The lurid details of the Kermit Gosnell’s “house of horrors” abortion clinic didn’t do much to sway public opinion. But a year after the doctor’s murder conviction, his tale is being used to promote anti-abortion legislation and documentaries.
Pro-life politicians have seized on the Gosnell case to promote several kinds of legislation, such as requiring abortion clinics to meet standards of ambulatory surgical centers and not perform abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in certain circumstances. The 20-week time limit is based on a belief that fetuses can feel pain at that age.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, have scheduled an event Tuesday afternoon to call for a Senate vote on a bill banning most abortions after 20 weeks. The House passed such a ban in June.
Pro-choice groups have promptly sued to block such laws, with limited success.
They have also fought back against the idea that there are “many Gosnells” out there, maintaining that Gosnell was a criminal and an “rogue operator” in the industry.
“Kermit Gosnell has been found guilty and will get what he deserves. Now, let’s make sure these women are vindicated by delivering what all women deserve: access to the full range of health services including safe, high-quality and legal abortion care,” Ilyse G. Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said after Gosnell’s conviction.
On May 13, 2013, Gosnell, now 73, was convicted of the murders of three newborns, whose necks he “snipped” with scissors. He was also found guilty for his role in the death of patient Karnamaya Mongar, and is serving multiple life sentences.
His trial began after a Philadelphia grand jury issued an astounding report in March 2010: Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society clinic was shown to be a filthy, blood-stained abortion and prescription-drug mill, with fetal remains in a freezer and broken equipment and medical waste bags littering rooms and hallways.
In Philadelphia, a group of documentary makers are set to publicly debut the second part of their film on May 20. The film, “3801 Lancaster: American Tragedy,” named for the clinic’s address, revisits the trial, and features personal testimonies, including that of a woman who learned that Gosnell stored the feet of her fetus in a specimen jar. “Who in their right mind does that?” asks a woman in the film, which is directed by David Altrogge.
A separate team of filmmakers have also announced that they have collected $2.1 million for a film on Gosnell through crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The proposed film will end the media “censorship” of Gosnell’s crimes and trial, said Irish filmmaking couple Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer.
Still, when it comes to public opinion on abortion, the Gosnell case doesn’t appear to have moved the needle.
Gallup is preparing to update its abortion data, a spokeswoman said Monday. However, during the height of the trial last year, 52 percent of Americans still said abortion should be legal under certain circumstances — largely the same position they have held since 1975, Gallup said.
The same 2013 Gallup poll also found that only 7 percent of Americans were following the Gosnell trial “very closely” while 54 percent said they were following it “not at all.” “This makes the Gosnell case one of the least followed news stories Gallup has measured,” Gallup said.
A pro-life group said it sees growing public rejection of late-term abortions: According to national polls by Quinnipiac, National Journal, Huffington Post, NBC/Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post/ABC News, either a plurality or a majority of Americans “support limiting abortion after 20 weeks and that women support the measure in higher proportions than men,” the Susan B. Anthony List said recently.