Philadelphia Doctor on Trial for Murder and Infanticide

April 15, 2013  |  
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The story of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, and his horrific abortion clinic is filled with gory details. A report from Anderson Cooper reveals that the West Philadelphia doctor, arrested in 2011, performed illegal late-term abortions and abortions on underage patients, as well as murdered infants after delivery. Inaccurate records make it impossible to know just how many infants were killed in the clinic, but Gosnell is being charged with the murder of seven infants and one 41-year-old patient.

Most shocking is the amount of time this butcher shop of a clinic was allowed to stay open. Gosnell had been operating the Women’s Medical Society since 1979, and by 1989, inspections had turned up a number of health violations. But that wasn’t enough to get the clinic shut down, primarily because state officials never returned to confirm whether the violations had been corrected. Nor was a detailed complaint from a former employee enough. The employee talked about the unsanitary conditions, unlicensed workers, incorrect use of sedatives, underage abortion patients and over-prescribed drugs. The lengthy report from the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office included the story of Gosnell performing an abortion on a 14-year-old girl who was 30 weeks into her pregnancy. He and his team also performed what he termed “snippings”: inducing labor and then cutting the infants’ spinal cords with scissors. After performing a second-trimester abortion on 41-year-old Nepali refugee Karnamaya Mongar, it was later reported she’d died from an overdose of anesthetics.

It was ultimately an FBI investigation into prescription drug trafficking that shut down the clinic. Gosnell was suspected of prescribing an unnecessary amount of addictive painkillers with a high resale price on the street like Oxycontin. When the FBI arrived, however, what they found was much worse than extra pills. The horrifically unsanitary conditions included dirty tools and even remains of fetuses. Two health department officials have since lost their jobs because of their mishandling of the allegations. Gosnell maintains he’s innocent though several employees have plead guilty. Prosecutors say they will seek the death penalty.

An essay on The Grio by Lori Adelman reminds us this story is an extreme case of racial healthcare inequality. Gosnell operated in a poor neighborhood where most of his clients would have been poor black Americans and immigrants. While the clinic’s conditions were substandard across the board, it was reported that “white women from the suburbs were ushered into a separate, slightly cleaner area because Gosnell believed they were more likely to file complaints.” This, Adelman says, is an example of the care disparity that are evident across the country. According to a statement from National Abortion Federation president “Substandard providers prey on low-income women who don’t know that they do have other (safe) options.” Gosnell certainly took advantage of these women; though he’s a board-certified family medicine practioner, he never completed a residency in obstetrics-gynecology, meaning he is not licensed to perform abortions.

See the Anderson Cooper 360 report on what’s been called “a house of horrors”.

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