if we’ll notice.

It describes the practice of a longtime Philadelphia abortionist. A drug investigation in 2010 unexpectedly leads law enforcement officers to a filthy inner-city clinic where a cheerful, piano-playing 69-year-old doctor performs late-term abortions, including some that result in live births. Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s solution to that problem is to snip the necks of the born-alive babies, killing them.

That’s what gets him into trouble. But if he’d only followed the practices and procedures of an attractive middle-aged female abortionist who later testifies as an expert witness at his trial, it wouldn’t have been a problem. From the witness stand she assures a lawyer that when it comes to late-second-trimester abortions she and her colleagues “make sure it’s not a live birth.”


“We inject potassium chloride into the heart of the fetus.”

Then they “use a machine to suction out the gray matter,” and “then the skull collapses and the fetus can be removed.”

The lawyer asks:  “Have you ever had a live birth during an abortion attempt, Doctor?”

She responds:  “No, I have not, because we listen to the sonogram to make sure that the fetal heart has stopped.”

In other words, this abortionist tends to the details, unlike the sloppy Dr. Gosnell.

The exchange is one of the most effective scenes in an engaging movie. (Nick Searcy, who also directed the movie, plays the zealous and logical lawyer defending Gosnell, Janine Turner the competent, precise, vaguely troubled abortionist witness.)

Dr. Gosnell is the obvious villain of the story, but others are more revealing. At one point a state health official, asked why Gosnell could have been permitted to run such a horror-show of a medical practice for so long, explains how the administration of Tom Ridge (the Republican governor of Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2001) ordered that abortion clinics in the state not be inspected.

(Indeed, the January 2011 grand jury report notes the change in policy between Democratic pro-life governor Robert P. Casey Sr. and Republican pro-abortion governor Tom Ridge:  “With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.” The report also calls out various state officials, local officials, hospital officials, and an inspector from an abortion industry trade association, all of whom had some idea about conditions in the clinic:  “Bureaucratic inertia is not exactly news. We understand that. But we think this was something more. We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.”)

At the start of the trial the prosecutors prepare for a media onslaught that they don’t get, as editors and reporters ignore the case. (They’re eventually shamed into reporting on it by nontraditional online media sources.)

Throughout, various officials keep emphasizing that the case is “not about abortion” – because, if it were, Dr. Gosnell would be in the clear.

Small comfort to his victims.

The lighting, pacing, and dialogue have a CSI feel to it – accessible and quick-moving. It’s a brisk one hour 33 minutes.

Dean Cain as the lead detective and Sarah Jane Morris as the lead prosecutor deliver solid performances, moving the ball down the field without getting in the way of the action.

Earl Billings, known to television viewers as the sidekick to the duck in the AFLAC ads, is believable as Gosnell, the turtle-and-cat-loving mass murderer who believes himself a benevolent pillar of the community.

The makers of the movie spare us the uglier images from the case, but do a good job of implying them.

The movie is rated PG-13 for subject matter and about a half-dozen barnyard profanities.

Anyone who can withstand those should see this movie.