The trial of a Philadelphia abortionist charged with murdering babies born alive began March 18, as the defense accused officials of pursuing “an elitist, racist prosecution” of the man who ran what has been termed a “house of horrors” abortion clinic.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell (shown at left in photo), the 72-year-old physician who owned and operated the West Philadelphia clinic, is charged with killing seven babies who were born alive at the facility, as well as Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old refugee from Bhutan who had gone to the facility for an abortion. Prosecutors charge that Gosnell's staff gave the 90-pound woman a lethal dose of anesthesia and painkillers during the 2009 procedure, and that he is responsible for the woman's death.
According to investigators, Gosnell ignored Pennsylvania's ban on late-term abortions and the 24-hour waiting period enforced before an abortion can go forward, allowing unqualified staff to administer anesthesia and perform risky late abortions on patients who were often poor and underage. The goal was money, said Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore, with the clinic cranking out a high volume of substandard, risky abortions, while killing babies that were born alive.
“The standard practice here was to slay babies,” said Pescatore, “That's what they did.” She told jurors that Gosnell and his staff used inferior drugs and primitive procedures, often forcing women to deliver babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors.
Pescatore laid out a scenario to jurors in which a staff nearly as desperate as the women who came in for abortions followed Gosnell's procedure rather than make waves. She noted that the only other “doctors” on staff at the clinic were individuals who posed as medical professionals, but who were not licensed. She said that the woman administering anesthesia was a sixth-grade dropout who could barely read or write, and one of the operating room assistants was a 15-year-old high school student.
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Photo: Kermit Gosnell (left) and Gosnell's defense attorney Jack McMahon (right): AP Images