In 2013, Kermit Gosnell was convicted of the murder of three infants born alive in his Philidelphia medical clinic, as well as 16 counts of violating the state’s informed consent requirements, and guilty of 21 counts of performing abortions after 24 weeks of gestation, the legal limit in Pennsylvania.
But the 24 lives represented in Gosnell’s conviction are not his only victims. Over the course of his 30-year career, he performed thousands of abortions. No one knows how many healthy, full-term babies were murdered. No one knows why no one acted on the complaints and concerns raised about what was happening at his clinic.
But the concern goes even further: no one knows how many others like Gosnell are out there—and how many lives have been destroyed or lost because of their “care”.
This is the story David Altrogge is telling in 3801 Lancaster: American Tragedy.
I had the opportunity to preview the film ahead of its November 10th theatrical release, and it is heartbreaking. Through exclusive interviews with police officers, reporters, healthcare workers at other clinics, Gosnell’s victims—and even Gosnell himself—this film goes beyond the basic narrative traditionally associated with material addressing abortion and takes us to the heart of the issue: the real women affected by it.
Two things are particularly poignant about this film: the first is listening to the investigating officers speak on what they found in Gosnell’s clinic. How, as they saw Gosnell’s “souvenirs” (which included feet embalmed and placed in labelled jars), and the frozen bodies of some of his smallest victims, they realized, “These actually look like people.”
The glass was shattered. They had been used to hearing about clumps of cells and fetuses not being people. Instead they saw little people, and you could see they were still trying to figure out what to do with this new information.
The second is what makes 3801 Lancaster so powerful. But hearing from those babies’ mothers—the women he victimized—is something new. It reminds you that in every abortion there isn’t one life being lost, but two. Though Altrogge strives to portray these young women with dignity, their brokenness—the fruit of Gosnell’s care—is evident. Their victimization, in some ways, never ends. The procedure left at least one of the women unable to have children, and every time her daughter asks about having a brother or sister, salt is poured on the open wound.
What would watching this film accomplish? My hope is first that it would lead to the glass being shattered for more people, humanizing abortion—that they could no longer argue about whether or not a person is a person no matter how small. Second, that it would convict bodies offering oversight (such as the Department of Health) about their failure to properly oversee abortion clinics and take seriously the complaints of patients and employees. Finally, that it would lead all its viewers to show great compassion to the surviving victims of abortion, the mothers. Their wounds are real and they are wounds that cannot be healed by conventional means. They need love—most importantly the love God has for them in Christ, for that is the only thing that can bring them true healing.
So what do we do? First, if you are a pastor, I hope you will consider hosting a screening of this film for your church. Second, if you are a concerned individual, consider hosting a theatrical screening in your community (you can learn more about that here). Finally, please pray that this film would be seen widely, that consciences would be pricked, and that it would be a part of bringing an end to not only America’s, but the modern western world’s greatest tragedy.