REVIEW: “Gosnell” shines light on the abortion industry, without the gore

James Wood is a hard-nosed Philadelphia detective who only wants the truth, even if that makes everyone around him uncomfortable.

That dogged determination comes in handy when he learns of an abortion clinic whose doctor is selling prescription drugs illegally and whose medical negligence allegedly led to the death of a 41-year-old woman.

Wood wants to raid the clinic, but others aren’t so sure.

“I thought you were pro-choice,” a co-worker tells him and another woman.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Wood retorts.

Wood finally gets a search warrant, and what he uncovers is shocking. The clinic’s floors are covered in cat feces. The smell of urine fills the air. Medical waste is everywhere. And jars with baby’s feet line the shelves.

Then Wood discovers something even more horrific: The abortion doctor has been delivering babies and cutting their spinal columns, all under the guise of it being an abortion. Many of them, delivered after 24 weeks, would have survived at a hospital.

The doctor’s name is Kermit Gosnell, an otherwise well-respected man who has so many friends in the medical industry that many people believe he will win. But Wood and the assistant district attorney won’t give up.

The movie Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer (PG-13) opens this weekend, telling the story of the arrest, trial and conviction of a man who prided himself on performing illegal late-term abortions for poor women. It stars Earl Billings (Antwone Fisher) as Gosnell, Dean Cain (Lois & Clark) as Wood, and Sarah Jane Morris (The Night Shift) as assistant district attorney Alexis “Lexy” McGuire.

The movie follows a group of heroic, pro-choice prosecutors who went after an abortion doctor in a city where abortion rights are sacrosanct. 

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

Despite what you might think, Gosnell isn’t a gory film. It opens with the investigation and then quickly transitions to his arrest and trial. We never witness an abortion.

Earl Billings is chillingly impressive as Gosnell. Additionally, the storyline is entertaining and eye-opening, as it shines the light on an industry that has enjoyed secrecy for decades. We learn about Gosnell’s practices and those within legal abortion clinics. Legally, there is a difference between the two. Morally, there is none. (More on that below.)

It is a film worth supporting, but you better do so this weekend. In Hollywood, opening weekend determines a film’s long-term success. If you don’t watch it this weekend, then it may not be in your theater next weekend.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)


Moderate. We see a clothed woman on an operating table, but we don’t see the abortion. We see small feet in jars, and later, the tops of fetus heads. We hear late-term abortion procedures described in detail. We learn that some of the babies were squirming before Gosnell killed them.   



Coarse Language

Minimal. About nine coarse words: S—t (5), d—n (1), h—l (1), b—-rd (1), a—(1)

Life Lessons

We live in a divided culture where seemingly everything is viewed through a political prism. But in Gosnell, we watch as pro-choice prosecutors bring a case simply because it’s the right thing to do. They chase the facts. Toward the end of the movie, a blogger summed up her view of the case by saying, “If the truth doesn’t match what I believe, it’s still the truth.” If only everyone today believed that.      


“This is not a case about abortion,” the district attorney tells his assistant and the detective. His demand: If you want to bring the case, then make it about infanticide and murder – not abortion.

In one sense, he’s right. Kermit Gosnell’s “abortions” were not abortions in the legal sense. Abortion, after all, takes place inside the womb.

But, morally, there is no difference between what Gosnell did and what doctors who perform late-term abortion do every week in America. They don’t snip necks. Instead, they use dilation and evacuation (D&E), in which the doctor stops the baby’s heart by injecting potassium chloride. The doctor then begins ripping the baby apart inside the womb, limb by limb – an arm, a leg, the torso, and so forth. Additionally, the doctor often suctions out the brain before pulling out the head. We hear this procedure described by a female doctor on the witness stand.

Kermit Gosnell’s practice was illegal. D&E, though, remains legal in America. It’s a distinction with a difference of about six inches. Morally, there is no difference.

Discussion Questions

1. What did you learn about abortion? Did it change your perspective?

2. Do you see a moral difference between the procedure that Gosnell practiced and the procedure the female doctor on the witness stand described?

3. How did Gosnell escape government scrutiny for so long?

4. Why do you think Gosnell’s assistants never reported him?  

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.

TEXAN Correspondent
Michael Foust
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