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REVIEW: ‘Gosnell’ isn’t gruesome, but it IS appalling and eye-opening

Abortion is one of those hot-button issues that few Americans want to discuss publicly. It’s the subject you don’t raise at the Thanksgiving dinner table nor at the workplace breakroom. It’s the topic that is best kept behind walls, discussed only between intimate friends and family members.

And, whatever you do, please don’t show us any gruesome pictures and videos! America can’t stomach those.

We never see an abortion in Gosnell. Instead, we experience the drama and intrigue of a trial.

At least, that’s the conventional wisdom. This notion, though, presents a dilemma for filmmakers who want to make a movie about Kermit Gosnell, the infamous abortion doctor who made headlines five years ago after it was discovered he snipped the necks of babies born alive – babies who could have survived at the hospital. He was an unapologetic crusader for late-term abortions who believed he was doing the right thing by providing an illegal service for Philadelphia’s poor.

Who wants to watch a gory movie about that? Not many of us. That’s why the makers of the new movie about Kermit Gosnell have wisely spotlighted his trial. The film — Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (PG-13) – is less gruesome than most Marvel movies. In fact, it’s probably more family-friendly than some of those films, too.

The district attorney insists the case isn’t about abortion, but moviegoers quickly see that it is. That’s because a female abortion doctor takes the witness stand and is asked to describe her preferred late-term abortion procedure.

Gosnell opens with the Drug Enforcement Administration investigating Gosnell for illegally selling prescriptions drugs. Soon, though, the investigation turns to abortion when Philadelphia police discover he has been conducting illegal abortions. A 41-year-old woman also died under his care. And we haven’t even mentioned the filthy conditions of his clinic: cat feces on the floor, medical waste bags piled up against walls, and a urine stench throughout the building.

We never see an abortion in Gosnell. Instead, we experience the drama and intrigue of a trial. The case was brought by a handful of pro-choice prosecutors who did the right thing despite a potential backlash. The film, even with its somber subject, is riveting.

“You are prosecuting an abortion doctor for murder,” the district attorney tells his assistant. “You know how it will play in the media.”

It stars Earl Billings (Antwone Fisher) as Gosnell, Dean Cain (Lois & Clark) as detective James Wood, and Sarah Jane Morris (The Night Shift) as assistant district attorney Alexis “Lexy” McGuire.

The district attorney insists the case isn’t about abortion, but moviegoers quickly see that it is. That’s because a female abortion doctor takes the witness stand and is asked to describe her preferred late-term abortion procedure. She does so in excruciating detail: A solution is inserted into the unborn baby to stop the heart. The brain is suctioned from the head. The baby is then torn apart limb by limb – an arm here, a leg there — until the womb is empty. Many moviegoers will be thinking: The legal procedure is just as horrific as Gosnell’s method.

Gosnell’s defense attorney then asks the female doctor: What would you do if an unborn baby were born alive? Her answer: Keep it warm until it dies. The attorney retorts: It would have been more humane to snip its neck.

We should applaud the prosecution for charging Gosnell, who now sits in a prison. But we shouldn’t pretend there is any moral difference between his illegal procedure and the legal methods, which are performed in clinics every week across the country. One takes place on a baby inside the womb, the other outside the womb. But the result is identical. It’s a legal distinction without a moral difference.

Most Americans know little about late-term abortion. Let’s pray that Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer opens eyes and changes a few minds this weekend.

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content including disturbing images and descriptions. It also contains minor language: S—t (5), d—n (1), h—l (1), b—-rd (1), a—(1).

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