Should media cover — or cover up — abortion trial?

Should media cover — or cover up — abortion trial? April 8, 2013

I would love to critique the coverage of the trial of Kermit Gosnell, the abortion doctor whose mass murder trial is going on right now in Philadelphia.

The only problem is that there is a curious lack of media coverage.

The Daily Mail had a story this weekend headlined “‘Fetuses and blood all over the place’: Medic’s graphic account of ‘be-heading live babies’ at abortion ‘House of Horrors’ in Philadelphia” but none of the big three networks have even mentioned the trial once.

That Daily Mail piece is just one update on one recent witness in the trial, which has been going on for three weeks with similar horrific updates you can read about — in the pro-life and Christian and conservative press, but not in the national mainstream press — every day. An abortion shop of horrors is undoubtedly of interest to Christian audiences and pro-life audiences and conservative audiences. But is it not also of interest to general audiences? Why wouldn’t it be?

It is very difficult to critique coverage of a topic when the media isn’t covering it so much as inexplicably covering it up.

David Freddoso of the Washington Examiner couldn’t help but notice the media silence:

You might not know it, but there’s a mass murder trial going on in Philadelphia. There has been plenty of courtroom drama, and the death penalty remains a possibility.

The media are seldom shy about such sensational affairs, but they have been with one. Perhaps it’s because the accused mass murderer is an abortion doctor, who along with his medically untrained staff is accused of killing a female patient and several babies who had already been born, alive and breathing.

Doctor Kermit Gosnell’s preferred method of killing these latter, according to witnesses, was to sever their spinal cords. Upon his arrest in January 2011, his urine-scented and blood-soaked clinic was deemed a “house of horrors.” (I will spare readers further details, which are far worse.)

Freddoso compares the media silence on this topic with the wall-to-wall coverage of another horrific incident: the Sandy Hook massacre. Freddoso notes that “Gosnell’s trial is to abortion what Sandy Hook is to gun ownership”:

Both are emotional cases with horrific details that cry out for public policy debates. And in each case, the debate pits public safety against something widely considered a constitutional right.

The two cases are different in that Sandy Hook received wall-to-wall coverage and thus facilitated a national conversation about mental health and gun control — a debate whose outcome is yet to be determined.

Not so with the Gosnell trial, which has been completely blacked out by the media. The American people are now like a jury, shielded from relevant information because judges (read: editors) decided it might prejudice their views — in this case, against lightly regulated abortionists.

Freddoso argues that coverage of Sandy Hook is “appropriately heavy” and “served a public purpose.” He notes some of the highlights and lowlights of the coverage, too. But:

In stark contrast, television coverage of Gosnell’s trial has been “hard to find,” as the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan put it very charitably last Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

In fact, not counting Noonan’s allusion, Gosnell’s case has not been mentioned even once on any of the three major networks in the last month (his trial began March 18).

It has received only seven mentions on cable television since it began, one on CNN and six on Fox News. In print, Gosnell’s case has been largely ignored outside of local media outlets in Pennsylvania and Delaware.

It’s not as though there isn’t an obvious connection between the Gosnell case and public policy. Legislators in some states (including Pennsylvania and now Alabama) have acted since Gosnell’s arrest to crack down on the next abortion quack.

The media have collectively and perhaps deliberately failed to draw the obvious connection between the two stories.

When a Planned Parenthood official testified in Florida in favor of a right to post-birth abortion, I thought certainly we’d see some pieces drawing a connection to the Gosnell trial.

Instead, crickets.

I just learned that lobbyist was formerly a lobbyist for Catholic Charities. I didn’t learn that in the mainstream press, but a Catholic site.

Freddoso has much more, but notes toward the end that “The liberal editors who are keeping Kermit Gosnell’s case off the air should ask themselves whether they aren’t taking sides in the culture war.”

I can’t really understand the grounds for saying this trial (and similar situations) isn’t newsworthy, apart from strict devotion to the doctrine of abortion on demand.

Image of abortion activist giving orders to colleagues in the press via Shutterstock.

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