Marchers, rioters, and construction crane climbers of the last week have closed down subways, smashed windows, burnt limos, unfurled banners from hijacked building cranes, incinerated newspaper boxes, and in one case set themselves on fire to call attention to how a Republican agenda of deregulation will result in death: deaths of people newly insured under Obamacare, the death of the earth and the environment.
D.C. has one more national march this week, the annual March for Life, which promises to bring half a million supporters to the Capitol on Friday. For the first time a high White House staffer, the ubiquitous KellyAnne Conway, the first woman to manage a winning presidential campaign, will address the marchers. (On Thursday it was also announced that Vice President Pence will also address them.)
And in advance of this final march, a husband and wife journalist team make the case that this march is also about how a Republican agenda of deregulation created the occasion for death and tragedy.
In their new book, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer, Anne McElhinny and Phelim McAleer blame Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Ridge (1994-2002) for creating the lax regulatory climate that allowed Kermit Gosnell to murder women and children for two decades. Ridge, the couple argue, took a laissez faire approach to reproductive health clinics, not so much as part of a general libertarian economic policy as of a campaign strategy that only a moderate-to-liberal Republican could win and be re-elected in Pennsylvania.
McElhinny and McAleer, Irish nationals who have re-located permanently to Los Angeles, were previously known as sort of libertarian fellow travelers who shied away from social issues; their previous 2013 documentary, FrackNation, covered hoaxes and intimidation by environmentalists trying to outlaw fracking.
The genesis of their current project was, as McElhinny told a Heritage Foundation audience this week, providential. McAleer was in Pennsylvania promoting his fracking documentary and had three free days, and decided to sit in the audience at the trial of abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, then on trial for murder. Upon his return to LA McAleer insisted that McElhinny and their business partner should make this their next project.
They resisted. As McElhinny writes:
I never trusted or liked pro-life activists. Even at college I thought them too earnest and too religious. I thought the shocking images they showed were manipulative. I distinctly remember my argument: a heart transplant is gross to look at, too. I don’t want to look at pictures of that, and heart transplants are brilliant. So back off, prolifers with your scary pictures. I also didn’t trust the provenance of the pictures; I was sure they had been photo shopped.
If the anti-abortion position was so strong, it should be able to argue without resorting to emotionally manipulating its audience with fraudulent horror pictures.
Once you have this mentality, it’s very easy to completely dismiss pro-life activists. And the universities of the world are teeming with young people just like that young person I once was.
Fast forward to April 2013 and Kermit Gosnell’s trial in Philadelphia, when everything changed.
McAleer changed their minds just by having copies of the court transcripts sent to them and asking them to read them.
The couple paint a picture of Gosnell as a classic serial killer that will be familiar to fans of Patricia Cornwell novels or of the series Criminal Minds: Gosnell, who is something of a shoe and foot fetishist, kept collections of jars of severed baby feet in his clinic; he collected photos of the genitals of his patients; he tells grandiose stories about his life and accomplishments; he violates boundaries, constantly touching McElhinny when the couple visit him in prison, and constantly calling them and writing them (a detective friend warns them that this will be for life) after their visit; he makes delusional references to his imprisonment, telling the couple his current “break” from work has allowed him to catch up with his studies of music (he claims he could have been a concert pianist). During their interview Gosnell refers to the collection of children’s shoes at Auschwitz as “impressive.”
Gosnell’s practice — of delivering live babies and then stabbing them in the heart with scissors or snipping their spines, sometimes hours later, to finish them off – seems to have escaped attention for years in part as a result of a kind of environmental racism. His clients were viewed as poor black women who should be grateful for what they could get by both many of the half-trained nurse interns Gosnell employed and by the Pennsylvania state health department. Gosnell had two sets of exam rooms, one for poor black women, with rusty equipment and blood on the walls, and somewhat more presentable quarters for white clients who might have been more likely to complain.
Though at least two adult patients died under his care — besides the many babies killed a few minutes or hours after being born — no Pennsylvania health inspectors ever looked into his clinic. His murders only came to light because of a narcotics investigation — Gosnell, who owned 17 houses at the time of his trial, was also selling oxycontin.
The book has been bouncing between #3 and #4 all week on Amazon, despite a total blackout of coverage in all mainstream media.
Besides the book, which came out this week (there is a book signing Saturday at a pro-life conference at the Renaissance Hotel in Chinatown), McElhinny and McAleer have produced a forensic drama, directed by Cast Away director Nick Searcy and starring Dean Cain as the narcotics investigator who cracked the case. The film was crowd funded on Indiegogo (after Kickstarter threw the project off for being “controversial”), with 29,000 donating $2.3 million in 45 days. So far every movie distributor has refused to take on the film because it is too controversial.
One wonders if Ms. Conway might not arrange a White House screening.