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Evil exposed

PODCAST | Serial Killer tells the horrifying story of Kermit Gosnell


Photo illustration by Rachel Beatty (Gosnell photo by Yong Kim/Philadelphia Daily News/AP)

Evil exposed
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Kermit Gosnell operated a filthy abortion facility on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia, Pa. State officials had not inspected it for over a decade, despite numerous complaints and recorded failures to meet health and safety ­standards. Even after the death of one woman in 2009, officials didn’t shut down his facility until a drug investigation spurred a 2010 raid. Investigators then uncovered evidence of possible illegal late-term abortions, killings of infants born alive, and unsafe medical practices. That led to murder charges in 2011 and a 2013 trial that should have been front-page news but that many media outlets failed to cover.

In the six-episode podcast series Serial Killer, investigative journalist Ann McElhinney tells this true story. It’s a well-researched, deep dive into the investigation, trial, and lies of abortionist Gosnell, who is now serving three life sentences in a Pennsylvania state prison.

McElhinney’s husband and co-­producer, Phelim McAleer, was one of the few journalists to attend Gosnell’s trial before it gained national attention. The couple co-authored a 2017 book and co-produced a 2018 feature film about the case. Their familiarity with the story shows: The podcast is thorough and engaging. It features reenactments of grand jury proceedings and the trial, as well as interviews with the people involved. Investigators recall vivid ­memories, including the initial raid: Gosnell first finished an abortion then chatted with agents, snacking on teriyaki salmon while still wearing bloody surgical gloves. An attorney who worked on the prosecution describes her hours of sorting through files to find witnesses and of inspecting the bodies of babies Gosnell had killed and frozen. Such images still keep investigators awake at night.

Untrained former workers from Gosnell’s facility remember their suspicions of Gosnell’s techniques and the horrors they saw. McElhinney and McAleer also interview Gosnell himself. The podcast features portions of phone calls that show his charismatic personality, his dishonesty, and his continued professions of innocence.

The podcast is not for everyone. It includes gruesome details and descriptions of unsanitary practices, infant killings, and mistreatment of adult female patients. But as host McElhinney says in one of the episodes, it’s a story that many people need to hear. That’s not because it tells an interesting and even thrilling tale but because it exposes evil. It’s especially suited to wake up those who assume abortion is a normal part of healthcare—and to drag this dark corner of the world into the light.


Leah Savas

Leah is the life beat reporter for World News Group. She is a graduate of Hillsdale College and the World Journalism Institute and resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.

@leahsavas

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