Earl Billings stars in a scene from the movie “Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Hat Tip Films LLC)
Earl Billings stars in a scene from the movie “Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Hat Tip Films LLC)
“This is not a case about abortion. This is a case about murder.” 

These are the words of attorney Alexis McGuire, a character in the new film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, which hit theaters on Oct. 12.

And though the same can be said of the film, pro-life leaders in the Archdiocese of Washington say the movie reveals a strong pro-life message.

“I would call it a ‘pro-life’ movie in that the pro-life movement is solidly built on truth, and this movie revealed truth,” said Julia Shelava, director of the archdiocese’s Project Rachel outreach, a post-abortion “ministry of healing, forgiveness, trauma recovery, and grief.”

Based on the New York Times bestseller Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer, the film recounts the true story of the investigation and trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia abortion doctor convicted of first degree murder in the deaths of three infants born alive in his clinic, and the involuntary manslaughter in the death of a mother, Karnamaya Mongar. He was also convicted of 21 counts of providing illegal late-term abortions. In Pennsylvania, abortion is legal before 24 weeks. In Maryland and the District of Columbia, abortions are legal through the entire pregnancy.

Using verbatim language from the testimony and trial, the well-written and acted film lacks any cheesiness one might expect from such a production. The storyline factually though prudently portrays the horrors of the case: the unsanitary conditions of the clinic that had not been inspected for more than 15 years (for perspective, nail salons must be inspected once a year); fetal remains stored in jars and medical waste bags; a garbage disposal used to discard remains; expired drugs and unsterilized medical instruments that spread diseases.

These scenes were a sickening reminder for Shelava of what she has witnessed in her ministry.

“For four years, the Project Rachel Ministry offices were next door – as in we shared a wall in the same building – to an abortion clinic,” Shelava said. “What I saw in the Gosnell movie, reminded me of what I witnessed during those four years. Just as in the movie, I knew workers in that clinic that received ‘on the job training’ and had no medical background.” 

Besides the compelling, emotional, and at times even suspenseful storyline, Gosnell has another strength that is vital for a film of such a nature: it puts women center stage, both in the cast and in recounting facts of the case. The film explores the deeply human elements and emotions of these women witnesses and their experiences in Gosnell’s “house of horrors.”

McGuire, whose character is based on Assistant District Attorney Christine Wechsler who investigated and brought the case to trial, is a wife and mother. A female investigative blogger (a composite of the journalists involved) helped break the story and dispel the media blackout surrounding the case. A female abortion doctor called in as a witness describes a legal abortion. The clinic workers, such as the untrained 15-year-old administering anesthesia, are women, as are the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized mothers who visited the inner-city clinic.

It further highlights the struggles, yet beauty and joy, of motherhood. As McGuire plays with the toes of her own infant, she recalls the fetal feet found in Gosnell’s clinic. One mother recalls how she left Gosnell’s clinic for the hospital, where she gave birth to her baby girl (whom the viewer meets later on).

These voices add faces and perspectives to what might be more common than we think or care to believe about aspects of the abortion industry.

Shelava is used to seeing similar faces and hearing similar stories. In her work with Project Rachel, she offers help to women and men who have experienced emotional or spiritual pain after abortion, as well as clinic workers, siblings, and grandparents affected by the experience.  

“Some women seek healing from abortion because they are tired of the sadness or depression, the inability to sleep at night, and problems in their relationships,” Shelava said. “I have witnessed abortions cause pain in relationships of all kinds.”

Project Rachel facilitates emotional and psychological healing through referrals to licensed mental health professionals, or spiritual healing through interactions with specially trained clergy. Support groups, retreats, and group healing events are available in English and Spanish.

Mary Forr, director of the Department of Life Issues for the Archdiocese of Washington, said the film showed how Gosnell believed he was acting as a hero.

“He believed that if it wasn’t for him, these women would have no place else to go,” Forr said. “But this is one of the lies that the abortion industry pollutes our society and the minds of women with.”

She said there are a number of groups along with Project Rachel, both in the Washington Metropolitan area and nationwide, that offer care for women throughout pregnancy and for mother and baby after birth.

“There are many organizations, like The Gabriel Network, Sanctuaries for Life, NIFLA, Care Net, Heartbeat International, and Birthright, that will happily support women through their entire pregnancy and will continue to support women after their child is born,” Forr said. “The people who run these organizations are the true heroes.”

“Project Rachel brings to light the truth that there is hope for healing after an abortion,” Forr said.

Project Rachel has an upcoming Entering Canaan Day of Prayer & Healing on November 10. For information or help, please contact their helpline at 301-982-2008, or email [email protected].

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer is showing in a number of AMC, Cinemark, Regal Cinemas, and others, in Maryland and Virginia.