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May 6, 2013

There are many theories as to why the murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell is getting sparse media coverage. But it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the decades-long government cover-up of Gosnell's grotesque abortion clinic is being perpetuated by the media.

Gosnell is charged with murdering four – originally seven – late-term babies by severing their spinal cords, as well as with committing multiple forms of malpractice.

The grand jury report that led to the charges states that not only did Gosnell routinely deliver and kill unborn babies in the third trimester, but also overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels, and in at least two cases caused their deaths.

As disturbing as the allegations against Gosnell are, what is at least as disturbing are the civic and state government departments that were aware of at least some aspects of what was taking place at Gosnell's Women's Medical Society and did nothing about it. The Pennsylvania Department of Health, for example, began pointing out violations to Gosnell as early as 1989 and did nothing to ensure they were corrected. Despite Gosnell's failures to comply, the department, instead of enforcing its regulations, simply stopped inspecting abortion clinics.

When Gosnell tried to join the National Abortion Federation, which regulates American abortion clinics, the inspector found so many threats to women's health that she refused to admit the clinic to the federation. However, she never informed the authorities.

Many others did complain to the Department of Health . . . to no avail. (To learn more, see Conor Friedersdorf's reports on www.theatlantic.com.) It was only when the FBI raided the clinic because of suspicions that it was illegally selling prescription drugs that it discovered the carnage.

When Catholic bishops failed to remove sexually abusive priests from ministry and failed to report them to police, it was – rightly – international news. However, when an unlicensed abortion doctor runs what is described as "a house of horrors," it draws little attention.

The grand jury report recommended that those who allowed Gosnell to operate as he did, including the heads of the various government departments, should face strong disciplinary action and possible termination. The media, however, which should be shining a light on the abuse of authority have also been missing in action, implicitly tolerating both Gosnell and the negligent government officials.

Abortion has been sold to the public as the protection of women's health. When it grossly violates that rationale, routinely violates the few restrictions on abortion that to exist and government turns a blind eye, that situation deserves extensive public scrutiny.