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Thursday, June 13, 2024
The Observer

Consider watching the Gosnell movie

In May 2013, Dr. Kermit Barron Gosnell was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder, one count of involuntary manslaughter, 21 felony counts of illegal late-term abortion and 211 counts of violating the 24-hour informed consent law. Gosnell is currently serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The 280-page grand jury report on Gosnell’s charges documented countless horrific cases of his abuse of medical practice and consistent disregard for the women and children in his care. The report carefully insisted that it was not a question about the abortion issue but rather one “about disregard of the law and disdain for the lives and health of mothers and infants.” “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer,” a 2018 drama about the doctor’s investigation, trial and conviction, should be considered in the same light. Regardless of your opinion on the abortion issue, this is a movie that needs to be seen, and a story that demands to be heard. Don’t dismiss this movie because you think it comes from a source with which you disagree. The Gosnell movie is not a documentary, but it is far from fiction. Pulling almost entirely from police reports, court transcripts and the grand jury report, the creators of the movie worked to create a reenactment of a real story, not a fictional portrayal. The movie is painful to watch. The reality of Gosnell’s clinic is disturbing. The desperation and pain his patients experience is heart-wrenching. The image of children, born into this world kicking and crying, only to be killed, is gutting. But perhaps this film should be all of those things. We cannot look away from evil simply because it makes us uncomfortable. Do we avoid watching this movie because it conflicts with our beliefs? Because it is disturbing? Allow this movie to tell its story. It is a story that belongs to the unknown number of infants, born alive and killed at the hands of Gosnell. It is a story that belongs to vulnerable women like Karnamaya Mongar, who died of an overdose at the hands of his untrained staff. It belongs to the countless frightened underprivileged women and children endangered by a doctor who claimed to treat them as he would his own daughter. Allow this movie to be disturbing. Allow it to be heart-wrenching. Allow it to be gutting. Becasue that’s what this story is. Regardless of your position on abortion, hear this story. Do not allow it to go unnoticed because it wasn’t advertised enough, because it’s didn’t show everywhere or because the news outlets we rely on didn’t review it. Actually hear this story. Do not come in having decided what it has to offer you. You might just miss it. The Grand Jury wrote: “We find common ground in exposing what happened here [in Gosnell’s clinic] and in recommending measures to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.” Search for that common ground even in the darkest of places. Hear this story and investigate it. Ask the questions you have. The temptation is to say that this movie is simply preaching to the choir. Prove that wrong. I don’t ask you to ignore this movie’s bias, but see this movie as a chance to recognize your own. Ask how this was allowed to happen in a major American city — Philadelphia — just six years ago. Find the first sources. Ask what system allowed these women and children to suffer. Ask why no one heard or helped them. Ask why nobody was paying attention. We have to be willing to confront the uncomfortable. We have to be able to look at, and recognize, evil. We have to be willing and able to talk about it.

Maggie Garnett


Feb. 15


The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.