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I’d had only a dim awareness of the Philadelphia trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell–until now.
What just changed? Two of Ricochet’s own–our editor, Mollie Hemingway, and our longtime member, Conor Friedersdorf–both published searing, brilliant articles on the nature of the charges against Gosnell—among the many crimes on the list, Gosnell is alleged to have quite routinely delivered live babies, then severed their spinal columns–and the utter outrage of the indifference to the story of the national press.
Mollie, on the non-coverage of the story by the Washington Post’s health reporter, Sarah Kliff:
I have critiqued many of her stories on the Susan G. Komen Foundation (she wrote quite a bit about that) and the Sandra Fluke controversy (she wrote quite a bit about that) and the Todd Akin controversy (you know where this is going). In fact, a site search for that reporter — who is named Sarah Kliff — and stories Akin and Fluke and Komen — yields more than 80 hits. Guess how many stories she’s done on this abortionist’s mass murder trial.
Did you guess zero? You’d be right….
And what policies could possibly be under discussion with this Gosnell trial? Other than, you know, abortion clinic hiring practices? And enforcement of sanitary conditions? And laws on abortion practices that extend to killing live infants by beheading them? And the killing of their mothers? And state or federal oversight of clinics with records of botched abortions? And pain medication practices? And how to handle the racist practices of some clinics? And how big of a problem this is (don’t tell anyone but another clinic nearby to Gosnell was shut down this week over similar sanitation concerns)? And disposal of babies’ bodies? And discussion of whether it’s cool to snip baby’s spines after they’re born? And how often are abortion clinics inspected anyway? What are the results of inspections? When emergency rooms take in victims of botched abortions, do they report that? How did this clinic go 17 years without an inspection? Gosh, I just can’t think of a single health policy angle here. Can you?
Since the case has been so underreported, Conor begins his piece with a simple (but skillful) recounting of the facts:
On February 18, 2010, the FBI raided the “Women’s Medical Society,” entering its offices about 8:30 p.m. Agents expected to find evidence that it was illegally selling prescription drugs. On entering, they quickly realized something else was amiss. In the grand jury report’s telling, “There was blood on the floor. A stench of urine filled the air. A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets. All the women had been sedated by unlicensed staff.” Authorities had also learned about the patient that died at the facility several months prior.Public health officials inspected the surgery rooms. “Instruments were not sterile,” the grand jury states. “Equipment was rusty and outdated. Oxygen equipment was covered with dust, and had not been inspected. The same corroded suction tubing used for abortions was the only tubing available for oral airways if assistance for breathing was needed. There was no functioning resuscitation or even monitoring equipment, except for a single blood pressure cuff.” Upon further inspection, “the search team discovered fetal remains haphazardly stored throughout the clinic – in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and even in cat-food containers.”And “Gosnell admitted to Detective Wood that at least 10 to 20 percent of the fetuses were probably older than 24 weeks in gestation – even though Pennsylvania law prohibits abortions after 24 weeks. In some instances, surgical incisions had been made at the base of the fetal skulls….”
Then Conor ends with a devastating litany of the reasons this story, reported by no major news outlet in the country, should instead be in headlines everywhere:
[T]his isn’t solely a story about babies having their heads severed, though it is that. It is also a story about a place where, according to the grand jury, women were sent to give birth into toilets; where a doctor casually spread gonorrhea and chlamydiae to unsuspecting women through the reuse of cheap, disposable instruments; an office where a 15-year-old administered anesthesia; an office where former workers admit to playing games when giving patients powerful narcotics; an office where white women were attended to by a doctor and black women were pawned off on clueless untrained staffers. Any single one of those things would itself make for a blockbuster news story. Is it even conceivable that an optometrist who attended to his white patients in a clean office while an intern took care of the black patients in a filthy room wouldn’t make national headlines…?
Why isn’t [the trial] being covered more? I’ve got my theories. But rather than offer them at the end of an already lengthy item, I’d like to survey some of the editors and writers making coverage decisions.
Mollie, too, ends her piece by promising to continue reporting, so to speak, on the lack of reporting.
Mollie and Conor, demonstrating the skill and sheer outraged indignation that informs journalism at its best.
I’m just proud to know them.