Media Wants to Ignore Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Greatest Serial Killer. Christians Shouldn’t.

Dean Cain, left, portrays Philadelphia investigator James Wood and Earl Billings, right, plays Dr. Kermit Gosnell in the true crime drama Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, which released in theaters nationwide on Oct. 12.

By Alex Chediak Published on October 16, 2018

The film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Greatest Serial Killer opened Friday in 650 theaters. But it was largely ignored by the entertainment media. Much like the actual Gosnell trial was largely ignored by the news media. Until it could not be ignored.

It’s Not About Abortion

The Gosnell story is deeply unsettling, and not just because it deals with the unsavory subject of abortion. The movie makes clear that the District Attorney office, in prosecuting Gosnell, was not seeking to litigate or further restrict abortion. Assistant District Attorney Alexis McGuire, played by Sarah Jane Morris, is a pro-choice mother of five. But McGuire comes to realize that “there is nothing that man did illegally for 30 years that protects women or children. And you don’t have to be a pro-life activist to see that.”

This would become a major theme in the movie: It’s not about abortion. It’s about the flagrant disregard for the health and safety of women. It’s about a doctor committing scores of illegal late-term abortions in extremely unsanitary and unsafe conditions. It’s about a doctor regularly using scissors to snip the necks of babies who survived botched abortions. It’s about untrained staff administering anesthesia to pregnant women, and even snipping babies’ necks, at the direction of Dr. Gosnell. It’s about an immigrant woman’s death on the premises that went ignored. It’s about regulators who failed to inspect abortion facilities, even when they received multiple reports of serious public health violations.

How Dr. Gosnell Was Portrayed

Earl Billings does a great job portraying Kermit Gosnell as compliant and pleasant, but also arrogantly confident in his methods. On the one hand, “The Good Doctor” (as he was known in West Philadelphia for many years) is a man at peace with his work and his status in the community. He’s kind and polite to the FBI, DEA, and police. In a memorable scene, while his home is being raided, Gosnell sits relaxed in his living room playing classical music on his piano. (There’s actual footage from the police department showing this did happen.)

Cohen points out to the jury that Gosnell does forcefully what this other abortion provider would do passively. What’s the difference?

On the other hand, Gosnell’s arrogance is shown in a meeting with his legal team. Gosnell rejects a plea bargain deal. That would involve an admission of guilt. Gosnell admits that he has no regard for laws governing the licensing and training of medical personnel. At the time, Pennsylvania law prohibited abortions after 24 weeks. Gosnell admits that he puts “24 weeks” on his paperwork regardless of the pregnancy’s duration. He figures it’s his right, as the doctor, to make such a declaration. He doesn’t even try to use medical means to determine the time of gestation. Reflecting, Gosnell says, “These laws … are erected by the enemies of abortion … to create barriers between women and my services. … These poor women who need me, have nowhere else to go.”

How the Gosnell Trial Was Portrayed

Gosnell hires a top lawyer, Mike Cohen, played by Nick Searcy, who doubled as the Director of Gosnell. Searcy carefully includes the strongest arguments in defense of Gosnell’s medical practice. In one stunning speech, Cohen tells the jury that zealous Catholicism and racism are behind the attempts to prosecute Gosnell. Cohen refers to Gosnell as a man who has “done nothing but serve the citizens of West Philadelphia for decades” in a poor neighborhood that the police would rather avoid.

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As Megan Basham points out, a powerful argument that Cohen makes at the trial is that Gosnell’s methods may be crude, but they’re really no different than those of other abortion providers. Yes, it’s illegal to deliver a baby alive and then snip its neck. But had Gosnell emptied the brains of the baby before delivering it, his actions might have been legal.

At one point the prosecution calls to the witness stand a legal abortion provider. The witness claims she’s never performed a late-term abortion or delivered a live baby due to a botched abortion. In cross-examination, Cohen forces her to admit that if she were to deliver a live baby by accident, she would just comfort the baby as it died. Cohen points out to the jury that Gosnell does forcefully what this other abortion provider would do passively. What’s the difference?

Not Mere Propaganda

Though arguments comprise a good chunk of the movie, the pro-life message is understated. Viewers are left to ponder that question for themselves. Though the movie receives a PG-13 rating, there’s far less in the way of graphic images of body parts and dead fetuses than I was expecting. At a bracing moment in the trial, the prosecution shows the live-born fetus of “Baby Boy A.” The picture is shown slowly to each member of the Grand Jury. But it is not shown to the movie’s viewers! This lack of graphic imagery engages the minds of the viewers. It doesn’t just pull at the strings of their hearts.

