Three years after drug agents searched a suspected “pill mill” at a West Philadelphia clinic, an abortion doctor, accused of killing newborn babies with scissors, is going on trial on eight counts of murder.
Investigators described finding a medical “house of horrors,” where agents found foetal body parts in glass jars and in refrigerators, alongside the staff’s lunches.
Dr Kermit Gosnell, 72, the clinic owner, is charged with killing a pregnant refugee and seven viable newborns. He also faces a separate federal trial on prescription drug charges.
Gosnell, who has pleaded not guilty, saw himself as a medical missionary in the blighted neighbourhood where he worked and lived for 40 years. His Women’s Medical Centre treated the poor, immigrants, teens and women with late-stage pregnancies who could not get abortions elsewhere.
“I feel in the long term I will be vindicated,” Gosnell told the Philadelphia Daily News in a Mar 2010 interview, a month after the drug raid. “I aspire to perfection, certainly for my patients.”
But some of those patients were left with infections, perforated bowels and other injuries after abortions were performed by untrained, unlicensed staff, according to numerous lawsuits and a lengthy 2011 grand jury report. And 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar lost her life there in 2009.
Jury selection started yesterday in the death penalty case. All but one of the nine clinic workers arrested with Gosnell have pleaded guilty, three of them to third-degree murder, which carries a potential 20-to 40-year prison sentence.
Unlicensed doctor Steven Massof of Pittsburgh told the grand jury that he used scissors to snip the spines of more than 100 babies born alive. He worked for Gosnell for a few hundred dollars a week. He pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in the deaths of two babies allegedly stabbed by Gosnell while Massof assisted with the abortions.
Gosnell’s third wife, Pearl, a cosmetologist, pleaded guilty to performing an illegal, late-term abortion and other charges. She does not have to testify, but other co-defendants have said they would.
It’s not clear if Gosnell plans to testify, because a gag order has been issued in the case. But it’s possible, given his posture in the Daily News interview.
Yet he made millions over the years, both from abortions and a thriving side practice where staffers allegedly dispensed his pre-signed prescriptions for OxyContin, Percocet and other highly addictive painkillers.
Related federal drug charges await Gosnell after the murder trial, which is expected to last several weeks. Opening statements are scheduled for Mar 14.
Mongar’s family has a civil suit pending over her death. The 4ft 11in woman from Bhutan — who did not speak English — died after allegedly receiving lethal doses of sedatives and painkillers from Gosnell’s untrained workers.
She and her husband and three children had survived 20 years in refugee camps before settling in rural Virginia. She was referred to Gosnell’s clinic to seek a second-term abortion.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
More in this section