The Real Kermitt Gosnell Story? Misogyny.

If you paid attention to the interwebs late last week, you probably some twitterings about Kermitt Gosnell, a Pennsylvania doctor accused of running a horror show out of his low-rent abortion clinic. He’s on trial in state court after being investigated and arrested two years ago — which you might remember, since feminist media (including this blog) covered the issue extensively. But now, lefty and centrist dudes are Very Concerned about Gosnell. Why? Because a handful of pro-lifers are whining that no one has covered the case, and lefty journalists are intentionally squelching any sort of media focus on Gosnell. In reality, the Grand Jury report was filed in early 2011, and included most of the facts now being presented at trial. In early 2011, dozens of outlets covered the report. When the trial commenced a few weeks ago, local media covered it. And when there’s a verdict, mainstream and feminist media will likely cover it again, since that will be something new to report. This is how media coverage of big court cases works, most of the time. So what’s all the fuss? And why are usually skeptical journalists taking known liars like Michelle Malkin and Jill Stanek at their word? I’m at Al Jazeera writing about it:

It is not news that anti-choice leaders lie to get what they want. The same people who are claiming, against all evidence, that there has been no Gosnell coverage also regularly make such truth-challenged claims as Chinese people eat babies, abortion causes breast cancer, a pregnancy is never a threat to a pregnant woman’s life, Obama supports infanticide and birth control alternately does not work or kills babies, among others. These are the same people who stalk and harass clinic workers, pose as abortion clinic workers and lie to pregnant women, which they justify if it suits their “pro-life” cause. The folks raising a ruckus over the supposed lack of Gosnell media coverage are notorious liars and frothing ideologues, including Jill Stanek, writers at and Michelle Malkin.

These are not honest actors. They are not writers or activists with integrity or good reputations. They have proven themselves willing, over and over again, to tell outright lies in furtherance of their narrow worldview. And yet when they lied about the media coverage of Gosnell, otherwise responsible writers at legitimate publications ate it up and furthered that narrative.

The problem with the entire Gosnell case and the media storm around it comes down to sexism: sexism in health care access and sexism in whose voices are heard in the media. If women’s bodies were not so intensely politicised – if we did not live a culture that believes women should be punished for having sex, and are not entitled to control our own reproductive capacities – abortion would be treated like any other medical procedure. Bad clinics would be shut down, because there would not be shame in reporting them. Procedures could be done at most medical centres, instead of relegated to dedicated, under-funded and politically imperiled clinics. Women would not have to spend months scraping up funding for a medical procedure. Kermit Gosnell simply could not operate in a country with solidly pro-choice laws.

Similarly, the current media narrative that “no one covered this case” would not exist in a universe where male journalists treated women’s health issues as simply health issues, and read their female colleagues’ health care writing. Assuming that if you did not see it, it must not exist is not good journalism. Neither is taking at face value allegations made by sources that have proven unreliable and untrustworthy.

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8 comments for “The Real Kermitt Gosnell Story? Misogyny.

  1. April 15, 2013 at 6:16 pm
  2. Angie unduplicated
    April 16, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Spot on, Jill. If Philly (or anywhere else) only had one restaurant in town, the Powers That Be would still inspect it and impose some type of quality control. Every profession has its crooks, as the recent dentistry scandal demonstrates. The RWNJ apologists for unfettered capitalism are curiously silent about lives potentially lost through lack of dental sanitation.

  3. AMM
    April 16, 2013 at 9:30 am

    What you’ve left out of your analysis is race and class.

    The people who went to Gosnell’s “clinic” were not middle-class
    (or upper-class), and they were probably mostly not “white,” either, because if you’re not living from hand to mouth, you would go somewhere better. The government agencies involved didn’t react even after they were aware of conditions there because the people who were suffering were too poor for “anybody” to care about. And I’m sure that’s one of the reasons why the story hasn’t been all over the MSM in the USA, either.

    BTW, when I read this post, and noticed the omission, I couldn’t help thinking about WOC’s complaints that mainstream feminism tends to ignore the problems that affect women who aren’t white or well-off.

    • April 16, 2013 at 9:36 am

      What you’ve left out of your analysis is race and class.

      Huh? Did you read the article? I spent a good deal of it talking about race and class.

      • April 16, 2013 at 11:07 am

        Seconded. I really liked the article for looking at several sides of the mess, actually.

    • Tempy13
      April 16, 2013 at 9:44 am


      I read the artcile and Jill spent quite alot of ink on the issues or race and class and how that profundly affects the quality of healthcare for women in general, as well as specifically in this horrific instance.

  4. karak
    April 16, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    I remember this being all over the place, in vivid details of outrage. And I believe I read some more conservative Op-Ed pieces about how this was what abortion laws allowed and blah blah blah.

    It was covered very, very extensively.

    I think that any news about mutilated women just isn’t good enough unless it was an act committed by “inferior” people, like Muslims or Indians, over in their “inferior” country. The mutilation and death of poor women, and especially poor black women in the USA? Well, that just happens, I guess.

    • karak
      April 16, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      Oh man, can someone fix my abuse of italics? That’s awful.

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