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If We Ignore Dr. Gosnell, He Never Happened

April 15, 2013

Ah, I’m afraid this post is a bit grim, not the usual light-hearted fare. There are times, however, when an illustrator and cartoonist must use what skill he has to speak out on important issues. This is one of those times.BlankVertSpace.8pixels

There’s a sensational trial going on in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. It began on March 18th. Until a few days ago, however, you might not have heard about it. That’s because most media outlets ignored the trial. Seats reserved for the press were empty.

On trial: Dr. Kermit Gosnell who ran a filthy abortion clinic for four decades, and
is accused of murdering newborn babies, performing hundreds of illegal late-term abortions, and killing and injuring numerous patients. Despite ongoing complaints, local and state authorities looked the other way and did nothing.

Big story, right? You’d never know it. The media opted out, and has been covering other pressing matters. I got the idea for this cartoon after watching the Sunday ABC television news. Nary a mention of Gosnell, but they found time to cover Tiger Woods’ assessed penalty at the Masters golf tournament.
editorial cartoon about philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell currently on trial for murdering babies after they were born and conducting illegal late-term abortions over four decades and how public officials did nothing and how the media has virtually ignored the trial because most reporters and media people are pro-abortion

So why hasn’t the media seen fit to cover the story? One can only hypothesize, and many conservative commentators have: they believe the news media has ignored the case because of ideological bias. Media studies have shown that the great majority of U.S. journalists are pro-abortion and vote Democratic. The best known of these studies
is The Media Elite by Lichter, Lichter, and Rothman.

In short, the media has been ignoring the Gosnell case because it makes abortion and abortion providers look bad. Impossible to prove, of course, and most journalists would deny it, but I suspect it’s true, and so do others.

Things are changing a bit as I write this. The Atlantic published a big story about the case on Friday, April 12th, and some liberal commentators are having second thoughts about ignoring the story.

At the end of his Atlantic piece, Conor Friedersdorf writes that the Gosnell case “arguably informs the abortion debate in any number of ways, and has numerous plausible implications for abortion policy…” I agree.

No matter what your stance on abortion may be, I submit that we can’t have an honest debate on the issue if pertinent information is suppressed. The media has not been doing its job.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

What do you think? Had you heard of the case? Is media bias something you think about? Did you know that most journalists share similar opinions on social issues and political candidates? Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2013 8:37 AM

    This is absolutely shocking. It is a hard news story to cover in something that is mainly lighthearted, though you have done it well Mark.

    It is quite surprising that the media did not mention about the news of this, but they have to always be careful with a topic such as this and what they have to say. It seems like it was mentioned in a UK newspaper from one of your links but it has not been mentioned here. I am guessing it is perhaps due to people who are pro-life, and people in general, would cause a massive uproar of this and not just do a simple protest which would be understandable.

    Another reason it may not have covered is that women who want to have an abortion would feel frightened, whether or not they’re having the procedure done in a safe place or not, but there’s the argument that these “backstreet abortions” need to be covered and warned over the dangers of going to them, and highlight more on being able to go to a specialised clinic.

    If I understand, in the US, it is not possible to get funding for such things? Like in the UK, depending on your financial circumstances it is either on the NHS or private. If that’s the case it is a shame that it cannot be funded for people who have less money. Sad events like these and women losing their lives in such vulnerable circumstances would not happen.


    • April 16, 2013 4:25 PM

      Thanks for your comment, Sabine. As mentioned in the post, most U.S. journalists support abortion– what they are always careful to call “choice,” neglecting to add that what is being chosen is the surgical termination of defenseless human life– life which has been legally downgraded to non-personhood, and therefore has no rights.

      The U.S. media is always quick to publish abortion-related news which denigrates those who oppose abortion. I think it’s telling that they are reluctant to cover a truly sensational abortion case in which the obvious villain is… an abortionist.

      Re funding abortion: many consider abortion an immoral act– myself included. I don’t believe government has the right to force people and organizations to fund (thru their tax dollars, public monies) an act they consider evil and immoral. My opinion: here in the U.S., such government coercion is a violation of Freedom of Religion, part of the First Amendment in the United States Constitution.

