Jan 21, 2011
Abortion house of horrors
Doctor charged with killing babies; he made fortune from illegal ops
The Women's Medical Society in Philadelphia where Kermit Gosnell conducted his illegal abortions - mainly for minorities, immigrants and poor women. --PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS
PHILADELPHIA: For over 30 years, Dr Kermit Gosnell made millions of dollars from performing illegal, late-term abortions, in several cases allegedly killing babies born alive by plunging a pair of scissors into their spinal cords.
Many of his patients were minorities, immigrants and poor women, who underwent illegal abortions in his 'house of horrors' clinic that was left in a filthy condition and staffed by untrained, unlicensed workers.
Few, if any, of them knew their babies were born alive and then killed, as they were heavily sedated. Many were first-time mothers who were told they were 24 weeks pregnant, even if they were further along.
Over the years, the clinic drew many complaints, but state regulators ignored them and stopped inspecting his clinic in 1993.
On Wednesday, the alleged horror made headlines after he was charged with eight counts of murder - for killing a patient and seven babies. Nine employees were also charged, including a teenage girl and his wife Pearl.
A 300-page grand jury report shocked listeners as the charges were read out. District Attorney Seth Williams said Gosnell, 69, induced labour and forced the live birth of babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy. Some were reportedly seen breathing and moving after being delivered.
'Gosnell killed them by plunging scissors into their spinal cords,' the district attorney said. 'He taught his staff to do the same.'
Mothers were subjected to squalid conditions at his Women's Medical Society, where Gosnell performed dozens of abortions a day. He worked mostly overnight hours after his untrained staff administered drugs to induce labour during the day, they said.
Many patients suffered from perforated uteruses and he sometimes sewed up their injuries without telling them, prosecutors said.
One operation led to the death of Ms Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old refugee from Nepal. She was said to have died of cardiac arrest because she was given too much painkiller.
Gosnell was not at the clinic at the time, but had directed his staff to administer the drug to keep the woman sedated until he arrived. Her death sparked a probe into the clinic early last year, with the authorities making a shocking discovery at his 'baby charnel house', as prosecutors put it.
Riddled with foetal remains and reeking of cat urine, the clinic had bags and bottles holding aborted foetuses scattered throughout the building. 'There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he kept for no medical purpose,' said Mr Williams.
Furniture and blankets were stained with blood, and medical equipment was broken and supplies reused. None of the employees had medical training, and one, a high school student, performed intravenous anaesthesia with potentially lethal narcotics.
'The real business of the 'Women's Medical Society' was not health, it was profit,' said the grand jury report. The clinic, it said, drew women who could not get abortions elsewhere as their pregnancy was in an advanced stage.
Serving patients in a low-income neighbourhood, Gosnell charged US$325 (S$420) for first-trimester abortions and US$1,600 to US$3,000 for abortions up to 30 weeks. Abortions are legal up to 24 weeks gestation in Pennsylvania, although most doctors will not perform them after 20 weeks, prosecutors said.
'People knew...that if you needed a late-term abortion you could go see Dr Gosnell,' said Mr Williams.
Gosnell had a medical degree from a Philadelphia university and was certified in family practice, but had not finished a residency in obstetrics-gynaecology.
'He does not know how to do an abortion,' said assistant district attorney Joanne Pescatore. 'He saw dollar signs and did abortions that other people wouldn't do.'
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, ASSOCIATED PRESS, NEW YORK TIMES
Gosnell's clinic had received many complaints over the years, but they were ignored by state regulators.