WASHINGTON — The White House will host a screening of the movie Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer Friday evening, in a move that earned praise from pro-life groups who argue that it’s a strategic use by the White House of the “bully pulpit” on the issues of late-term abortion and infanticide.

The film was released in October 2018 and tells the true story of the trial and conviction of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell. He was convicted in May 2013 of the first-degree murder of three infants born alive after attempted abortions and the involuntary manslaughter of one woman during an abortion.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said in a statement to the Register that the movie provides a “startling reminder” of the gruesome true story of Gosnell’s practices.

“Kermit Gosnell was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder for killing babies by cutting their spines after he botched the abortions, and this film is a startling reminder of these horrific atrocities,” Deere said.

He also linked Gosnell’s murder of infants born alive to the recent defense of late-term abortion from Democrats.

“Democrats now defend this procedure,” he emphasized, “but President Trump has made protecting life and ending infanticide a priority for this administration.”

 

Democrats’ Late-Term Abortion Push

Deere is likely referencing remarks from some Democrats defending late-term abortion, as well as the Democratic Party’s strong opposition in both the House and the Senate to the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would ensure legal protection for infants born alive after an attempted abortion.

The legislation to protect infants born alive after abortion followed New York Democrats passing an extreme abortion measure to allow abortion at “any time” to protect “a patient’s life or health” and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s controversial remarks about leaving infants to die after birth.

“It’s done in cases where there may be severe deformities; there may be a fetus that’s nonviable,” Northam said of third-trimester abortions in an interview. “So in this particular example, if a mother’s in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable, the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

President Trump condemned Northam’s remarks on abortion in his State of the Union address in February and called on Congress to pass legislation restricting late-term abortion.

A source close to the screening told the Register that Northam’s remarks “brought the whole infanticide thing to the fore” and that the Gosnell movie “was viewed as an opportunity to really explore the difference” between the White House and the Democrats on that issue.

“This [screening] is a political statement, but it’s incredible how many people in the Trump White House are ultra-pro-life,” the source added. “The ‘most pro-life administration ever’ is both a political phrase and an actual reality.”

The source confirmed that the screening was proposed and embraced in a December meeting with pro-life groups. The White House told Politico that the screening will include 150 guests from the pro-life movement.

 

Using the ‘Bully Pulpit’

Gosnell is the first politically controversial film the Trump administration has screened. The White House has hosted film screenings since former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt converted an old cloak room into a movie theater in 1942. The Reagan administration screened the controversial pro-life movie The Silent Scream in 1985.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America (SFLA), told the Register that the Gosnell screening is a “powerful use of the bully pulpit” by the White House and that she attended the administration’s meeting with pro-life advocates that inspired it. 

“I was at the meeting in December at the White House when we were advocating for things that the Trump administration could do to reach out to the pro-life majority of Americans,” Hawkins said. “This use of the bully pulpit was one of the ideas we discussed, and that SFLA strongly supported, because people need to see for themselves what kind of horrors lurk behind the closed doors of abortion vendors.”

She added that this screening is “an appropriate use of a president’s office to bring attention to things that are important for American society” and also “a strong signal to those working every day to protect life that they have been heard and are appreciated.” 

Mallory Quigley, the vice president of communications at the Susan B. Anthony List, praised the screening in a statement to the Register, calling it an “encouraging” development that sends a “strong message.”

Gosnell is a powerful, true story which reveals the horror of what happened inside Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion facility and the babies and at least one woman who died there,” she said. “Gosnell’s crimes and his trial were largely ignored by the mainstream press so the White House is sending a strong message by giving this film a platform.”

“This is just one way in which the president is showing his continued commitment to advancing the pro-life cause,” she added.

Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, told the Register that the screening is just “the latest example of the support this administration has given to the pro-life movement from the very beginning.”

“Today’s screening couldn’t be more timely, with the onslaught of radical abortion bills being proposed in states across the country,” she emphasized. “Pro-abortion bills like the one that became law in New York and the one proposed by Delegate Kathy Tran in Virginia create an environment where abortionists like Kermit Gosnell can thrive.” 

Mancini added that the March for Life is “very pleased with the progress this administration has made on protecting innocent, unborn life,” with policies like the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance policy, which “respects the dignity of unborn children abroad and prevents American tax dollars from funding abortions overseas.”

“The progress has continued with the appointment of judges, including two Supreme Court justices, who demonstrate faithfulness to the Constitution,” she said, “as well as the appointment of pro-life personnel within the administration, and advancing regulations like the new Title X rule, which seeks to end taxpayer subsidization of the abortion industry.”

 

‘Graphic’ Description Contested

Nick Searcy, the film’s director, wrote on Facebook that he “could not simultaneously be prouder and more humbled by this turn of events” as he headed to the White House screening. He also joined with actor Dean Cain, who starred as a detective in the film, in defending it after Politico described it as “graphic.” Slate also drew criticism for describing the movie as “gory.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway joined Cain and others in denying Politico’s description of the PG-13 movie on social media Thursday. She also pointed to the true story behind the movie.

“GOSNELL the movie is NOT ‘graphic,’” she wrote, saying instead that the real-life Kermit Gosnell “was VERY GRAPHIC: convicted of murdering 3 newborns, causing death of abortion patient; 21 illegal late-term abortion felonies.”

Lauretta Brown is a Register staff writer.