      I sincerely appreciate your comment, and am very glad to have your views.


  2. April 16, 2013 12:42 PM

    I had not heard of this! Although I don’t necessarily think the media shy away from any controversial story; it sells and they can still bias anything they want to. 😉

    Bad doctors should be held accountable. I would be cautious though saying anyone’s “pro-abortion”. No woman or any sane person celebrates the death of a baby. I certainly think third trimester abortions are horrifying; but the right wing absolutely cannot tell women that abortion should be illegal while simultaneously trying to ban birth control. I mean, come on.

    Add to that their casual attitude toward rape and their refusal to pass the Violence Against Women Act, and I have to agree with those who say, keep your laws off my body.


    • April 16, 2013 5:03 PM

      Many thanks for your comment, Amelie. The trial began on March 18th. The Atlantic published its this-belongs-on-the-front-page story on Aril 12th. I’d say that’s a case of the media being extremely shy– especially given the sensational nature of the case, a story sure to attract readers and viewers. The media never hesitates to publish stories which portray abortion opponents in a negative light. Their reluctance to publicize the Gosnell case seems to cross the line into withholding information…

      I don’t think anyone disputes a person’s legal access to contraceptives– pills or devices which prevent conception. What many people object to (rightly, in my opinion) is the public funding of drugs which destroy a fertilized egg– after conception. To call the later just another form of “birth control” is to gloss over an important physical (and moral) fact.

      Rape is one of the most despicable criminal acts there is. I can’t believe anyone with a working moral compass would view it casually. It fills me with rage just thinking about it. I also know it’s one of the hardest crimes to prosecute, often involving less than conclusive evidence, “he said, she said” testimony, and victims reluctant to face what can be brutal cross-examination about their past. I’d be very careful about stigmatizing an entire group when it comes to attitudes about rape. It’s a horrible act, and must not be used to score political points.

      Always very glad to see you and have your views– thanks.


      • April 17, 2013 12:16 PM

        Thank you for a calm and civil debate, Mark. If politicians conversed this way, we’d get a lot more done. They should watch and learn! 😉

        I understand what you’re saying about other forms of contraception. But I’m not talking about RU486. I’m not even talking about the morning-after pill. I’m talking about the plain, boring old Pill.

        The regular birth control pill stops sperm from fertilizing an egg and it also creates chemical changes in women to prevent fertilization in the first place. There is no controversy here. The only people who oppose this are men who think that women should try to get pregnant every time they have sex with their partner. Which is absurd.

        No woman in her right mind intentionally gets pregnant and then rushes out to get an abortion. Nope, it’s almost always an accident. Birth control pills are very effective. But they’re not cheap and they’re not always widely available.

        If you, Mark, know of any Republican or generally anti-abortion politicians who are fiery supporters of birth control pill coverage, then please let me know. From what I’ve seen, the consensus is that the Pill should not be covered by health insurance and some Republicans want to ban it.


        • April 18, 2013 9:03 PM

          Thank you in turn, Amelie, for your temperate input.

          Most people today have no objection to contraceptives themselves. That includes myself. And I’m not aware of any politician who would argue that contraceptives should not be sold to adults.

          Things become problematic when it comes to including birth control in publicly funded healthcare coverage. Why? Because supporters are never content to limit what they call birth control to contraceptives. They insist on expanding that definition to abortifacients (drugs which induce abortion by destroying a fertilized egg) and abortion itself. It gets more problematic: many supporters insist that such drugs and procedures be available to minors without parental consent.

          I think you will find that politicians who oppose “birth control” as part of publicly funded healthcare coverage do so because the concept of birth control contained in the legislation has been expanded beyond contraceptives to include abortion and/or drugs that induce same.

          I hope you will let me know if you come across any Democrats who are willing to limit birth control coverage in healthcare legislation to contraceptives for persons of legal age. I think you’ll find them scarce. And that’s a shame because such limited coverage might be a compromise many legislators could support.


