Gosnell: the Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer

Gosnell: the Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer achieved box office success, especially considering that many expended effort to suppress its message.  Some segments of the media deemed the film too dangerous to publicize.  Others claimed that the movie propagates so much hate that it poses a safety risk.  What is the message of the film that has created such a stir?  It is that all life has value and that we need to speak for those who have no voice. 

The film tells the story of an abortion clinic that live-delivered babies before cutting the neck of the child.  Kermit Gosnell was the figure who committed those terrible crimes.  The film is first a true-crime story.  It only surreptitiously smuggles in a pro-life message. 

While the movie has a couple poorly executed segments, two scenes brilliantly and subtly make the pro-life case.  The first scene occurs when the immanently hateable attorney, Mike Cohan, interrogates a conventional abortionist about her practice.  By describing the method of abortion, the attorney reveals a stark fact to the jury — 

The only difference between what Gosnell does and what normal abortionists do is that Gosnell cuts the neck of the baby in the open air, while the abortionists sometimes do it in the womb. 

The scene has the only overtly pro-life message of the film.  Arranged in this way, a contemptible attorney defending a serial killer delivers the message that abortion takes away a human life.  The catholic short-story writer Flannery O’Connor famously communicates the morals of her story through the mouths of her villains.  In Gosnell, the movie-makers use that trope with the same elegance and grace. 

The second brilliant scene occurs in a flashback when Gosnell takes the life of Baby A.  In the scene, the camera makes a blurry image.  As well, we look up at the face of Gosnell before he cuts the neck of the baby.   Having cut the baby’s neck, Gosnell’s face disappears in a black screen.  The message to the audience is clear: we are seeing the moment from the perspective of the baby. 

However, as the screen remains dark, the prosecutor begins to speak her case against Gosnell.  Having literally had his vocal cords cut, Baby A needs someone to speak on his behalf.  The prosecutor rises to the moment.  The scene forces the audience to make a decision.  Are you going to speak for those who have no voice?