New York Times Breaks Gosnell Guilty Verdicts By Labeling Victims 'Fetuses' Six Times

The New York Times unsurprisingly stuck by its biased language on the abortion issue as it broke the news that a jury had found Philadelphia abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell guilty of three counts of first-degree murder on Monday. Jon Hurdle labeled the convicted murderer's victims "fetuses" in the second sentence of his article. Hurdle would go on to use the slanted term five more times in his write-up.

The correspondent later acknowledged that the prosecution had referred to the murder victims as babies, but only after using his "fetuses" label.

Hurdle led his article with the breaking news – that Gosnell, "West Philadelphia doctor known for performing late-term abortions", had been found guilty on three out of the four remaining first-degree murder charges. He quickly added that the "verdict came after a five-week trial in which the prosecution and the defense battled over whether the fetuses Dr. Gosnell was charged with killing were alive when they were removed from their mothers."

Four paragraphs later, the Times journalist pointed out that "Dr. Gosnell was acquitted of one first-degree murder charge involving an aborted fetus. He was also acquitted of third-degree murder in the death of a 41-year-old patient but was found guilty of a lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter in that case."

Hurdle used additional slanted terms as he pointed out in the following two paragraphs how "the gruesome nature of the case and the squalid conditions in Dr. Gosnell's clinic had fueled arguments on both sides of the abortion debate. Anti-abortion campaigners used the case to reinforce their argument that the practice is immoral, while abortion rights advocates warned that it underlined the need to ensure the availability of properly regulated abortions." He continued that "some activists accused the national news media of providing scant coverage of the trial to help protect the case for abortion rights."

Nine paragraph into his article, the correspondent acknowledged that "prosecutors had argued that Dr. Gosnell murdered seven late-term infants who would have survived if he or his assistants had not given them a drug designed to cause 'fetal demise' and then plunged scissors into their necks to ensure that they were dead." However, Hurdle would use the "fetus" term four more times:

Clinic workers who appeared as witnesses for the prosecution said some of the fetuses appeared to move or make noises. One, known as Baby D, was delivered into a toilet and appeared to make swimming motions before one of Dr. Gosnell's assistants cut its neck, according to a worker cited during closing arguments by Edward Cameron, an assistant district attorney.

Mr. Cameron and another assistant district attorney, Joanne Pescatore, also told the jury, which was composed of eight women and four men, that Dr. Gosnell kept the severed feet of aborted fetuses in dozens of jars around his clinic, the Women's Medical Society in West Philadelphia....

... In defense arguments, Mr. McMahon [Gosnell's attorney] argued that there was no evidence that any of the fetuses were born alive and that his client was therefore not guilty on any of the murder counts. He also told jurors that the death of the patient, a refugee from Bhutan, was due to existing medical problems and not to an overdose of an anesthetic administered by Dr. Gosnell's unlicensed assistants, as prosecutors had said.

Mr. McMahon also dismissed prosecutors' arguments that one of the fetuses, Baby C, was alive after being aborted. He said that a reported movement was just a "spasm" and that Baby C was not breathing.

Back on May 1, 2013, Times writer Trip Gabriel claimed that the Gosnell case had been "widely covered", particularly after it "became a cause célèbre when anti-abortion activists complained that the mainstream news media were ignoring it for ideological reasons." However, as of Monday morning, ABC's morning and evening newscasts have yet to cover the legal proceedings, 56 days after the trial started on March 18, 2013.

UPDATE by Clay Waters: The print version on Tuesday cut back the "fetus" references to two and opened with a reference to babies: "A doctor who was responsible for cutting the spines of babies after botched abortions was convicted Monday of three counts of first-degree murder in a case that became a sharp rallying cry for anti-abortion activists."

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.