NY Times on Dr. Gosnell: Serial Killer a Bad Housekeeper

Sunday the NY times published its second article about the Philly abortion clinic of Dr. Gosnell. The headline is Squalid Abortion Clinic Escaped State Oversight and that’s a pretty good description of the article itself. Author Sabrina Tavernise relates an account of what it was like to enter Gosnell’s clinic (“a nightmare”) and of what went on there. The article also raises the failure of state regulators to deal with the problem for 30 years.

Here’s what bothers me. The article focuses almost exclusively on the admittedly unpleasant experience of the adult victims. For instance:

  • The women who emerged from it — often poor blacks and Hispanics — appeared dazed and in pain, and sometimes left in ambulances.
  • Two women died while under his care.
  • the dangerous practices went unnoticed, except by the women who experienced them.
  • The clinic…stands as a grim reminder of how degrading it was for the women who went there

All of this is of course true, but it seems like an unusual way to frame the story given that 7 of the 8 murder charges against Dr. Gosnell involve the murder of babies who did not leave the clinic at all. As the grand jury report explains, that number was just the tip of the iceberg. “Snipping” the neck of live, fully born babies has been Gosnell’s regular practice for decades. The assistant he employed between 2002-2008 has admitted to killing 100 babies this way. Gosnell himself likely killed many times this number.

The real number of victims will probably never be known but the grand jury testimony supports the idea that Dr. Gosnell is one the most prolific serial killers in US history. So why so much attention given to the filthy conditions of his clinic and so little to the victims. It’s almost as if the Times had published a story titled Serial Killer a Bad Housekeeper. Um, yeah, but isn’t that missing the point? Do we really expect the den of a murderer to be neat and odor free?

To be fair, the Times does quote one line from the grand jury report which mentions the deaths of the babies, but then we’re right back to the story about conditions in the facility, as if the filth of the place is what made it objectionable, not the ongoing murder of helpless infants.

Thus far, the Times has published just two stories on the case, the initial one Thursday and this current one by Tavernise. Maybe the editors are planning a companion piece that focuses on the majority of Dr. Gosnell’s victims, i.e. the hundreds of babies whose spinal cords he severed. As a standalone piece, today’s article gives new meaning to the phrase burying the lede.