Kermit Barron Gosnell, a Philadelphia-based doctor, was charged this week with murder and other offenses related to an illegal abortion operation, according to Philadelphia D.A. Seth Williams. CNN reports that Gosnell performed late-term abortions on babies who were born alive in the sixth, seventh and eighth month of pregnancy by severing the tiny infants spinal cords with scissors. The 69-year-old, who is not a board certified OB-GYN, operated from the Women’s Medical Society, a clinic that has served mostly low-income, minority women since 1979. According to Williams, the name of another doctor was used to obtain a license for the practice.
Gosnell’s wife and sister-in-law were among nine other clinic staff charged in conjunction with the operation. In a press conference this Wednesday, Williams stated that both the Department of Health and Department of State hold some responsibility for allowing the clinic to operate for so many years, despite being notified that two women had died during abortion procedures and having received numerous reports of dangerous practices. “What the [grand] jury found most troubling is that neither of those agencies took the time to investigate, to observe, to view, to go to the clinic itself since 1993,” Williams said in his statement.
Investigators at the now closed abortion clinic found bags and bottles containing aborted fetuses in various parts of the building, as well as a shelf of jars holding the severed feet of babies. Equipment and furniture were “blood-stained, dusty and broken”, according to the CNN report. Gosnell is being charged with third-degree murder in the death of Karnamay Mongar, a 41-year old patient who died in 2009 after the doctor prescribed her a lethal dosage pf anesthetics.
Williams has made it clear that his office is not attempting to crack down on legal abortions. “I am aware that abortion is a hot-button topic. But as District Attorney, my job is to carry out the law. A doctor who knowingly and systematically mistreats female patients, to the point that one of them dies in his so-called care, commits murder under the law….A doctor who cuts into the necks severing the spinal cords of living, breathing babies, who would survive with proper medical attention, is committing murder under the law.”
The accusations against Gosnell’s office are not merely horrifying, but also bizarre; he is accused of having litter boxes and animals present in the dirty rooms in which he performed an unspecified number of abortions over the years. His wife, Pearl, is charged with providing a late-term abortion (which is illegal in Philadelphia), conspiracy and other charges; she has no medical licensure. Gosnell himself was rarely present in the office and abortions were routinely performed by his staff, including a teenage girl who has also been charged.
According to Williams, officers discovered the many medical violations taking place in the clinic when investigating claims that Gosnell had been illegally selling prescriptions of OxyContin and other commonly abused narcotics to persons whom he had never treated. That raises an important question: why did drugs bring on an investigation, when TWO women had died in abortions under Gosnell’s care? And why weren’t the previous reports of medical malpractice reason enough to have the office checked out, which hadn’t been inspected since 1993? What is most disturbing about this story is the fact that this office was registered with state agencies and allowed to operate for so many years. This wasn’t Macy Gray’s dirty living room in For Colored Girls. Women were able to look this doctor up and seek his services, fully believing he was a legit abortion provider
The horrifying details of Gosnell’s practices are just the sort of fodder that pro-lifers use to attack abortion. However, this is not normal. There are thousands of doctors who provide legal and safe abortions in sanitary conditions across the country each and every day. In fact, by reducing the ability of women to legally terminate their pregnancies, the need for ‘back door’ abortions will increase.
If you find yourself preparing to terminate a pregnancy, please visit your local Planned Parenthood or seek the consult of your general practitioner or OB-GYN. Google the doctor and the clinic and investigate their credentials. Make sure that the surgeon is actually licensed to perform abortions.