I did not want to see this movie. Despite its PG-13 rating, I knew that it would be distressing. How could it not be? Dr. Kermit Gosnell was a prolific abortionist sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole. He was convicted for (among other things) murdering three infants and of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient at his clinic.
The reason that I am posting this as a Practical Parenting column as well as a Musing is that I recommend you take the parental guidance part of the movie’s rating very seriously. I would not have wanted to see this movie when I was pregnant or nursing. If my child’s youth group was going to see it, I would try, at a minimum, to see it myself first and decide if it is appropriate for my child. In Hollywood’s world, gore and violence are routine, so to them this movie may seem unremarkable, but the subject matter is mature and the visual impact is powerful.
The Gosnell trial is relatively recent history and the movie’s producers make clear that most of the material is drawn from transcripts and police reports. I knew of the trial and how unprofessionally the press tried to ignore it. It was a fight to produce the movie as well, and there is no question that there is a strong cultural attempt to suppress it. Each and every person who acted in or worked on the film is a hero because there will be ramifications to his or her career.
The movie is gripping. I am not qualified to write a review that talks about the acting, directing, musical score or other aspects. I can only say that the movie touched and disturbed me deeply. Concern that this might happen, of course, is exactly why I didn’t want to see it.
So, why did I make myself view it? I did not see it to pat myself on the back for being pro-life. Kermit Gosnell was not on trial for performing legal abortions. He was either a very disturbed or a very evil man – probably both. I know caring and good people who support abortion. None of them would defend his actions. To say that his clinic was unsanitary is a gross understatement. He reused instruments intended for single use, had unqualified teenagers dispensing anesthesia and drugs and killed babies who were born alive. Indeed, he was convicted precisely because he broke the law.
If that is so, why is it so important to so many news outlets, newspapers, media influencers and politicians that people not see this movie? I think it is because Kermit Gosnell is not the only bad guy in this story. The government of Pennsylvania, its politicians, health department and social services failed the women of that state, especially low-income minorities. Because they saw abortion as a sacred cow that must not be questioned, they did not carry out inspections or respond to complaints. Laboring under a false, sanctimonious belief that nothing must prevent women’s access to an abortion clinic, they all but guaranteed that women would be abused. Were it not for the relentless political pressure of the pro-choice movement, Kermit Gosnell would have had his medical license revoked. Were it not for the importance of abortion to secular society, Gosnell’s practice would have been closed. The records make clear that nail salons received more scrutiny than abortion clinics. Had Gosnell not been protected in this way, lives would have been saved.
This movie is disturbing as well because, today, abortion is light years away from how it was understood in Roe v Wade. Abortion today is a widely accepted and celebrated culture. Furthermore, science, in its understanding of the fetus and its ability to treat newborns born prematurely, is worlds away from 1973. The description of legal abortions in the trial was unsettling.
Very few people today actually look at abortion with rational and probing minds. It is a sacred sacrament of the Left, not open to debate. The good people I know who are pro-choice will need to ask themselves and answer serious questions if they see this movie. Not questions about Kermit Gosnell and his actions, but tremendously uncomfortable questions about the entire pro-choice movement and about legally sanctioned abortion. No wonder so many want to keep this movie under wraps.
As an adult citizen of a country in which abortion is legal, I felt obligated to see this movie. I believe that any honest pro-choice individual who squirms at the current suggestion that having an abortion is a reason for pride or a wonderful rite of passage should see Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (an unfortunate subtitle in my opinion). Despite the reservations I expressed at the beginning of this Musing, I would use every bit of parental pressure at my hands to make sure that any college-aged student or older child of mine saw it. Because of cultural repression, that isn’t going to be easy. That, in itself, should encourage all principled and open-minded people to make the effort.
On another note: I am friends with many of you on Facebook. Due to changes on that platform I will now be posting my Susan’s Musings, Ask the Rabbi (and me!) and Practical Parenting posts on my new page instead. Find out when there are new posts by following me here.