The murder trial of Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell has produced graphic testimony of “beheadings” of infants who survive abortions, but the lack of national news coverage has drawn protests and criticism from pro-life leaders, congressmen and professional journalists.
U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) took to the House floor on Thursday, decrying what he called a “national media cover-up” of the trial of Gosnell, who is charged with the first-degree murders of seven infants born alive after a failed abortion.
“To this day, the national news media remains uninterested, indifferent – AWOL. Why the censorship? Gosnell’s 'house of horrors' trial fails to attract any serious and meaningful national news reporting,” Smith said April 11.
He described how the Gosnell trial is rife with “shocking testimony of beheadings, unfathomable abuse, death, and body parts in jars.”
Gosnell is charged with seven counts of first degree murder for the deaths of infants who allegedly were killed after surviving abortions at his Philadelphia clinic, the Women’s Medical Society.
The abortionist also faces a third-degree murder charge for the 2009 death of a Virginia woman who died after his untrained clinic employees administered an overdose of a drug.
An FBI raid – which helped uncover the gruesome practices at Gosnell’s clinic – was conducted in February 2010 and sought evidence of illegal distribution of prescription painkillers.
Nine employees have faced state and federal charges for their actions at the clinic. Some have confessed to third-degree murder and using Gosnell’s prescription pads for drugs to be sold on the streets.
Gosnell’s trial began March 19 and he could face the death penalty if convicted.
Former employee Stephen Massof in courtroom testimony in early April said that he saw about 100 babies born alive. He said clinic workers then “snipped” the back of their neck to ensure their “demise.”
Massof, an unlicensed graduate of a Grenada medical school, told jurors the procedure was “literally a beheading,” NBC 10 Philadelphia reports.
“It is separating the brain from the body,” he said, adding that women were sometimes given medicine to speed up their deliveries. “It would rain fetuses,” he said. “Fetuses and blood all over the place.”
Massof is in prison after he pled guilty to third-degree murder in the deaths of two newborns.
Sherry West, a former employee of Gosnell, testified that she heard a child “screaming” after it was delivered alive at Gosnell’s Philadelphia clinic.
“I can’t describe it. It sounded like a little alien,” she said of the baby, who was about 18 to 24 inches long.
Gosnell kept severed feet of unborn babies preserved in specimen jars, allegedly for future identification or DNA samples. One expert testified at the trial that he had never heard of this practice, the Philadelphia Inquirer says.
Gosnell’s attorney has said that the movements of the infants were death throes induced by abortion drugs and that the babies had been delivered dead.
Local news in Pennsylvania and Delaware, where Gosnell also operated a clinic, has covered the trial. However, national coverage has been scarce.
Opinion columns and editorials about the Gosnell trial and its lack of national media coverage have appeared in USA Today and the Investor’s Business Daily.
In The Atlantic, writer Conor Friedersdorf's essay “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell's Trial Should Be a Front-Page Story” characterized the trial as “insanely newsworthy” but “undercovered” by the news media.
Friedersdorf, who had not heard of the case until April 11, said the Gosnell trial involves even more than the “horrific” allegations that the clinic severed the heads of live babies.
He said the trial involves testimony to the Pennsylvania grand jury that women were sent to give birth into toilets, that a doctor spread sexually transmitted infections to women through poor sanitary standards, that a 15-year-old administered anesthesia to patients, and that white women received the attention of a doctor while black women were “pawned off on clueless untrained staffers.”
“Any single one of those things would itself make for a blockbuster news story,” Friedersdorf wrote. “Is it even conceivable that an optometrist who attended to his white patients in a clean office while an intern took care of the black patients in a filthy room wouldn't make national headlines?”
Friedersdorf said the Gosnell trial deserves coverage because it informs the abortion debate and has “numerous plausible implications for abortion policy” including clinic regulation and oversight and restrictions on late-term abortions.
“Multiple local and state agencies are implicated in an oversight failure that is epic in proportions!”
In a January 2011 Grand Jury report, District Attorney R. Seth Williams found that the Pennsylvania Department of Health had contact with Gosnell’s clinic in 1979, when it first approved it. The department did not conduct another site review until 1989, finding “numerous violations.” Two site reviews found more violations in 1992 and 1993, but failed to make corrections.
The report said this “pro forma effort” ended in 1993 when the state health department decided “for political reasons” to “stop inspecting abortion clinics at all.”
The report blamed the change of administration from Gov. Bob Casey, Sr., a pro-life Democrat, to Gov. Tom Ridge, a pro-abortion rights Republican.