Media shy away from abortion doctor's trial

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Judging from recent dramatic changes in public opinion on gun control, the mainstream media have done the smart thing -- if not the right thing -- in declining to cover the Kermit Gosnell trial.

And despite the obligatory but lame protest to the contrary, the so-called "Big Media" have indeed failed to cover a sensational story that, if it were not about abortion, would have been front and center every single day.

After all, if a serial killer were discovered in your home state, you would expect regular reports on the investigation, arrest, trial and sentencing.

If the serial killer had operated for many years with the full knowledge of co-conspirators here and in other states, it would be a national outrage.

If a governor or his administration had known of at least one death at the serial killer's hands and had declined to investigate, allowing the killing to continue, you would expect to see trials of several others besides the serial killer. You would expect catastrophic political scandal.

But that is not the case here in Pennsylvania. Kermit Gosnell awaits a verdict in Philadelphia, after being tried for the murder of one adult patient and seven (but reduced to four) murders of babies born alive from failed abortions, but both national and state media coverage have stopped just short of a yawn.

Irin Carmon of made an embarrassing attempt to pretend the no-coverage complaint was just bogus right-wing media bashing. Her evidence? A January essay in The Nation, a January story from a local CBS affiliate and an NPR report from February on Gov. Tom Corbett firing a half-dozen state employees responsible for overseeing abortion clinics.

But the trial began in March. As Fox News reported on April 12, the same day as Ms. Carmon's silly article, NBC, ABC or CBS had yet to cover the trial and CNN had done so only once.

After a weekend that brought a pro-life Twitter campaign and a viral photo of the rows of empty media seating, the "Big Media" showed up.

What had they missed? Testimony on third-trimester babies born alive then killed with scissors, hundreds of tiny hands and feet preserved in jars, filthy treatment rooms, patients contracting diseases from dirty equipment (though there was a clean room for white women) and Dr. Gosnell joking about an aborted baby so big "he could walk me to the bus stop."

It's hard to avoid drawing the conclusion that the reason news coverage has been so muted is that, as was established years ago, a majority of media honchos responsible for determining what gets covered are pro-choice. And as a court staffer remarked to reporter J.D. Mullane -- source of the viral empty-seat photo -- "If you're pro-choice, do you really want anybody to know about this?"

The grand jury, whose members' opinions on abortion ran the gamut, realized their 2011 report would provide fodder for both sides in our nation's endless debate. But one very important finding going unexplored from their must-read report is that Dr. Gosnell's charnel house operated for so many years without investigation specifically because pro-choice forces pressured pro-choice governors -- both Republican Tom Ridge and Democrat Ed Rendell -- to lighten up on regulatory enforcement.

That's why there was no investigation even after a woman's death at the facility in 2009 (and it was not the first). It wasn't until the FBI raided the "Women's Medical Society" for its daytime business as a prescription mill that its nighttime horrors as an "abortion mill" were uncovered.

The grisly details are difficult to read. We prefer to look away, but the media have not even made that necessary -- there's almost nothing to look away from. Given their bias, noncoverage was the smart choice: In the wake of the exhaustively covered Newtown massacre, a huge majority of us favor expanded gun control.

Forty years after Roe v. Wade, a majority of us already consider ourselves "pro-life." Can you imagine the public response if more people actually knew about this Philadelphia massacre?

The Post-Gazette has provided readers with an excellent column by The Washington Post's Sally Quinn, arguing that as fetal medicine brings viability at ever-earlier gestation, we need to regularly revisit this fraught issue.

But her column repeats the old thinking that "a woman should be allowed to do with her own body what she chooses." The inconvenient truth, made suddenly new and horrifyingly vivid in the Gosnell trial, is that in abortion the woman's body isn't the only one at stake.


Ruth Ann Dailey:


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