Over the past few weeks a jury heard testimony in the murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. He stands accused of murdering a 41-year-old refugee from Nepal and severing the spines of seven newborns who had survived late-term abortion procedures—though the number of babies killed in this fashion is likely much, much higher. Hardly anyone else heard the testimony, however, thanks to an informal blackout of the trial by virtually all national media. One of Gosnell’s former employees estimates he personally saw at least 100 babies killed and testified, “It would rain fetuses. Fetuses and blood all over the place.” Another clinic worker testified that one of the babies Gosnell murdered was actually screaming as he killed it. “It didn’t have eyes or a mouth but it was like screeching, making this noise. It was weird. It sounded like a little alien.”
Gosnell’s crimes are difficult to reconcile with the media’s preferred “right to choose” rhetoric for discussing abortion, and so omertà has been observed in America’s newsrooms. While Philadelphia media have been all over the story, coverage from wire services has been limited and terrible—the AP had one story on the Gosnell trial last week, headlined, “Staffer describes chaos at Pa. abortion clinic.” That’s an understated headline for the trial of a man who may have murdered 100 infants. The three major networks haven’t even mentioned the story. Those same three networks managed 41 minutes of coverage on the Rutgers basketball coach caught on video pushing his players and using offensive slurs. Fox News’s Kirsten Powers notes that the only mention on the major networks came when Peggy Noonan derailed an unrelated Meet the Press segment to complain about the lack of coverage.
There’s no conceivable professional justification for the Gosnell blackout. In the last year, ABC, CBS, and NBC provided wall-to-wall coverage of Sandra Fluke being called names for arguing a Catholic university should be forced to provide birth control, Todd Akin’s idiotic statements about rape and abortion, and the Susan G. Komen foundation’s failed attempt to deny Planned Parenthood $700,000 in grants. We understand that the media aren’t eager to cover stories that might undermine the left-leaning political consensus used to frame nearly all stories involving abortion rights. For instance, as Jon A. Shields wrote for this magazine’s website last week, one thing the trial highlighted is that Pennsylvania health authorities ignored complaints after
Governor Tom Ridge’s pro-choice administration came to power [in 1993]. According to the grand jury report, state officials in the Ridge administration “concluded that inspections would be ‘putting up a barrier to women’ seeking abortions.”
However, you don’t have to be a pro-life crusader to be appalled by the collective and near-total abdication of professional responsibility in the Gosnell trial. Anyone with a rudimentary sense of right and wrong should be taken aback.
While we wait for Gosnell to meet justice, at the very least we expect the court of public opinion to convict the media of dereliction of duty.