The Media After Gosnell
Now it's time for journalists report on the “meat-market style” abortions at a Delaware clinic.


John Fund

Kudos to those in the media who are now quick to play catch-up on Gosnell. We might owe some of this course correction to the fact that the chief critic of media malpractice on Gosnell, Kirsten Powers, is not a conservative. Powers is a former Democratic political consultant who worked in the Clinton White House, and she supports most liberal causes, but she hasn’t spent her entire career in the media or the professional Left. She grew up in Fairbanks, Alaska, understands the values of the Heartland, and is a practicing Christian. From her perspective, many people at both ends of the political spectrum wear ideological blinders. “This inability to engage in debate or handle disagreement is becoming the calling card of the Left,” she told the Religious News Service last week. “It should be a top concern for Americans, especially if you are a liberal and you believe dissent is a critical part to democracy.”

It’s sad that it took a liberal such as Powers to shame so many journos into waking up and doing their jobs. The blunt truth is that if a conservative had written her piece, the response would have been far more muted — or journalists would have attacked the messenger. Jeff Toobin of CNN offered a preposterous explanation for the media’s handling of the Gosnell case: “Well, the people making those [media] criticisms are by and large conservative. They are saying the liberal media is trying to protect abortion rights by not showing this horror show. I don’t buy that at all. . . . It’s a business decision. We are not operating with the political agenda here. We pick stories, by and large, for reasons that we think people would be interested. I don’t think we’re covering this up.”

Moving forward, there are two good ways to test Toobin’s hypothesis.

First, two former nurses at Planned Parenthood of Delaware told WPVI-TV in Philadelphia this month that conditions at the clinic there are dangerous. Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich, one of the former nurses, said: “It was just unsafe. I couldn’t tell you how ridiculously unsafe it was.” “They could be at risk of getting hepatitis, even AIDS,” added the other nurse, Joyce Vasikonis. Channel 6 reported that both nurses were stunned “by what they called a meat-market style of assembly-line abortions.” It noted that in Delaware, abortion clinics are not subject to routine inspections: “Planned Parenthood is essentially in charge of inspecting itself.” Will any national reporters follow up on Channel 6’s reporting? 

Second, a leading Democratic candidate for governor of Pennsylvania is Allyson Schwartz, a five-term Democratic congresswoman who represents part of Philadelphia, where Gosnell had his clinic. Democrats are openly fretting that Schwartz, a passionate liberal, has political baggage. Not only has she voted against any and all restrictions on abortion, but from 1975 to 1988 she ran a women’s health clinic in Philadelphia where abortions were performed. Schwartz is “a dream candidate for Republicans,” one Democratic strategist told this month before the Gosnell story erupted nationally.

J. D. Mullane is one journalist who is on the case. He has peppered Schwartz with questions on Twitter for days now. One sample: “Thoughts on Gosnell? Did you know him? Did you ever refer women to his clinic while you directed yours?” We’ll see how many journalists follow his lead with questions about her stance on partial-birth abortion, her record at her clinic, and her thoughts on the poor regulatory history of abortion clinics in Pennsylvania. So far, there has been only silence from the Schwartz camp.

— John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO.