I have been waiting to write this piece because I have been waiting to hear more about it in the media. Regrettably, until the news broke in April 2013, I had not heard anything about the Gosnell case; not on my Facebook feed, not on the national news, and not in those lovely memes that people like to post to make their political point.
Had I been listening to NPR on the day this story aired, I would have known about Kermit Gosnell on February 16, 2011.
If I regularly read “The Nation”, I would have heard about these atrocities even several days before that when they posted this story.
If I looked really hard, I might have found this story buried in Bill O’Reilly’s “talking points” 10 days later in 2011.
As far as I can tell, I would not have found any stories covered by Glenn Beck or Breitbart until Kristen Powers wrote her op-ed piece on April 11, 2013 in USA Today.
There were apparently several bloggers who highlighted the case, but it is hard to find such things unless you are looking for them (and how can you look for something you don’t know exists?). So, while I think blogging can reach a lot of people, it still does not have the ability to reach the masses like the mainstream media nor can it replace “news”.
Politicians were strangely silent on the issue as well.
The bottom line is that the mainstream media should have picked up on it and reported it when it was first discovered that Gosnell had been performing horrible and illegal abortions and putting the lives of the women who used his services in danger.
The fact is that a number of whistle-blowers had attempted to get the authorities to do something about it for years and they did not. This should also be part of the story.
Conservative news outlets are taking this opportunity to lambast the so-called liberal media for a “blackout” regarding the Gosnell case and the mainstream media has fired back that conservative news outlets were just as silent on the issue. While both sides have points to make, what gets lost in this are the victims and I would add, “as usual”.
When the media and the political pundits have, in fact, taken time off from sucker punching each other, they have made a few attempts to actually try and figure out WHY something which is so gruesome and which has huge social and political implications could have gone so long under the radar.
I must admit that none of the reasons I’ve heard make a whole lot of sense, but this article, published in the Philadelphia Weekly on February 2, 2011 got me thinking. First, though, I must point out that I had almost zero chance of stumbling across this article when it was actually published because I don’t live in Philadelphia. But, thankfully, it is an in depth article that identifies not only the national agendas, but local ones as well.
Sure, this article outlines the racial and poverty issues like so many other more recent articles have, but it also provides some other interesting insights into the case.
The first is that former Pennsylvania Governor, Robert (Bob) Casey, a pro-life (yes, pro-life) Democrat signed a number of laws that restricted access to abortion in Pennsylvania. These restrictions were heard by the Supreme Court and, for the most part, were upheld. Next, enter the governor who succeeded Mr. Casey, that being Tom Ridge, who was a pro-choice Republican (no, that is not a misprint, either) and who would later become our first Secretary of Homeland Security. Then Governor Ridge, in an attempt to loosen the barriers put in place by his predecessor, Mr. Casey, made the decision to enact legislation that made the Pennsylvania Department of Health stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. Then, after Dr. Gosnell was indicted, the judge put a gag order on the lawyers in April, 2011.
All of these things were a political “perfect storm” where there is no one monster that any political pundit wanted to take aim at. Here are the players and setting for this horror story: A black doctor, poor women of color, under-regulation enacted by a pro-choice Republican (who was also an appointee of the Bush Administration) in response to punitive restrictions placed on abortions by a pro-life Democrat and upheld by a conservative Supreme Court and regulatory agencies that received numerous complaints but did nothing, and the inability of either attorney to talk to the media about the case due to a gag order. I ask you for a moment, a day, a week to let all those facts roll around in your head.
That’s what I’ve been doing. Here is what I concluded, but you are certainly under no obligation to agree with me: If the women and babies had been white, something would have been done sooner to stop this man. There still may have been an unsettling lack of coverage, but Mr. Gosnell wouldn’t have gotten away with it for so long.
If the Governor who had put up the barriers to abortion had been a Republican and the Governor who had virtually eliminated inspection of clinics had been a Democrat, we would have heard a lot more about this case before April 2013.
If the Supreme Court had not upheld Pennsylvania’s attempt to undermine Roe v. Wade, the clinic would likely have continued to be inspected and these atrocities would not have occurred or would have been discovered sooner.
If the victims had been the same and Mr. Gosnell had been white, we would have heard about this well before April 2013.
In my opinion, this is more than just a reflection on the media, it is a reflection of our broken political system which panders to political interest groups. But the media does not get a pass on this one. It is not their job to report only the news that people on either side of the political issues want to hear. It is news because it happens, not because someone feels comfortable reporting on it or hearing about it. The latter argument might work for Hollywood or the music industry (we’re only giving them what they want), but it does not work for journalism. What happened to the media depicted in movies that rushed to get to the story first?
I would like to leave you all with this final thought: While the facts of the Gosnell case are about the worst thing that I could imagine, I do not believe they are a natural result of legal abortion. Abortion is a medical procedure and should be regulated, at the very least, to minimal medical and legal standards of other medical procedures. If that was the mindset of this country, instead of abortion being a political football, then we would not be here arguing that the media had not done enough to cover this story and there would not have been living babies born who were murdered by a deranged doctor.