The story of Kermit Gosnell is told with the help of police reports and court testimony
Five years ago, Phelim McAleer walked into a Philadelphia courtroom and sat down to observe the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell. He heard a lot of shocking testimony and evidence, particularly in regards to how Gosnell would snip the necks of babies born alive during failed attempts to “terminate a pregnancy.”
“But the most shocking thing of all was that behind me there were no mainstream media journalists, and to me it meant this is a story that somebody didn’t want told,” he said in an interview this week. “And that’s what journalists should do: tell stories that somebody doesn’t want told.”
Thanks to McAleer, along with co-producer and wife Anne McElhinney, director Nick Searcy, and a cast that includes Dean Cain, Sarah Jane Morris and Earl Billings, the story will be told in a very dramatic way, as the film “Gosnell: The Story of America’s Biggest Serial Killer” opens nationwide on Friday.
In McAleer’s estimation, it’s more than the original editors and journalists from the mainstream media who don’t want the Kermit Gosnell story rehearsed. Reportedly, McAleer and McElhinney had to fight hard to allow crowd-funding site Kickstarter to allow them to raise the initial funds. And when the film was finally finished—three years ago—it was nearly impossible to find a distributor.
As it turns out, “Gosnell” is coming out just after the confirmation and seating of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, which is giving the pro-life movement renewed hope for an eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade.
“The timing couldn’t be better, McAleer said.
In the midst of researching the book they wrote, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer, on which the movie is based, McAleer and McElhinney took time to visit Kermit Gosnell in prison, where he is serving three consecutive life sentences without possibility for parole.
“He’s as creepy and as charismatic as you might think—both at the same time,” McAleer opined. “He spent a lot of the interview talking about how innocent he was, how he’s going to be vindicated. He seemed to be very relaxed; he almost seemed to be enjoying prison. His biggest problem in life was that the poetry class was oversubscribed. He’s reading the Quran in two different translations.”
McAleer said he doubts Gosnell is mentally unstable “because he lies.”
”When he thinks you don’t know the story, he lies, and we called him out on a number of lies,” the producer said. “If he were mentally unstable, he wouldn’t lie.“
That story began in a medical clinic in an impoverished Philadelphia neighborhood. Gosnell often didn’t come to work until the evening, and in the meantime, an undertrained staff would struggle to treat patients in a dirty, ill-equipped office. They even administered anesthesia, according to a rudimentary, hand-written color-coded chart.
According to McAleer, a lot of the film, which takes us from an initial drug investigation at Gosnell’s clinic to revelations of his breaking already liberal abortion limits and through an emotional trial, is actually verbatim, based on police reports, court documents and testimony.
Though the subject matter is serious, there was a deliberate attempt to avoid showing much of the gore that would have been associated with Gosnell’s clinic. “The film is PG-13,” McAleer said. “We did that deliberately. We want people to watch this film. We want it to be accessible to a worldwide population, to middle America. We want people to be able to bring their teenage children.”
He said that during the actual trial itself and the filming of the movie, several people who supported legal abortion had a change of heart.
“One of the actresses said she changed from a pro-choice to a pro-life position,” he said. “In the actual trial, most of the people involved changed from pro-choice to having their faith in abortion challenged. … I think they never really realized what abortion was.”
He hopes that will be replicated after audiences have a chance to view the feature this weekend.
“We showed it to some liberal friends who left the room chain-smoking and saying ‘I have to rethink everything.’ I think that’s what we’re hoping for, that people rethink everything, that they get some facts and they rethink some of these thoughts.”