After Kirsten Powers broke the ice last week in USA Today, the national media suddenly discovered the grisly trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. Powers is now back at the Daily Beast with a follow-up disputing media claims that they had been following the story all along.
Powers particularly fired back at a Salon piece by Irin Carmon, who argued that pro-choice feminists, in particular, had been following the story closely.
"If you’ve never heard of the Gosnell story," Carmon wrote, "it’s not because of a cover-up by the liberal mainstream media. It’s probably because you failed to pay attention to the copious coverage among pro-choice and feminist journalists, as well as the big news organizations, when the news first broke in 2011."
Powers responded that, while some media sources did cover the initial investigation of the Gosnell case, the trial itself had been studiously ignored by all major national media. This, she notes, was her original point.
"It is the trial that has included spectacular and headline-grabbing testimony from Gosnell’s former assistants and workers," Powers wrote in response to Carmon. "It is the trial that has been largely ignored outside of local media and activists on the right and left. This, despite the normal obsession with murder trials (‘Good Morning America’ has done a 10-part series on the Jody Arias trial). It is the trial — rife with grisly details about an abortion doctor who maimed and killed women and babies — that was ignored, despite The Washington Post’s, The New York Times' and network evening news’ usual obsession with all things abortion related."
Powers' case was supported last week by Patheos writer Mollie Hemingway, who challenged Washington Post reporter Sarah Kliff. Why, Hemingway asked, did Kliff totally ignored the Gosnell trial, even though she wrote repeatedly about the Susan G. Komen Foundation/Planned Parenthood debate and the Sandra Fluke and Todd Akin dustups.
Kliff responded, via Twitter, "Hi Molly — I cover policy for the Washington Post, not local crime, hence why I wrote about all the policy issues you mention."
To which Robert Verbruggen responded, "Makes sense. Similarly, national gun-policy people do not cover local crime in places like Aurora or Newtown."
Hemingway then dug into Politico's search engine, finding a complete blackout on Gosnell, but "165 results on Trayvon Martin (local crime story in Florida), 94 stories on Komen, 233 on Sandra Fluke and 866 on Todd Akin."
For her part, Carmon wants to move the conversation past the media blackout dispute.
Kirsten Powers had argued last week that the media silence stemmed in part from discomfort about "geography," i.e., a spinal cord snipping that takes place on one side of the womb is legal, but one that takes place on the other side moments later is a crime. But Carmon counters that the Gosnell trial is, paradoxically, an illustration of the need for faster, safer and more readily available abortion.
Carmon refers to laws that surround abortion clinics with assorted restrictions as TRAP laws, designed to drive clinics out of business. And she also argues for public funding of abortion, saying that the low cost and late term abortions offered by Gosnell are pursued by women who spend most of their pregnancy saving up to end it.
"Cost is also how women often get past the legal gestational limit," Carmon wrote, "as they struggle to save up enough money — and Gosnell’s willingness to break the law was what made him their last chance. To everyone who thinks his case was a reason for more abortion restrictions: What he did was already illegal."
Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.