  3. April 16, 2013 12:44 PM

    I also wonder why they work so hard to protect unborn babies while leaving newborns and pregnant moms in the dust if they can’t afford health care.


    • April 16, 2013 5:32 PM

      IMHO, the idea that abortion opponents care only about preventing abortions, and that they don’t care about expectant moms, or post-natal care, or adoption services, or helping new parents, etc, etc, is one of the most insidious falsehoods out there.

      I live in just one largely rural corner of New Hampshire, and we have all those helpful services here– free of charge. Catholic Charities is the largest non-governmental charitable provider in the state, and has been providing aid, counseling, support, and adoption referral services for years. And not two weeks ago, I read about a new non-denominational pregnancy resource center in the area, whose free services include individual parenting classes, materials and support…

      No pregnant women are being left in the dust because they can’t afford health care– that’s misinformation which needs to be corrected.


      • April 17, 2013 12:17 PM

        Mark, that’s simply not true. Right off the bat I can tell you my neighbor (two houses down from me) is currently pregnant with no health insurance, and she has no insurance for her son or daughter either. Many, many women are in this situation. Where did you hear that zero women are in that predicament?


        • April 18, 2013 9:53 AM

          I think our exchange may have gone off on separate tracks.

          Your original comment was: “I also wonder why they work so hard to protect unborn babies while leaving newborns and pregnant moms in the dust if they can’t afford health care.”

          This single sentence seemed to refer back to a previous comment, and “they” seemed to refer to “right-wingers,” a term which is often used demonize those who oppose abortion on moral grounds.

          In my reply, I was simply saying that where I live, both Catholic Charities and another non-denominational pregnancy resource center both provide free services and assistance to expectant mothers, and that therefore, no one is left “in the dust” because they don’t have money or health insurance. I was not saying that anyone magically provides health insurance; rather that free help is available to those who need it, regardless of their circumstances.


      • April 18, 2013 8:50 PM

        I’m sure they do care in their own way, Mark. But i’m sure you also know many Republican lawmakers are trying to limit the pill. There is simply no denying that.

        Free services are great, but they are grossly inadequate at proving
        vital services for a mom and baby at a terribly fragile time in their lives. Free clinics cannot admit patients overnight. They can do tests but most medicine is not free. And 24 hour ER care is certainly not part of that either.

        And it’s only very general care. If mom or baby has a serious, unusual or chronic illness, they need an internal medicine specialist who can give them
        ongoing care and free clinics are too flooded to provide this.

        I’m not trying to vilify anyone, simply saying many Republican policies are misguided and need to be discussed calmly and rationally. I know you and I care about our loved ones equally; no doubt about that. Just a matter of working out the details. 😉



        • April 19, 2013 3:23 PM

          I’m not aware of any politician trying to outlaw contraceptives. I do know there are many people (myself included) adamantly opposed to defining an abortifacient as just another kind of birth control pill. An abortifacient destroys a fertilized egg. A contraceptive prevents fertilization of an egg. One destroys life, the other prevents life from being conceived. Huge difference, in both a physical and moral sense.

          We could debate healthcare all day. Some people want free, unrestricted healthcare coverage whether the country can pay for it or not. Some politicians are happy to pander to that desire, using it to get reelected, unconcerned about passing the debt on to future generations.

          I was going to say that debating healthcare coverage is straying from the subject of my post– but maybe not. For years, Democrats have told voters that abortion– the deliberate destruction of a helpless human life– is just another women’s health issue. How they reconcile this with the Hippocratic Oath and a doctor’s promise to “to abstain from doing harm,” they don’t say. Perhaps you share their view.

          Think about the Gosnell case, then. For liberals and Democrats, the Gosnell case shouldn’t be just about abortion. By their own definition, it impacts women’s health because they define abortion as a women’s health issue. So why aren’t liberals and Democrats clamoring for the media to cover the case? Why isn’t the media (most of whom embrace liberal social values and vote Democratic) hastening to publicize the case?

          My guess: they suspect most people will be repelled by the horrors of the case, and take a much dimmer view of abortion.

