I learned about the case of Kermit Gosnell via social media. Most national media ignored it at first, until ignoring it became impossible. At least one legacy newspaper scribe ended up apologizing for calling the case a “local issue.” When I learned multi-award-winning actor Nick Searcy was involved in an effort to get a film made about America’s “biggest serial killer,” I knew I’d want to see it. What I learned continues to disturb me. Certain critics also disturb me—I wonder if some who opined even watched Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer.
I was out of state when my copy of the film I’d pre-ordered arrived. I was speaking with my husband on the phone when he told me it came. His interest in the film wasn’t as keen as mine, but he agreed to watch it with me once I returned to Florida. Although I’d read the Grand Jury report made public by the prosecutor, the film horrified me. My husband went from an attitude of humoring me by watching to being equally horrified at what a man labeled a “doctor” got away with for decades, and the suffering his patients endured because of his lack of honor and decency.
If that sounds like overkill, so be it. It’s the truth.
Kermit Gosnell’s “clinic” specialized in late term abortions. Over a period of decades, he literally got away with murder. His facility was probably less sterile than a gas station bathroom. Instruments weren’t kept clean and many of them weren’t even in working order. He employed people who had little or no formal medical training. If a procedure went wrong, he covered it up.
This is how the grand jury report begins:
“This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy—and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels—and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.”
The film depicts the story of Gosnell’s house of medical horrors with early scenes showing various law enforcement authorities raiding his facility. Officials weren’t there in the beginning to begin the process of justice for women. The officials were there to conduct a raid, according to the Grand Jury report, “to seize evidence of his illegal prescription selling.” It was the pill mill that drew formal attention after reports and allegations had been ignored or dismissed for years.
The film progresses through this investigation and takes the viewer to the deeper moral atrocity—the killing of viable newborn babies and at least one patient.
The casting in the film is solid. Every single actor did exceptional work. Dean Cain does an admirable job of playing a by-the-book cop James Wood. Earl Billings took on the role of the abortionist, and Billings delivers a performance worthy of an award, depicting a man in a manner that will give you the creeps. I can’t imagine being on a patient bed and being in the hands of someone like Gosnell.
One of my favorite characters in the film is quirky blogger Molly Mullaney who is portrayed by Cyrina Fiallo. Fiallo plays her role to the hilt, and her part in the saga depicts why an independent press is vital to the wellbeing of our republic.
Nick Searcy took on the role of Mike Cohan who defended Gosnell. Searcy delivers his customary excellent performance—you forget you’re watching Nick Searcy because he effortlessly slips into the persona of any character he portrays.
Without Searcy, this film may never have been distributed. Searcy fought establishment powers to see that the film he directed and acted in made it into the marketplace. The film is an indie product in the truest sense. Producers Ann McElhinney, Phelim McAleer, and Magdalena Segieda thanked supporters on the official film website:
“Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer was one of the most successfully crowdfunded films in history. It was an amazing experience for us.
Almost 30,000 people donated over $2.3m in 45 days. When it ended it was the most successful crowdfunding campaign on the Indiegogo website. We want to thank all of our funders who helped make this project such a success. We literally could not have done it without you. This is your movie.”
In researching this film, I came across an article published by NBC News. The content creator said:
“The movie positions a criminal as typical of abortion providers, but fails to note that he could only thrive when abortion access was restricted.”
This statement is false in my opinion. I wondered if the “writer” even saw the film.
The film does the opposite, dedicating a segment from the trial to a contrast between a legal provider of abortion services and Gosnell. It’s true the legal provider’s description will trouble many. There is no way to sugarcoat details on medical procedures aimed at ending a pregnancy. There is, however, no proselytizing about the right or wrong of the matter because Gosnell’s crimes placed him in the realm of outright murderer. Gosnell knew what he was doing was illegal. He simply appeared not to care.
The tone of the film is almost clinical. The story unfolds in straight up narrative fashion. There’s no soapbox wherein an actor delivers lines to defend the lives of the unborn, or an actor delivers lines to justify no-limits abortion. The facts are given and the viewer is left to make up his or her own mind about the politics of abortion.
Yet it was the politics of abortion that contributed to so many killings. Prosecutors only had enough tangible evidence to convict Gosnell for the murder of an infant named Baby Boy A and conspiracy in the murder of two other infants born alive. Gosnell was also convicted of manslaughter in the death of patient Karnamaya Mongar who, according to the Grand Jury report, “received repeated, unmonitored, unrecorded intravenous injections of Demerol.” Mrs. Mongar had also received Promethazine and Diazepam. Gosnell came into the clinic and attempted to do CPR—the clinic defibrillator was broken. Nor did he try to stimulate her heart with medication.
Mrs. Mongar wasn’t the first patient to suffer harm at the hands of Gosnell. Various people, including attorneys for victims, attempted to bring attention to Gosnell’s practices. The abortionist was, however, like many others who do wrong. His privilege was that of the political class; his public persona was perceived by media and political powers as someone working to help the downtrodden in his community.
If you see the film, and if you read the Grand Jury report, it is impossible to dismiss the fact Gosnell escaped justice for so many years purely because of politics. His no-limits abortion policy in a poor community in Philadelphia insulated him from political powers. You may be thinking those powers were strictly Democrat. They weren’t. Then-governor of Pennsylvania Tom Ridge, by various witness accounts, made it clear abortionists were hands-off. Ridge is a Republican who served as George W. Bush’s first Homeland Security chief. Gosnell’s practices were not addressed due to bipartisan support.
It is impossible to condemn Gosnell without condemning the bureaucracy that enabled him to prey on vulnerable women in a heinous manner. It has not escaped attention, however, that if Gosnell practiced in New York today, it’s likely he’d face lesser charges, if any, for the deaths of those infants.
The film is already sparking conversations about infanticide. We hear terms like “no-limits” abortion or “late term” abortion, and the rights of women. What we don’t hear are answers to a simple question. What do you do with a full term baby born alive after an abortion? What constitutional rights does a newborn have?
There should also be a mandate to regulatory agencies to hold any clinic to standards that would protect patients. Early on in the film, you will see scenes that are horrific. Straight from the Grand Jury report, a description of what law enforcement found as they conducted a pill mill raid sounds more like fiction than real life:
“The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused over and over again. Medical equipment—such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff—was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.”
I looked at a photograph of Baby Boy A, the child Gosnell was convicted of murdering. In the film, one of Gosnell’s employees confessed to making that photo. Asked why she did, she said something along the lines of that photo being the only thing that showed the child even existed. Rolling through my mind were images of those jars holding tiny little feet on a shelf in Gosnell’s lair.
Few monsters throughout history, thankfully, will ever reach the depravity of a Gosnell. Regardless of one’s stance on abortion, we should all agree that to prey on the vulnerable, to deal them irreparable harm, to freely damage those who are already desperate—this is wrong by anyone’s standards, regardless of politics.
Considering New York’s new no-limits abortion law, it would be in our country’s best interest to have a serious discussion about infanticide.
I wouldn’t treat a stray dog the way Gosnell treated patients. If a veterinarian had done to pets what Gosnell did to women, you can bet activist groups would be in front of media, screaming at the top of their lungs
The only screaming associated with Gosnell, for years, came from the mouths of those he harmed, infants and women, including teen women.
Kudos to the indie filmmakers, actors, staff, and Mr. Searcy for bringing Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer to the public.
~~To access the Grand Jury Report,visit:
(Kay B. Day/2-11-19)