Gosnell may be an independent low-budget film without an A-list cast. But it succeeds in portraying what happened and why it matters. Go see it and tell your friends about it.
 

Dr. Alex Chediak (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is a professor and the author of Thriving at College (Tyndale House, 2011), a roadmap for how students can best navigate the challenges of their college years. His latest book is Beating the College Debt Trap. Learn more about him at www.alexchediak.com or follow him on Twitter (@chediak).

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  • While the trial and prosecution of Gosnell may not have been about abortion, I have to disagree. The movie is very much about abortion. There are dozens of allusions and outright statements. The very fact that the “good” abortion testifies to have legal abortions are done is indicting. It is made clear that there is relatively little difference between a “legal” abortion and what Gosnell performed. If anything it makes it clear that Gosnell was actually more humane. And the fact that the movie ends with the woman and her beautiful four year old child that was saved because she couldn’t go through with the abortion is very telling. If you still deny it’s about abortion, just ask the screenwriter and producers and they will tell you. They have said so in interviews.

    • Nunyadambizness

      Good! It’s about abortion. Good. This abhorrent and evil practice needs to stop being accepted as a “woman’s right to choose”, and more about what it is: The (usually violent) ending of a human life. We need to stop ignoring Margaret Sanger’s racism and belief in eugenics as the reason most PP offices are in the neighborhoods they are, and WE the People need to STOP FINANCING this horrendous company. ANYONE who supports Planned Parenthood’s actions in this area is a PART OF THE EVIL. IMHO.

      • suzgsmith

        Yes abortion is the very definition of evil. Satan loves it. What kills me is people who say they are Christians that condone this evilness. This goes against everything the Bible is about. But then you’d have to read the Bible to know that and so many of these so-called Christians do not read their Bible. but make no mistake, in the end God will get the revenge on the people doing the abortions and the people supporting abortion. our constitution guarantees right to life. Just because nine unelected judges made law instead of just interpreting law which is what they are supposed to do, does not make it right. They will answer to almighty God.

        • suzgsmith

          Yes Margaret Sanger was a racist and she is the one that started Planned Parenthood. Why would anyone still support this evil organization whose very Roots start in racism? It just goes to show the hypocrisy of the Democrats and the liberal left. It’s only racism when they say it’s racism

    • Monica Miller

      Dear Manny — the focus of this movie is about an aspect of abortion–namely a killer who deliberately murdered babies out of the womb for which he was convicted and my review strongly notes that the the testimony of Dr. North shows that there is really no difference between what she does legally and what Gosnell did– but these are late-term abortion procedures–and the movie is not focused on 87 percent of the killing that happens in abortion–it does not address the essential issue of abortion as an injustice per se! It does that indirectly– but not directly. Yes, there are allusions– that’s true– not very few if any outright statements that argue directly–my emphasis is on DIRECTLY– that abortion is an injustice per se. This movie is a strong step in that direction. I think is is a good movie–but is not perfect– and I am a movie reviewer. My task is to point out where a movie could have gone to be even a better film — with a long-term lasting contribution as a WORK OF ART– as opposed to what choices the filmmakers made to ensure a wider viewership.

      • Ok Monica. Our views are probably not that far apart. Plus, you’re the expert; I’ll leave it to you. I’m glad we both feel strongly about the evil of abortion. Peace in Christ.

        • Monica Miller

          Thank you Manny. It’s a good movie. I urge people to see it. Hope they will. As I acknowledge in my review, the movie is a real break through.  It can do much good   God bless you.

          Sent from my T-Mobile 4G LTE Device
          ——– Original message ——–From: Disqus Date: 10/16/18 10:49 PM (GMT-05:00) To: mmmillerlife@gmail.com Subject: Re: Comment on Media Wants to Ignore Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Greatest Serial Killer. Christians Shouldn’t.
          “Ok Monica. Our views are probably not that far apart. Plus, you’re the expert; I’ll leave it to you. I’m glad we both feel strongly about the evil of abortion. Peace in Christ.”

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          Manny

          Ok Monica. Our views are probably not that far apart. Plus, you’re the expert; I’ll leave it to you. I’m glad we both feel strongly about the evil of abortion. Peace in Christ.

          10:47 p.m., Tuesday Oct. 16

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  • Cody

    The media always calls good evil and evil good to bad their leftist views are so bias, fake news, why don’t they just do whats rights right and be fair and honest.

  • bbb

    Great article. Thanks for your attention to this.
    It should be required reading in every household.

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