          They also know, as Conor Friedersdorf wrote, that the Gosnell case “arguably informs the abortion debate in any number of ways, and has numerous plausible implications for abortion policy…” They fear those implications. So they ignore the case, effectively withholding information from the public– and betraying the public trust.

          FYI: I have a limit of 3 nested comments on my blog to ensure readability. I don’t think there’s anything else I can add here, but if you still have further thoughts, please put them in a new comment. And thank you again for your feedback.


  4. April 16, 2013 1:51 PM

    Normally, I would consider this a dead horse issue– one of those topics that incites bitter debate and deeply polarizes those that choose to debate about it. Yet I read part of the Atlantic story. I say only part because I was so sickened and nauseated that I could not finish it. But I did read Friedersdorf’s other story, “14 Theories for Why Kermit Gosnell’s Case Didn’t Get More Media Attention”, in full. I think he had my response pegged all right, since I generally like to think of myself as left of center. It’s difficult to articulate a response as it’s clearly a story that has very complex and multifaceted implications, but, no surprise, among the comments there, people still are aggressively pushing their views.

    Friedersdorf has a worthy discussion going, but although some commenting are taking it intelligently, IMO, some are still being very pushy about promoting their view only, and I feel like saying “dead horse issue, still” all over again.


    • April 17, 2013 9:19 AM

      Abortion, a dead horse? An unfortunate choice of words, I’m afraid. No, the abortion debate will continue into the foreseeable future– even if the media elects not to cover its very dark side.

      Legalized abortion was imposed on the United States by judicial fiat. Someone saw a “right” in the Constitution that somehow trumped the right to life, if said life was inconvenient. Now the current administration wants to force people and church-affiliated institutions to financially support a practice they find morally wrong. You don’t build consensus that way. You guarantee division.

      It’s an emotional subject, people often say hurtful things. Many of us say things we later regret. I understand that. But the debate must continue because the issue is not resolved. We must all strive for civility, and avoid name calling.

      You mentioned that you could not finish The Atlantic article because it sickened you. Your reaction is understandable. I also think it’s a reflection of what Friedersdorf meant when he said that the Gosnell story “arguably informs the abortion debate in any number of ways.” Your gut reaction informs the debate. That’s why it’s important for the media to give the story the attention it deserves.

      I sincerely appreciate your comment, Jak– thanks.


      • April 18, 2013 2:44 AM

        Unfortunate, but bitterly ironic, I think.

        I appreciate your thoughts as well, Mark. I wish that all were so articulate, and careful, avoiding strong and negative emotion.

        If you’ll permit me just a moment, perhaps you’ve seen that some have drawn parallels to another debate that is strongly dividing those in the U.S., and that is gay marriage. I hesitate to say much about it, because when I was at VOX, I was relentlessly harrassed when I said *anything* about it, especially as my wife and I happen to be religious, of a particular denomination, and of a particular sexual orientation… and one found our expressions to be worthy of their libel, hate, and name-calling. More broadly speaking, I felt trapped: people I knew would hate me if I took one position, and other people would hate me again if I took another. Lots of it all having to do with my wife and I just being ourselves, basically.

        So I chose to abstain from the debate unless I could be very, very sure the people I talked to would be understanding and considerate of my experience. Unlike the abortion issue in certain ways, this issue of marriage effects Cimmy and I very, very personally. That’s not to say the abortion debate isn’t important or that we don’t have views on it, but that we are much more strongly in the crossfire on the marriage one. I sincerely wish not to fuel any more rage or stress than I currently have, given or received.


        • April 18, 2013 10:12 AM

          I appreciate your thoughtful feedback, Jak, thank you.

          I do understand. I don’t think there’s ever been a time in history when it’s been more important for people to speak out for what is right. Unfortunately, doing so today frequently results in bitter personal attacks. I sometimes wonder if our personal identities have become so weak and shallow, that we use our political identities to shore ourselves up. We become our political identity, and so all discussion becomes personal and threatening, leading to anger and impasse.

