He’s allegedly killed more people than Jeffrey Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy combined, but most Americans have never heard of him.
Two years ago, Philadelphia authorities raided Kermit Gosnell’s inner-city abortion clinic on suspicion he was dealing prescription drugs. What they found there was unimaginably worse: bloodstained medical equipment, semi-conscious patients, cat feces, and dismembered fetal body parts in jars. Gosnell is now standing trial for the murders of one woman and seven infants, who allegedly had their spinal cords slit with scissors after being born alive. Former employees say he killed hundreds more.
It’s all the stuff of a horror movie—and a media feeding frenzy. Instead, the mainstream media refused to cover the story until last week, and then only thanks to relentless pressure from pro-life activists.
Why? Pro-lifers have speculated that journalists, being mostly liberal and pro-choice, were reluctant to shed any negative light on abortion in America—even illegal abortions performed by a sadistic, greedy “doctor.”
There’s certainly plenty of that going on. Megan McArdle of The Daily Beast admitted it, writing, “I understand why my readers suspect me, and other pro-choice mainstream journalists, of being selective—of not wanting to cover the story because it showcased the ugliest possibilities of abortion rights. The truth is that most of us tend to be less interested in sick-making stories—if the sick-making was done by ‘our side.’”
But there’s a second, less obvious reason. We—yes, including the “we” who vote Republican and describe ourselves as pro-life—don’t want to hear about it, and the media knows it.
“It’s a business decision,” said CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin. “We are not operating with a political agenda here. We pick stories, by and large, for reasons that we think people would be interested.”
It’s not hard to understand why viewers would avoid the Gosnell story. For starters, it exposes the gruesomeness of late-term abortions, which involve killing and dismembering fetuses in a much more brutal procedure (euphemistically called “dilation and evacuation”) than Gosnell’s method. Half of America voted for a president who supports late-term abortions, and voted against the Born Alive Infants Protection Act on the grounds that it would undermine abortion rights.
Who wants to turn on CNN and confront such a reality?
No, we prefer stories that titillate and entertain. We have wall-to-wall coverage of Jodi Arias, a lone nut who admits to killing her boyfriend in Arizona, but a blackout on Kermit Gosnell. And why wouldn’t we? The Arias trial involves nude pictures, kinky sex, and an attractive woman.
The Gosnell trial involves women seeking abortions in an inner-city chop shop. Karnamaya Mongar, the woman Gosnell killed during an abortion, was a 41-year-old Nepalese immigrant from one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. The vast majority of his patients were desperately poor women of color. (Former employees claim that when Gosnell received the rare white, middle-class patient, he’d bring her into a separate waiting room so she wouldn’t see the real condition of the clinic.) In short: this story took so long to break because no one cared about these women.
“Sparse coverage shouldn't surprise us, despite the sensationalistic details of the Gosnell case, because horrific things happen to poor black people in urban areas all the time, and the press ignores them,” wrote Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic.
As for Gosnell’s other victims, we have trouble seeing them as humans at all.
“Truth be told, I don’t think these people consider abortion survivors as real people—or Gosnell a mass murderer,” pro-life blogger Jill Stanek wrote. “Calling Gosnell a ‘mass murderer’ for completing abortions outside the uterus brings them too close to pro-lifers who call abortionists mass murderers for completing abortions just a few inches the other way.”
Before we condemn the “liberal media” for burying the story, we should ask ourselves if we really wanted to see it.
In this case, the bias isn’t just the media’s—it’s ours.