Thanks to the determination of filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is released in theaters this weekend. Go and see it — tonight if you can. Opening night and opening weekend matter. Bring people with you. Spread the world about it. Make the time. It is good that it was made. It is well done. It tells the truth. It is a truth that needs to be known.
Since watching it earlier in the week, I have been thinking about the people who wouldn’t cease giving the trial attention. Kirsten Powers. Mollie Hemingway, who was relentless in calling on the mainstream media to pay attention to the horror that happened in Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion clinic. Steve Volk, from Philadelphia magazine, reported on the trial and talked to Gosnell after. They were not alone, but there was certainly no frenzy of coverage and commentary about a crime story that should have rocked our consciences.
I remember the day Gosnell was convicted, and in particular a conversation on Bret Baier’s all-star panel on Fox News Special Report. Steve Hayes talked movingly about how this case had to change us. Kirsten Powers was heartbrokenly skeptical that change would be possible. She had seen how hard it was to get people’s attention. She was right. But the story hasn’t ended.
The atrocities in that clinic were crimes, yes, but they were also the poisoned fruits of our culture of death. I know I’m not alone in my prayer that this movie helps us see what we are doing to one another — the consequences of treating life as disposable. How treating life with indifference at its most vulnerable moments is soul- and civilization-killing.
But baby steps. Gosnell the movie lets the truth be known. Thanks be to God this film exists. May it be a real prod to the conscience. May our consciences finally and truly be rocked. We are only here for a time. We are going to have to answer for what we did and what we looked away from. Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer have given us a second chance.
Consider it a responsibility to see it. Numbers matter if you want to be a cultural game-changer. And, as you might expect, the movie isn’t exactly being widely embraced. As McAleer noted to me: “The mainstream media is not reviewing a movie that is about the mainstream media not covering a story.”
If you’re worried you can’t handle watching it, you can. It’s a gruesome reality, but you see and hear just enough. It brings that horrific grand-jury report and trial to a new light. It’s not heavy-handed. And the actors involved deserve our thanks.
One of the things I found most beautiful about the movie — and uplifting in the face of so much evil — is the family life that is integral to the film. We see the lead investigator and prosecutor in the context of their family lives. It’s also clear that this kind of life is what’s going to get us out of our current miseries. It will take people who are driven by a sense of responsibility, of good stewardship, and by honesty and justice.
Perhaps the most important thing about the movie is that it says the name of Karnamaya Mongar, a pregnant woman who died in Gosnell’s clinic as the result of a botched abortion procedure. Anyone who claims to care about women in the public square should know her name. Thanks to this movie, more will.
You don’t need to be a pro-life activist to see Gosnell and consider it important to support. This is a movie for all people of good will, and may it spark new conversations and action. No woman should ever be so desperate and alone as to wind up in the hands of someone like Kermit Gosnell. No woman should ever feel like she has to end the life of her child. What can we do together to make sure women have the support they need? Looking at the truth of the Gosnell case could save lives, souls, and our country, maddened by evil.