          And speaking of irony, it’s ironic that our notion of “freedom” has devolved to “whatever I want to do, whatever I want to say.” Our culture has become more and more toxic and uncivil, making dialogue almost impossible. A warped notion of freedom has made us much less free.

          Thanks again for your comment, wishing you the best.


  5. April 17, 2013 8:05 AM

    It’s only now that I’ve heard this kind of news about certain Dr. Kermit the Frog… errr Gosnel :mrgreen:
    The news is very shocking but you were able to illustrate the news in such a way with a humor touch in it. Great work Mark! xoxo


    • April 17, 2013 8:44 AM

      He’s a frog all right, and unfortunately, he gave people a lot worse things than warts… : (

      Sometimes “humor” has a very hard, biting, unpleasant edge, and I’d say this cartoon falls into that category. Some occasions seem to demand it. There’s a part of me that’s repelled by my own work here, but I did my best.

      Thank you, dear Dolly, for your unflagging support. It means a lot to me. : )


      • April 19, 2013 3:15 AM

        You’re always welcome Mark 🙂 You’re the best buddy ever that I have here in WordPress… plus the fact that I am your number one fan! I admire your work.
        And of course you always make me laugh. My blog shines everytime you’d leave me a comment or two… :mrgren: xoxo


  6. April 18, 2013 12:19 PM

    Thank you Mark for using your skill set and voice to promote this horrible event. I have many friends on both sides of the abortion issue who are as deeply sickened by this event and the neglect of it by the press. I am thankful that despite our differences we can agree that this is a human rights issue and not get caught up in the politics of the issue. I just go back to the old adage that everyone who is able to make a decision on whether to have a child or abort it, has already been born. Getting pregnant is not like catching the flu. It is a consequence of an action. And consequences have ramifications. Here’s praying Mr. Gosnell gets his just consequences.


    • April 18, 2013 8:31 PM

      Thanks for that very heartfelt and insightful comment, Tracey. I appreciate your kind support more than I can say.


  7. April 19, 2013 2:16 PM

    It’s horrible! I’ve never heard of the case, though I live in London, BBC news should have aired it! I’m Anti-Abortion, always would be! Thanks Mark for your efforts in bringing this to light! You’re a warm soul. God bless you!


    • April 19, 2013 5:46 PM

      Thank you, Seyi. Your wonderfully supportive comment means a great deal to me. I really can’t thank you enough.


  8. April 19, 2013 2:20 PM

    Shared it on FB, Twitter and Google plus! It’s a great post Mark!


    • April 19, 2013 5:49 PM

      How very kind of you to help spread the word, Seyi. It’s wonderful to know your good influence is at work in the world. Thank you again for your energetic support.


  9. April 21, 2013 7:33 AM

    I think the case should go viral across the news media, no matter the bias. Human life was taken, destroyed, and scars will remain.


    • April 23, 2013 10:17 AM

      Thank you, Beatrix, I certainly agree. The Media exhibits a most selective outrage when it comes to killing and the taking of human life. It simply can’t provide enough coverage for a school shooting, but it ignores Gosnell and his atrocities. In effect, the Media makes itself the arbiter of moral values, while withholding information that contradicts its views. That’s something we would all do well to remember when we watch “the news.”


  10. April 22, 2013 12:55 PM

    I meant to get back to you on this Mark, sorry I’ve been pretty sick and obviously glued to the tv also as I’m sure you know. I can give you links to what I’m saying here at some point; I was mostly referring to the GOP’s support of the Personhood Amendment (Santorum, Romney) and the similar bill that I hear a good 1/3 of the GOP support under another name (I’ll get back on that one with a link).

    The main point to be made here is that along with opposing abortion, these bills oppose very basic birth control. The primary objection to the basic birth control pill and the IUD is that they create a “hostile environment” for a fertilized egg. They conveniently ignore the fact that those methods work to prevent fertilization in the first place.

    Sadly they also object to an abortion when a woman has an ectopic pregnancy, a gruesome situation where the fetus grows in the fallopian tubes or ovaries, causes pain, threatens the life of the mother while the fetus has zero chance of survival. Also remember that birth control pills are often prescribed to prevent cancer and for reproductive diseases.

    Rick Santorum clearly stated that these types of contraceptives encourage sexual deviancy that’s inconsistent with his conservative values. Strangely they also are trying to pass a bill that will allow employers to decline covering birth control pills, when they could prevent unwanted pregnancies and therefore prevent abortions.

    Giving women better health care, access to the pill will not take away any values, in fact it will help young mothers and prevent teenage pregnancies. I’m 99% sure by the way that Obama did pass a bill requiring parental and doctor consent for Plan B.

    Again, they simply cannot, and will not, demand to outlaw abortion while in the same breath trying to ban basic contraception. The vast, overwhelming majority of women who want an abortion feel that way due to a surprise pregnancy, that is easily avoided with no harm to a fertilized egg.

    I know you agree with me on this Mark, and I think common sense legislation can make both parties happy as long as we all use common sense and don’t let ideology blind us to what the “other side” is genuinely trying to do.


    • April 24, 2013 9:22 AM

      Thank you for your input, Amelie.

      Contraceptives (which prevent pregnancy) have been around for close to 50 years now. They’re here to stay.

      What you call “surprise” pregnancies occur because someone got careless. Abortion opponents (including myself) don’t believe that carelessness confers a right to snuff out an innocent human life because it’s inconvenient.

      Real life is messy, and both “sides” have to grapple with inconvenient truths: abortion opponents with ectopic pregnancies, abortion supporters with Dr. Gosnell.

      The search for common ground requires a full and frank discussion. By electing to ignore the Gosnell case, the media is preventing that discussion. They would prefer not to show people where abortion can lead. A stark example of ideology suppressing an inconvenient truth.

      My sincere thanks for sharing your views.


      • April 24, 2013 10:14 AM

        Right, and often those responsible for the carelessness are men who didn’t use a condom properly. Women who are able to afford birth control pills don’t have to worry about this; but not every woman can afford them.


  11. April 22, 2013 12:57 PM

    ps I meant to thank you again for a great conversation and an awesome post. I did get a chance to read somewhat about Dr. Gosnell. If it’s true, clearly he needs to be banned from practicing. Sadly I think bad medicine (if you can even call it that) is more common than we’re led to believe.


  12. April 23, 2013 3:43 PM

    My husband and I have been keeping tabs on this story, and I think I only know because of my circle of social media friends. Now, I will add one caveat: social media is where I get most of my current event information at present, except morning blips on public radio news, which I only catch if I am running late to work. I keep praying that something momentous will come out of this awful story as it goes viral. By momentous, though, I’m not sure I mean ‘of Supreme Court caliber’. Most of what Gosnell was doing was already illegal. I hope that this being exposed will push us as people to make a change in our behavior and norms. To question more deeply something we as a society view as ‘acceptable’. To set aside our theoretical presuppositions and consider how we deal with this in reality, because this is proof that talking about an issue has nothing to do with coming alongside the people directly involved in it.

    Mark, I agree that artists have a responsibility to speak out. I thought that, for the content, you made a good message. It very concisely shows the layers of conflict in this situation. My final paper for undergraduate studies was on the news media, and frankly I came out very cynical. I think it does have positive purposes, but I also know how easy it is for them to lose sight of printing information to inform the people and go after an agenda instead…


    • April 25, 2013 8:08 AM

      My sincere thanks, Jenn, for your very thoughtful comment.

      I agree: the case needs to be brought out into the open so people can see it, think about it, and grapple with the physical reality of abortion. You’re right: it’s easy to support something in theory, to talk glibly of a “right to choose.” It’s like mouthing a mantra, reading out of a textbook.

      What a difference to be confronted with the physical reality, to have to think about helpless, mutilated little bodies, the sheer brutality of the act. To have to reflect on doctors taking lives, doing harm, and the idea that it somehow qualifies as “healthcare.”

      Small wonder that those committed to the ideology of abortion don’t want the Gosnell case to see the light of day.

      Thank you again, Jenn, for making an important contribution to this post.


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