Propaganda Film Exploits Gosnell Tragedy to Promote Conspiracy Theory

A new documentary film on the Kermit Gosnell case, titled 3801 Lancaster, was recently released online and can be viewed at It’ll receive a Philly premiere screening Sunday night as part of The Justice Conference’s Justice Film Festival.

On the website, the filmmakers claim that the goal of the project is to “make the public aware” of the case, to give Gosnell’s victims an outlet to tell their stories and to “help find and shut down clinics that continue to operate in the same manner.” Unfortunately, upon watching it, it becomes clear that the filmmakers have additional goals: 3801 Lancaster is a propaganda film that promotes views espoused by the National Black Pro-Life Coalition, a radical anti-choice fringe group who advocate, in short, that abortion is black genocide concocted by “the abortion industry.”

Scenes espousing the Pro-Life Coalition’s views are the film’s centerpiece, while factual counterpoint is omitted throughout the film — particularly in the exposition. For example, through interviews, the filmmakers depict Gosnell as a well-respected doctor with no hint of a troubled past. This isn’t true; in fact, Gosnell was a “key figure in a disastrous abortion experiment” that left nine women with severe complications back in the 1970s.

In the first minute of the movie, a neighbor of Gosnell’s old clinic says, “How it went so wrong is anybody’s guess.” Actually, it’s not “anyone’s guess.” The political back story of how and why the powers that be made the very misguided decision to stop inspecting Pennsylvania abortion clinics is documented clearly in the Gosnell grand jury report — which the filmmakers ignore, except for one particular point: the jury’s conclusion that race played a factor in lack of state oversight.

As a former worker in Gosnell’s clinic told the grand jury, Gosnell, a rich black man, treated poor brown and black patients differently than middle-class white patients. From the report: “Like if a girl — the black population was — African population was big here. So he didn’t mind [having clinic workers] medicating your African-American girls, your Indian girl, but if you had a white girl from the suburbs, oh, you better not medicate her. You better wait until he go in and talk to her first.”

Also from the grand jury report: “We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.”

Now, it’s indeed clear that white affluent male legislators in Harrisburg were not particularly concerned with the health of poor black and ethnic women in Philadelphia by way of institutionalized classism, racism and sexism. That, however, is a completely different concept from claiming that abortion is a scheme concocted by the powers that be to kill black people in utero, which is the view pushed by NBPLC.

The filmmakers attempt to conflate these two thoughts anyway. Their technique is subtle: They toggle the lens between district attorney Seth Williams reiterating the grand jury’s take on the role of race in the state’s failure to inspect Gosnell’s clinic, and the words of NBPLC protestors.

According to their website, the NBPLC “is a network of prolife and pro-family organizations committed to restoring Life, Family & Hope.” Their goal is to promote “traditional family values” from “a Biblical worldview.” The group’s website makes false claims that Planned Parenthood “barely” offers services other than abortion, when in fact abortion only represents three percent of Planned Parenthood’s services.

The Black Pro-Life Coalition was recently in the news for being part of a coalition protesting the NAACP Image awards. From their website: “Perhaps the greatest example of this is the NAACP’s evil connection with Planned Parenthood and their immoral and sinful plot to control the Black population in America and in the Black diaspora … Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry with the full support of the NAACP are responsible for depopulating the demographics of Black America.”

Right Wing Watch took notice of the group for posting billboard campaigns in Atlanta with slogans like, “Abortion Makes Three-Fifths Human Seem Overly Generous.”

Meanwhile, 3801 Lancaster has been championed online by anti-choice groups, many of which also espouse conspiracy theories about Planned Parenthood and assert that the Gosnell tragedy is a typical abortion clinic — a claim loudly made by activists, despite evidence to the contrary, as a reason to shut down clinics.

The irony is that shutting down clinics only makes it more difficult for poor and working women to obtain the reproductive healthcare, education and contraception necessary to prevent unwanted pregnancy: Studies show that while unplanned pregnancies have been steadily decreasing among middle-class American women, it has skyrocketed among poor women, increasing by 50% between 1994 and 2006.

It’s a shame. While on the surface, the filmmakers seem to align themselves with the poor, mostly minority female victims of Gosnell’s clinic, in reality, they are more closely aligned with the right-wing legislators in Harrisburg — those other out-of-towners shameless enough to distort and exploit our city’s tragedy  for political gain.

8 Responses to “ Propaganda Film Exploits Gosnell Tragedy to Promote Conspiracy Theory ”

  1. Exploit? says:

    It was people like you that kept Gosnell’s clinic opened. Spout your ‘antichoice’ BS all you want but Gosnell’s clinic was a fundamental failure among abortion rights advocates. If even a single pro-life advocate found out what was going on at Gosnell’s clinic, lives would’ve been saved.

    End of story, you illogical hypocrite.

