Damien Thompson — Telegraph.co.uk April 27, 2013
One of the most disgusting serial killers in American history is standing trial in Philadelphia at the moment – and, since it’s happening in the US, where reporting restrictions are light, the media are free to discuss his case.
Only they haven’t – at least, not until recently, and even when the crimes are reported, they haven’t merited many headlines. Which is horrifying, when you consider what the killer is accused of. I’m going to leave out the nastiest details – but, seriously, if you don’t want to feel sick to your stomach, look away now.
Dr Kermit Gosnell, 72, “regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns”. That quote is taken from the grand jury report on the case. It describes Gosnell’s practice, called the Women’s Medical Society, as “a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread disease with infected instruments… and on at least two occasions, caused their deaths”.
According to one witness, when women were given medicine to speed up their deliveries “it would rain foetuses”. A former employee described the noise made by a baby delivered live during an abortion: “It sounded like a little alien.”
This month, to their credit, Kirsten Powers of USA Today and Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic ran articles asking why this wasn’t front-page news. The answer? Gosnell was a registered abortion provider. His killings blurred the line between late-term abortions and infanticide in a way that embarrassed pro-choice journalists.
Gosnell killed babies of the same age both inside and outside the womb. How can one be a legal termination and the other murder? Pro-choice writers and activists didn’t want to focus on that question. Indeed, reports of Gosnell’s foul clinic – which had a policy of treating white women more carefully than penniless black women – were routinely ignored by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, local hospitals, the National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood, a lobby group supported by Barack Obama.
The president – as a senator, the most hardline pro-abortion politician in Congress – was due to address a Planned Parenthood gala on Thursday. But then he suddenly curtailed his visit, in order to spend more time in Texas… and just possibly because we now know that the lobby group were warned about Gosnell but didn’t pass their concerns to the police.
In short: pro-choicers averted their eyes to the crimes of a racist “doctor” whose worst acts are beyond imagining. They did so because making a fuss would give ammunition to the pro-life movement.
Only in America, you might say. But I’ve been gauging the response of British social media to the Gosnell case; many tweets reek of the same culture of evasion, to put it politely. Earlier this week I raised the question on Twitter with the Rev Richard Coles, a Left-wing pop-musician-turned-vicar who presents Radio 4’s Saturday Live and does a nice line in clerical whimsy. He said his views were “not entirely formed yet”. And in a second tweet: “Too much brouhaha at the moment.”
That says it all, I reckon. Gosnell was protected not just by pro-choice extremists such as Barack Obama, but also by run-of-the-mill liberals who, despite their distaste for late-term abortions, didn’t want to provide ammunition for the Sarah Palins of this world. So, for years, they took steps to avoid a “brouhaha”. The results are available for anyone to see online in the form of a heart-rending photograph of a baby killed by Gosnell. Unlike Mr Coles’s views on the subject, it is “entirely formed”.