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Gosnell Film Ignored in Philadelphia, Scene of His Crimes

The film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is still making the rounds across the country and has received pretty good reviews, but it has been unofficially banned in Philadelphia. Not officially banned, of course, like the old days of Banned in Boston, but banned nevertheless. The film was released on October 12 but not one Philadelphia-based movie theater had yet booked the film weeks later. Where can Philadelphians go to see the film? To the far suburbs, of course, or into the hinterlands of New Jersey where there doesn’t seem to be film censorship.

A Philadelphia Weekly review faults the movie for not being “Philly” enough. Never mind the fact that the film covers the sordid career of Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion factory in West Philadelphia, a 2,700-square-foot space that (as LifeSiteNews reported) “was an unsanitary, blood-stained site where Gosnell cut the spinal cords of hundreds of newborns; where witnesses described infants who survived initial abortion attempts as ‘swimming’ in toilets ‘to get out’; where the feet of aborted babies were stored in a freezer.”

The PW reviewer focuses on the superficial: “In the movie itself, none of the characters sound like they’re from Philly, and the streets don't look anything like Philadelphia streets. Yes, there are numerous Center City skyline establishing shots, and at one point someone mentions the previous day’s Eagles game. But when it comes to showcasing the authentic Philly experience, this is no ‘Rocky.’ It's not even an ‘Invincible’”.

I don’t think the film’s producer Ann McElhinney or its screenwriter Andrew Klavan especially cared about location, but instead were adamant about getting a message across. Who making or watching this movie would care if the Philly skyline is a copy-and-paste job or reel-to-reel authentic?

Years ago, I worked in an operating room and one of my tasks was to do pathology runs for the scrub nurses, which meant taking tumors and nodules extracted by surgeons to the pathology department. At this hospital there were also a lot of therapeutic abortions, so my tray of specimens was sometimes filled with jars of fetuses.

A lot of the women being wheeled into the OR for therapeutic abortions then were young single women who seemed to be using abortion as a form of birth control. Probably not in all the cases, but my sense at the time was that many of them were.

As a male, I felt I had to keep quiet about these procedures. What did I know about women’s bodies? This was the age of feminism (the 1970s) after all, when books like Our Bodies, Ourselves made it to bestseller lists, and when all good political radicals were taught that men had no say when it comes to women’s bodies. But was abortion a woman’s body issue or was it a “human life in a woman’s body” issue? That was the existential question.