Do a Google search on “Kermit Gosnell,” and an info box pops up saying “Kermit Gosnell, Physician.”
Phelim McAleer would change that identifier to “Serial Killer.”
The most prolific serial killer in American history, in fact.
And that, says McAleer, makes for great story-telling. The independent producer of documentaries such as Not Evil Just Wrong, FrackNation and Mine Your Own Business, together with his wife and co-producer, Ann McIlhinny, wants to turn the Gosnell story into a TV crime movie.
“We’ve had three movies about Ted Bundy, five about the Zodiac killer, three about the Craig’s List killer, the Jodi Arias story, just had one about the Grim Sleeper,” said McAleer. “There’s a great story about how [Gosnell’s killing of children] was allowed to happen, how it went on unnoticed. There were whistleblowers who were ignored and ignored and ignored. There were people going to the authorities all the time, telling them what was going on, and they were ignored.”
Gosnell almost got the death penalty after his trial in Philadelphia last year, but instead received life without parole in exchange for an agreement not to appeal his conviction. The sentence was for the murder of one baby born in his abortion clinic, the Women’s Medical Society in West Philadelphia. He received an additional 30-60 years for conspiring to kill two other babies.
So how does that make him the “biggest serial killer in American history,” as McAleer describes him?
“The grand jury said he killed hundreds of babies, but they were precluded from going back any further because there’s a statute of limitations on infanticide in Pennsylvania,” said McAleer. “If you extrapolate backwards towards when he started this practice in the 1970s, he’s probably killed thousands and thousands of babies. He’s killed more people than all the other American serial killers put together.”
Gosnell, 72 at the time of the trial, injected a drug to stop the heart of the unborn children but when one of the babies jerked an arm, cried or drew breath outside the womb, its spinal cord was cut with surgical scissors, according to the New York Times’ report of testimony last year.
Such reporting itself was slow in coming, and pro-lifers charged that the press was deliberately ignoring the trial. Finally, it appeared, mainstream media were shamed into covering the court proceedings.
Some, including McAleer, see a similar reluctance on the part of “Hollywood,” broadly speaking, to deal with anything abortion-related—at least anything that is vaguely “pro-life.” He’s raising money for it on the website Indiegogo—and the effort has raised about half of the $2.1 million needed—but Indiegogo was a second choice. McAleer said that efforts on a similar crowd-funding site—Kickstarter—were cut short when managers tried to “censor” him.
“They told us we couldn’t say ‘thousands of babies stabbed, thousands of babies murdered’ because it offended their community guidelines,” McAleer said. “People don’t want this made.”
Kicksarter referred Aleteia to an article on National Review Online in which the crowd-funding site’s CEO Yancey Strickler explained, “We recommended the filmmakers copyedit both a factual error and a phrase that evoked an incredibly graphic image that felt too strong for a general audience…. The creators replied with a spirited defense of the graphic depiction they wanted to include. We decided to bend our rules and give them the green light to launch at their convenience. They chose to make two of the copyedits we recommended. They launched elsewhere. And then they proceeded to claim that the copyedits we recommended and they adopted were tantamount to censorship. … Trying to make this about something it’s not, stoking a make-believe fire to incite publicity, and imagining Kickstarter as a partisan battlefield is wrong. We exist to support creators and creativity, not a political ideology.”
A Kickstarter spokesman pointed to three other projects that “explore pro-life points of view that have been on Kickstarter in the past, illustrating that that is not the issue with” McAleer’s project.
In an interview, McAleer, who earlier in his career was a reporter for The Irish News in Belfast, the Sunday Times in the U.K., and the Economist, did not say he was doing this film as a pro-life effort. But the head of Chicago’s Pro-Life Action League, Eric Scheidler, said the film could make a significant contribution to the pro-life cause.
“Any time we can expose the reality of abortion, what an unseemly business it is, so much the better,” Scheidler said. “If people won’t recognize the humanity of the unborn child whose life has been unjustly taken, they will at least recognize the inhumanity of the way that abortionists like Kermit Gosnell treat their grown patients.”
Scheidler hopes the film will lead to a greater demand that other abortion facilities be investigated “because Kermit Gosnell is not an unusual figure. He may have been the worst that we know about, but there are other horrors going on in abortion clinics right now.”
For his part, McAleer hopes that public support will show there’s a demand for such exposes.
“We want to raise the total, but a very important figure is the number of people who give money,” he said. We have 10,000 people who have given. If we can get it up to 20,000-30,000 or more that’s a big message to a TV company that there’s an audience there already. All their family and friends…. We just need more and more people to come forward and give small as well as large donations, so companies will know they’d be insulting their audience if it doesn’t air.”
If McAleer and company fail to raise the entire $2.1 million, Indiegogo will return all the funds to donors. But if they are successful, they plan to start production in the fall.
geris a freelance writer covering mostly topics in Catholicism. He has worked as a reporter and editor at the National Catholic Register and Catholic New York, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York, and his articles have appeared in Human Life Review, Legatus, and Family Foundations, as well as online at Fathers for Good and Catholic World Report.