A fundraising campaign to create a movie about the notorious Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell has surpassed $1.2 million in donations, more than halfway to its goal.
“We have to keep the momentum going,” film producer Phelim McAleer said at an April 22 briefing at the Heritage Foundation.
The filmmaker considers Gosnell “the biggest serial killer in American history.”
In May 2013, Gosnell was convicted of three first-degree murder charges for killing babies who had been born alive after his failed abortion attempts. Testimony had indicated that Gosnell and his staff snipped the necks of more than 100 infants who survived abortion.
McAleer, his wife and co-producer Ann McElhinney, and fellow filmmaker Magdalena Segienda have asked thousands of donors to contribute $2.1 million or more by May 12 to help make a made-for-TV movie about Gosnell.
By the afternoon of April 23, the movie had more than $1,274,000 in donations from over 13,000 funders on the collaborative fundraising site IndieGogo. The fundraiser is an example of “crowdfunding,” relying on the ability to find many donors on the internet who are interested in the same kinds of projects.
If the moviemaking effort does not raise $2.1 million by midnight Pacific Time on May 12, all contributions will be returned to donors and the movie will go unfunded.
According to McAleer, the Gosnell movie project is “the most successful” crowdfunded movie hosted on IndieGogo. He believes it is presently about the fourth most successful crowdfunded movie project ever.
He also believes that the project is attracting first-time donors to a crowdfunded project. He said that the number of individual funders is almost as important as the donation amount to encourage wider media attention.
“If we have 20 to 30,000 people who have funded this movie to make it happen, it’s a ready audience, and their family and their friends, that’s difficult for them to ignore,” he said. “(Even) if people give only one dollar, it’s important for us and this project.”
National media covered the Gosnell case only after pro-life advocates launched a grassroots social media campaign to raise awareness about the gruesome case.
“We’re getting funded probably because the story was covered up,” McAleer said. “The media cover-up is a great part of the story too, it’s a great part of the media drama.”
Gosnell's clinic had not been inspected by the state of Pennsylvania since 1993. A federal drug raid in 2010 uncovered blood-stained rooms and filthy equipment.
According to reports, the clinic stored aborted human fetuses in a basement freezer in plastic food containers and bags next to staff lunches. Gosnell kept severed feet of unborn babies preserved in specimen jars, allegedly for future identification or DNA samples.
The abortion doctor was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient who died of an overdose in 2009. He is currently serving a life term in prison.
McAleer said the Gosnell case has many elements of a great story: whistleblowers who were ignored, a “passionate” prosecutor, and a “fascinating” trial.
Gosnell “was allowed to keep killing because of indifference, bureaucratic inertia, politics too,” McAleer said. He noted that Gosnell committed most of his crimes under a Republican governor, Tom Ridge, who had been elected after opposing restrictions on abortion access in Pennsylvania that could have stopped Gosnell.
“The word went down from on high that abortion facilities were not to be inspected,” McAleer charged. “They weren’t inspected. So he kept killing and he kept killing and he kept killing.”
In the months since the Gosnell case, attention has been given to the state of abortion clinic inspections throughout the country. In early April 2014, the New York Post reported that some eateries and tanning salons in New York City undergo more regular inspections than the city’s abortion clinics do. In mid-April, a new Arizona law ended special health inspection restrictions for abortion clinics, bringing them up to the same standards as hospitals and dialysis centers.
While the Gosnell movie internet fundraiser has gained support from many pro-life advocates, it also has other support. McAleer told the Heritage Foundation briefing that one of the movie’s biggest funders is someone who favors legal abortion with limits but wants the Gosnell story to gain more attention.
“We get many emails from people who have had abortions and they want this film to be made because they regret it,” he added.
The movie producers had intended to use the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, but switched to IndieGogo after problems with the administrators of Kickstarter.
According to McAleer, Kickstarter objected to the use of the phrase “thousands of babies murdered” in its description of Gosnell, saying it was against its community guidelines. The filmmaker contended that the site was selectively enforcing its community standards, citing other objectionable and obscene projects that the site hosts.
McAleer said one reason for poor media coverage of the effort is that the Gosnell case raises “too many awkward questions.”
“I’m not saying what the answers are, but they don’t want the questions asked,” he said. “That’s what I’m doing, I’m going to ask some questions.”
The website for the movie’s fundraising campaign is GosnellMovie.com.