Have you heard about the Gosnell trial?
Neither had I until recently, and there’s a reason for that: the news media doesn’t want you to hear about it. Not just the news media, however; elected public officials, advocacy organizations, bloggers and social media-users apparently don’t want you to know about the trial either, because it graphically and sickeningly exposes the ugly and brutal side of abortion, which owes its continuing legal status and public support to the avoidance of inconvenient truths.
Imagine, if you will, a Sandy Hook massacre that the national media and politicians decided to ignore as a “local story,” because they knew it would spark a national debate over gun control. Imagine Piers Morgan, CNN, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, Fox News and the rest scrupulously concentrating on other news stories so what they believed would pose a possible threat to Second Amendment rights would “blow over” without leaving any mark on public opinion. Imagine all of these and more concluding that the incident would be hyped and shamelessly exploited by anti-gun advocates, perhaps leading to a tipping point in societal attitudes toward gun violence, so in order to prevent this possibility, the story, and the deaths of the children, were deliberately marginalized and kept out of the public eye. Would that trouble you? Anger you? Frighten you? Would it cause you to worry that our democracy is becoming a sham, with fact and truth being manipulated so that our Constitutional rights of self-government were a sham and an illusion?
I am angry, troubled and frightened, because this is exactly what is occurring regarding the Gosnell trial. The only difference is that it is abortion, rather than guns, that unethical journalists and unethical public officials are protecting by employing a blatant double standard.
The murder trial of Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell began almost a month ago, on March 18. He is charged with the murder of seven infants in late-term abortions of the sort that reveal how Orwellian that euphemism is. A former Gosnell worker described how he snipped the spinal cords of living babies, referring to his actions as beheadings. Testimony described babies crying before they were essentially decapitated. Another former Gosnell employee testified that Dr. Gosnell taught her this “snipping” technique to use on unwanted infants when they were born alive. Another told the jury that he saw at least a hundred babies born in Gosnell’s clinic and then “snipped.” “It would rain fetuses,” he said. “Fetuses and blood all over the place.” The Associated Press deceitfully headlined its story about the testimony this way: “Staffer describes chaos at PA abortion clinic.” I saw that headline. I thought it was about a badly-run clinic, not infanticide, and didn’t read it, which was exactly what the AP intended. And I had less of an excuse to be misled than most, because I had written about Dr. Gosnell when he was first charged, more than two years ago. “Out of sight, out of mind” is not just a maxim. By the time of the trial, I had forgotten the name, the charges, and the story.
At least the AP covered the story a little bit. Not a single news show on three of the major national television networks has mentioned the Gosnell trial since it began. The Washington Post has not done any original reporting on the trial; the New York Times buried its story on the opening of the trial deep in its A section, and has added no coverage since. Meanwhile, CNN’s Headline News Channel has been broadcasting the Jodi Arias trial gavel to gavel, because, you see, an attractive young white woman who stabs her lover into mince-meat is national news, and a doctor who beheads dozens of living babies is not.
Why? A Florida Planned Parenthood representative recently testified against a proposed law that would require doctors and medical personnel to provide medical care to live babies who survive botched late-term abortions. She was asked about Planned Parenthood’s attitude was toward a baby lying screaming on a table after an attempted abortion: what should happen next? She answered that it should be legal to kill the child, if that’s what the mother wanted.
Now, perhaps you agree with her. Perhaps your agreement isn’t based on the fact that you don’t have to see and hear the doomed baby, or witness the killing. Perhaps knowing that these things occur, and that in the case of Dr. Gosnell, allegedly occurred routinely, would not alter your stance on abortion at all, just as the Newtown massacre hasn’t changed the minds of many gun enthusiasts. But don’t you think you have a right to know these things, so you can re-examine your views and beliefs? Ethics progress and advancement requires experience and facts.
Religion commentator Mollie Hemingway asked Sarah Kliff, a health policy reporter at the Washington Post, about the paper’s blackout of the Gosnell trial. Kliff had written extensively on the controversy when the Susan G. Komen Foundation exercised its judgment and decided not to automatically give millions to Planned Parenthood, thus increasing the pressure on the Foundation to return to its original policy. She felt that Rush Limbaugh, a radio host, mocking Sandra Fluke was worthy of multiple news stories, and intensely covered the idiotic but bloodless remarks of Senate candidate Todd Akin. She has not, to date, written about Dr. Gosnell at all. Kliff’s explanation for the apparently discrepancy was that she covers policy for the Washington Post, not “local crime.” That’s right: the fact that a doctor regularly stretched the concept of “late-term abortion” to slaughtering living infants, and that he carried on in this fashion for years without any regulatory interference, has no policy implications at all.
Pro-abortion Daily Beast columnist Megan McCardle, in an odd mea culpa for her own lack of coverage of a story she was well aware of, explains the media’s disgraceful non-coverage of the Gosnell trial as well as her own by saying that it was so “sickening” that reporters couldn’t bring themselves to do their jobs. What utter, dishonest, self-deluding, rationalizing garbage. For some reason the media could stomach Newtown, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Nazi death camps, the aftermath of Katrina, the Hillside Strangler, Ted Bundy, and worse, but this one story is just too awful to contemplate, investigate or write about? Who is so intellectually and ethically bereft as to believe that?
Any abortion advocate who isn’t as alarmed by the lack of news coverage of Dr. Gosnell as an abortion foe is a hypocrite and worse, a fool. If journalists can selectively report the news to support one agenda, it can do so to support another. There are pro-gun citizens who believe, as I do, that the Newtown tragedy has been outrageously exploited to distort the policy debate on gun regulations, but I have never heard or read about any of them arguing that the tragedy didn’t deserve thorough coverage as a national story, or that the news media should have embargoed the facts to protect the Second Amendment. There are two major ethical problems here. One is that the news media is not doing its job, because it no longer knows what its job is. It will not give the public the information it needs to know and has a right to know, but only the information those in the media believe will lead the public to support its agenda, its beliefs, and, yes, its President. That endangers our liberty.
The other is major issue that one of the most important and contentious moral, legal and ethical problems of this or any other time, abortion, cannot receive the constant and ongoing analysis that any ethical problem deserves if society is manipulated to keep its realities out of sight and mind. Lives are at stake, and for any of us to tolerate the news media’s coverage of the Gosnell trial is unconscionable.
In fact, it’s sickening.
Graphic: Daily Beast