If you haven't heard anything about the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell's in Pennsylvania, that's going to change. But I fear the story you'll hear will be a story about why Gosnell's malpractice and mistreatment of women seeking abortions was not a big story until you heard about it. In other words, politics will extract the story from the realm of the real and put it into the realm of the meta.
To be upfront about it, according to a grand jury:
"This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy — and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels — and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths."
Conor Friedersdorf believes that the media ignored the story because he thinks it challenges a liberal piety, or the now sacred institution of abortion on demand, something that the left-liberal media, he implies, subconsciously protects.
Maybe. But I think the economics of journalism are a more likely culprit. Even sensational stories drop through the widening cracks. There was also no public trial that could be televised, and — to be perfectly crass — only one of his adult patients died. It's a horrible story, but it doesn't have every element that would immediately lend itself to wall-to-wall cable news coverage. I agree with Kirsten Powers that the race and class of the patients probably influences news assignment managers more than it should.
Did the media ignore the story because the establishment does not view third trimester fetuses born alive as babies? And is that a result of the rhetorical limits that influence both policy and perception, limits imposed by the pro-choice lobby? Also a maybe.
But the "meta" story about this story is not necessarily an anti-abortion morality tale.
If it were easier and more socially accepted to get safer and earlier abortions in Pennsylvania, the demand for his services wouldn't be as high. Cutting funds for Planned Parenthood and other providers with reputations for medical excellence means that more people will seek the modern day equivalent of back-alley abortions.
Also, if health care inequalities weren't as pronounced, doctors like Gosnell would be kicked out of the market much earlier, or discovered much earlier.
As you read and metabolize the story and the debate, consider, yes, that media could have covered it a little better, think more broadly, too, about the many different ways in which the failure to catch Gosnell's horrible practices early enough represents significant systemic failures that have little to do with abortion.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
- Obama knows he can't really 'defeat' ISIS. Americans need to wake up to that reality, too.
- Why gay people of color are still losing
- The U.S. dollar has been strengthening for 3 straight years! (That's not good news.)
Subscribe to the Week