Beliefs Culture Ethics Institutions Jonathan Merritt: On Faith and Culture Opinion

Karpen case will reveal if media learned lesson from Gosnell

Aaron's Womens Clinic in Houston, TX, is owned and operated by Dr. Douglas Karpen - courtesy of Google Street View

Aaron’s Womens Clinic in Houston, TX, is owned and operated by Dr. Douglas Karpen – courtesy of Google Street View

“We’ve forgotten what belongs on Page One,” USA Today columnist Kirsten Powers said of the case against Philadelphia late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Gosnell’s staff testified to witnessing and participating in atrocities including beheading infants, and he has since been convicted on three counts of first-degree murder.

Conservative religious Americans and pro-life advocates had been following the Gosnell story since before he was arrested, but much of the mainstream media barely reported on the trial until Powers published her expose in the April 11, 2013 issue of USA Today. According to Media Research Center, there was no network coverage of the story prior to this on ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, or PBS, and only one mention on CNN. According to a Fox News poll, 57 percent of Americans said they believed the lack of coverage was due to media bias.

Once Powers upped the ante by shaming the mainstream media in such a public forum, some outlets course corrected. Charlie Rose devoted a segment to the trial the following Sunday that began by asking, “Why have most of us never heard the name Dr. Kermit Gosnell?” And in a moment of candor, The Washington Post lamented having ignored the trial.

“In retrospect, we should have sent a reporter sooner,” said Martin Baron, executive editor of the Post.

But pro-abortion advocates weren’t convinced that the story deserved a brighter spotlight, claiming the Gosnell horrors were an aberration.

“Gosnell is an extreme outlier when it comes to medical practice or abiding by the law,” said Vicki Saporta, President and CEO of the National Abortion Federation.

So will the Gosnell controversy serve as a wake-up call to the mainstream media on abortion reporting, or will they side with Saporta and double down?

We’re about to find out.

Gruesome information is now surfacing on abortion clinic doctor, Douglas Karpen. Some are calling it “a second house of horrors” and others, “worse than Gosnell.” Stories are emerging of Dr. Karpen killing third-trimester babies after they were born alive and even twisting infants’ heads off with his hands. One former surgical assistant who worked in Dr. Karpen’s clinic describes the clinic’s procedures thusly:

When he did an abortion, especially an over-20-week abortion, most of the time the fetus would come completely out before he cut the spinal cord or he introduced one of the instruments into the soft spot of the fetus, in order to kill the fetus. …

I think every morning I saw several, on several occasions. … If we had 20-something patients, of course ten, or twelve, or fifteen patients would be large procedures, and out of those large procedures, I’m pretty sure that I was seeing at least three or four fetuses that were completely delivered in some way or another.

Dr. Karpen has experienced many problems during his career, including the death of a young teenager resulting from a botched procedure. He was called to testify before the Texas medical board after “waste” leaked from his clinic’s sewer into an automobile dealership’s parking lot adjacent to his clinic.

“This whole area is nothing but raw sewage and bloody pieces,” said Maribeth Smith, an employee of the dealership. “There were little legs coming out from one side.”

Three Karpen Clinic whistleblowers–Deborah Edge, Gigi Aguliar, and Krystal Rodriguez—have released a video (posted below) telling what they witnessed while working there. When they left, they took photos of what they saw while working at the clinic. They have been posted at but are too graphic to be published in this forum.

But as details emerge in the Karpen investigation is the media listening? The only article I can find on the case has been run by the Daily Mail (U.K). When I pitched the story to my contacts at several major news outlets, nearly every one told me they weren’t interested. The others failed to respond to my emails.

Before the mainstream media reported on Gosnell, a prominent news commentator had to pen an article in the second largest newspaper in America. Will it take the same for this story to warrant attention?

It may be too early to tell. But as the attention of pro-life America focuses on the Karpen case, we’ll soon discover if the media was impacted by the furor of the Gosnell controversy. If they ignore the Karpen story, we can expect they will be called to account by those who claim they are too blinded by a “pro-abortion agenda” to report fairly on this divisive issue.

About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.


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