By Kathleen M. Gallagher
I went to see the new movie “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer” over the weekend. I asked a few friends if they wanted to join me. All responses were negative, with a few offering that they’d never heard of it, and one suggesting that seeing Bradley Cooper in “A Star is Born” would make for a much sweeter evening.
No doubt there. “Gosnell” is a movie about the trial of real-life late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell , who was convicted of manslaughter and three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of one woman and three infants born alive and then slaughtered in his Philadelphia abortion clinic.
Yet “Gosnell” is not a violent or gory film; it is rated PG-13 and it’s “tastefully” done.
Well, as tasteful as possible, considering the subject matter. Despite the district attorney and judge in the film repeatedly declaring that this is not a case about abortion, we know that it is.
Kermit Gosnell preyed on innocent women and children, most of them from low-income, immigrant and minority backgrounds. He made millions of dollars performing sub-standard procedures in a filthy, cat-infested, blood-stained women’s health center. He did abortions well-past the legal limit in Pennsylvania of six months of pregnancy. He delivered hundreds of these viable infants alive, then severed their spines after they were born to ensure their deaths.
And he did it all for many years without ever once being inspected by state health regulators because (as the Grand Jury report put it) “officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortion.”
This film exposes abortion for what it is. It is a horror. Whether the babies are destroyed inside the womb as described by the well-dressed female abortionist on the witness stand, or after they are delivered alive as practiced by a shoddy practitioner like Gosnell, it is all a horror.
The movie took me back to a meeting I attended at the New York State Capitol in the 1980s. A small group of us met with then-Governor Mario Cuomo, as we did each year about a number of priority issues of concern. The woman who was selected to present the pro-life issue was feisty and passionate, and she just happened to be an official with the State Democratic Party and a personal acquaintance of the governor from Queens.
I don’t recall her exact sentence, but she began her remarks by noting the “horror of abortion.” The governor smiled, interrupted her by patting his hand on her arm, and said “Evelyn, Evelyn, ‘horror?’ Really? Don’t you think you’re being a bit melodramatic?”
Evelyn was not to be trifled with. She stood up, put on her coat and said, “Mario, get your jacket. We’re going to a clinic to see what abortion is. Then you tell me if it’s a horror.”
The governor tried to appease Evelyn and calm her down, repeatedly telling her to sit, all the while smiling (somewhat nervously, I thought) and saying he wasn’t going on any field trips.
Of course he wasn’t. He didn’t want to see. If the horror is hidden, it is much easier to justify.
That’s why there was a near total media blackout of the Gosnell trial in 2013. That’s why we don’t see previews for the new movie on our televisions. That’s why proponents use words like “choice” and “reproductive rights” to sanitize the brutal reality of abortion. If the horror is hidden, it is much easier to justify.
No matter where one stands on the issue of abortion, everyone should see this film. People are free to leave the theatre leaning pro-life, pro-choice, or somewhere in the middle. But at least we’d all be on the same page in knowing the horrible truth.
Kathleen M. Gallagher serves as the Director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference, based in Albany.