  2. So “propaganda” means ‘exact material from the Grand Jury Report’ as initiated and reported by the Democrat Philadelphia District Attorney. And “anti-choice” means those who think that women and children shouldn’t be maimed and killed by (millionaire) abortionists who perform illegal abortions, snip the necks of babies born alive, and perform “medical” procedures in absolutely squalid conditions. Gosnell’s past has been known, and reported by prolife advocates for decades. It’s the PA Department of Health and the National Abortion Federation who looked away. We’ve reported on Gosnell’s horrific treatment of women over the course of years, including the horrendous “super coil” experiment performed on poor black pregnant women from Chicago. But just as pro-abortion activists ignored Gosnell’s murderous “House of Horrors”, they ignored the violence he committed toward women back in the 1972. Perhaps, Ms. Murtha, you should take some time to actually know what you’re talking about. Have you READ the Grand Jury Report on Gosnell? Obviously not. Perhaps black civil rights leaders in the Nat’l Black Prolife Coalition just overreacted to an abortionist who slaughtered babies and kept their severed feet in jars in his wretchedly filthy clinic. Your ignorance of 3801 Lancaster (a documentary that exposes the failure of pro-abortion apologists like you) sadly allows butchers like Gosnell, Carhart, Riley and many others to continue the Real War on Women. Not that frothing liberal sources like Right Wing Watch ever bother to check the facts, the Atlanta “Juneteenth” billboard campaign wasn’t even sponsored by the National Black Prolife Coalition. It was solely created and launched by The Radiance Foundation. But it’s not accuracy you seek, simply animosity. What a shame. Ignorance kills.

  3. Max says:

    So assuming your led the article with your strongest point then there has to be plenty of gaping holes in your account. It appears this documentary highlights quite well the grand jury report – that was the whole purpose of the hearing which the District Attorney spoke at and used throughout the film. And their website directly links to the case, highlights parts of the case and includes a timeline of the facts about Gosnell’s clinic. I don’t view propoganda as hearing directly from women who received abortions from Gosnell. Or directly from the District Attorney on the case or an Inquirer reporter. Frankly, this is a poor excuse of journalism – I’m all for attempting an attention grabbing headline, but I also need to stick with the truth.

  4. Those who wish to force all American women to remain locked – forever – into the outdated, morally bankrupt, patriarchal, and misogynistic milieu of 1973, during which 7 old men decided all American women and children could be treated “as so much trash”, are the most rabid of conservatives, never wishing for our society to make forward progress.

    A progressive vision for our society would be for us to create a life-affirming and women-empowering society in which no woman would ever need to face an unwanted pregnancy alone, and in which she would be offered by our society whatever she needed in order to provide for her child herself or to offer her child to a couple seeking to adopt.

    All children should be wanted children. Their lives should be celebrated, cherished, and protected by our society, and we need to do the same for women.

    The current paradigm of violence against women and the death of their children has failed, and we need to seek a new paradigm in which we see women and children as of inestimable value, worth, and dignity, and not see them “as so much trash”.

    We, as a society, need to do better for women and their children – now – before more women are harmed – physically and emotionally – and before more children die.

    2/8/2013 – Late term abortionist/murderer Leroy Carhart kills a woman in Germantown, Maryland –

  5. Alyson says:

    Thank you so much for writing this, Tara. I just watched the documentary today after it was mentioned in a comment in an article about jury selection in the Gosnell trial. I’ve been following this case since 2011 and as a deeply pro-choice person every bit of it pained me. I was hoping for a film which gave voice to Gosnell’s victims (which in a way it did) but this was so intent on portraying his practices as “normal” that much was distorted. They took people whose stories which were sad and disturbing enough as they were and turned them into pawns. I am glad to see your voice on this matter.

  6. Brad Gates says:

    Until this story broke, Gosnell was well-respected in the abortion industry and routinely referred patients by Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion clinics for “late term” abortions.

    Ironic is the deafening silence from the pro-abortion industry – which has, at best, tepidly and softly condemned Gosnell. Live babies slaughtered, pregnant women routinely maimed and injured … and the abortion industry coils up in the low grass and hisses at a documentary that exposes what happened.

    Gosnell IS the poster child for abortion. The pro-abortion industry’s real upset is that he was exposed.

  7. Jet Driver says:

    You can dress up abortion as much as you like. It’s still killing innocent babies who never had a CHOICE to live. You should be disgusted with yourself, but like the typical pro-abortionist you are too wrapped up in your own selfishness. The CHOICE comes when you decide to have sex. Pregnancy is a consequence and abortion is one of the most selfish things that a person could do. You should be ashamed of yourself…I am ashamed of you.

  8. Tricia Jennings says:

    Please research the Eugenics movement in this country. Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood, et al. Labeling fact as “conspiracy theory” dishonors the women and children who died at 3801 Lancaster.

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