Every day when I scan anti-abortion media, I’m bombarded with a whole lot of fake news and sourcing that requires double-checking, triple-checking, and complete re-investigating. It’s shocking how much misinformation there is out there on the subject of reproductive healthcare, especially on abortion, and how false narratives are created and perpetuate themselves to the point where few people even bother to question them anymore.
Enter Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer. Originally from Ireland, they’ve come to the U.S. and managed to stoke conspiracy theories and misinformation with their hyper-conservative writing and films. Having previously tried to “debunk” stories about fracking, climate change, and environmental activism, they’ve set their sights on currying the favor of pro-life movement, and helped incite some troubling anti-choice rhetoric and policy.
Their focus is the trial of Kermit Gosnell — a horrible criminal who injured and killed women and infants and is in no way representative of quality abortion care — and what they knowingly misrepresent as a media and governmental “cover-up” of Gosnell’s crimes by a supposedly all-powerful “abortion industry.” Never mind the numerous press outlets who reported on the trial and the repeated denunciations of the reproductive health community, which continues to point out that restrictions on quality abortion care empower monsters like Kermit Gosnell. In fact, Kermit Gosnell has been used as a rallying point for unconstitutional abortion clinic shutdown restrictions around the country. (For more information, see a related blog post featuring Reproaction co-director Erin Matson’s testimony before the Virginia Board of Health, Kermit Gosnell is No Excuse to Close Abortion Clinics.)
Clearly, McElhinney and McAleer want you to believe they have a hot scoop and want you to run—don’t walk!—to buy their book, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer and a see their crime drama based on the book, set to be released this fall. These self-styled journalists are profiting off tragedy and stoking anti-abortion paranoia by selling books and movies which spread lies, foment hate, and shame safe, compassionate abortion care providers and the women they treat. They broke records for online fundraising, becoming the most successful Indiegogo campaign ever with over $2.3 million pledged since 2014.  Their film has yet to be released or sold, in part because of a new lawsuit filed by a judge in the Gosnell case who claims their book and subsequent film are purposely defamatory and harm the judge’s reputation in the practice of law. [2, 3]
Gosnell is not recognized by anyone as a quality care provider, but false narratives of abortion providers and the clinics they operate have run rampant in part thanks to McElhinney and McAleer and others sharing blatant lies — including lawmakers and political figures. It has been just over a year since the Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstadt case declared unconstitutional abortion clinic shutdown laws that claim to support women’s health but provide no evidence of benefit, and still statehouses across the country continue to restrict abortion access and impose inane regulations on clinics and providers. With gestational week bans, imposition of cremation and burial for fetal remains, [4, 5] and stipulations of font size used in doctors’ professional records,  anti-abortion crusaders will stop at nothing in their efforts to strip rights from women. Sometimes, those efforts come in the form of nit-picky and expensive clinic shutdown restrictions, and sometimes a feature-length film starring Dean Cain that inspires a judge to file a lawsuit – and even in the strange world of right-wing media, you don’t see that everyday.