I saw the new movie “Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer” about former Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell who was sentenced to three life sentences for delivering live babies and then murdering them.
For starters, I think it’s a movie that a pro-life person (such as myself) will like. And I think pro-choice people will sit this one out. I don’t know if I really see minds getting changed as a result of this movie.
Given Gosnell’s low budget, I thought it was very well done. And while it’ll undoubtedly cater to a largely Christian audience, it’s not a family film (it’s rated PG-13). And the subject matter is difficult as it talks about abortion and Gosnell’s lack of regard for the lives of the babies he murdered.
You have a man arrested for running an abortion clinic despite the fact that he wasn’t board certified, he had staff doing medical procedures who hadn’t been properly trained. He was working in squalid conditions. The end credits show a picture from the initial law enforcement raid with a stray cat inside the clinic. One of the first scenes of the movie features the investigators going through the clinic and finding body parts of babies discarded in various places, such as refrigerators.
The man was a butcher. Late term abortions. Doing procedures in an unsanitary environment. Inducing labor and then murdering babies who were born.
One of the things the movie tries to do is capture the inattention from the media regarding the story at the time. Ironically, that is also true of the movie. It’s not like Gosnell was operating 90 years ago. His clinic was raided in 2011 and he was convicted in 2013.
Writing for the DailyWire, Matt Walsh points out that Rotten Tomatoes has just six reviews of Gosnell. Walsh offers a key reason as to the lack of attention to Gosnell’s story:
Any case of illegal abortion will inevitably lead to difficult questions about legal abortion. After all, what is the substantive difference between killing a baby moments after it leaves the birth canal and killing it moments before? How can an advocate of unrestricted abortion become an opponent of infanticide? Any argument offered to justify late-term abortion must also apply to post-term abortion.
-Matt Walsh, DailyWire
I think Walsh is right on this point.
How do we view what Gosnell was doing?
Was he a crusader who was trying to help women in a poor community? That was part of his defense.
Or was he a murderer?
Was what he did technically illegal? Delivering baby and using scissors to snap their necks. Was it technically illegal but not really that different from aborting a baby a few inches further into the birth canal?
Or is it murder?
I believe that answer is clear.
It’s a difficult issue within our larger society. When does one have a right to life? It’s a pretty fundamental question.
I understand that many people are pro-choice but don’t support late term abortion (although it is legal in some states). But I think the distinctions people try to make are arbitrary. That a baby has a right to life once there’s a heartbeat or once the baby is viable and could survive outside the womb.
What is it about those stages that inherently confers a right to life?
From the moment of conception, a baby is distinct from both of the parents and a separate life.
Gosnell did a little over a million dollars in this opening weekend. I would think the audience was overwhelmingly people who are pro-life. As the Los Angles Times movie review said “The film never loses sight of the choir to which it is plainly preaching.”
Will this movie be a turning point in the national conversation on abortion? I doubt it.
But it is a movie that shows these abortions for what they were: murder.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.