Who is Dr. Kermit Gosnell?
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, age 72, ran an abortion clinic for over 20 years in Philadelphia, now dubbed as the ‘House of Horrors.’ Gosnell allegedly performed illegal, late-term abortions (past the 24-week limit permitted by law), cutting the spinal cords of countless aborted babies. Gosnell also employed unqualified staff, including teenagers and two other “doctors” who were merely medical school graduates without a license. Gosnell allegedly made millions of dollars over his 30-year career and lucrative cash-only abortion practice, as well as by running a “pill mill,” prescribing drugs to addicts and drug dealers.
His clinic was called the Woman’s Medical Society.
[Pictured above: “severed fetal feet” found in the clinic. As noted in the Grand Jury Report, Gosnell reportedly sometimes kept these, as well as photos of his patients’ genitalia. Photo courtesy of the Grand Jury Report]
What is the timeline?
February 18, 2010: After 20 years in practice with almost no inspection by officials, law enforcement raids the clinic to seize evidence of Gosnell’s illegal prescription drug business. That is when the fetuses and dazed patients are noticed. His home is also raided, finding $240,000 in cash.
February 22, 2010: The Pennsylvania Board of Medicine suspends Gosnell’s medical license.
March 12, 2010: The Department of Health files papers to begin the process of shutting down the clinic.
May 4, 2010: The Philadelphia District Attorney submits the case to a Grand Jury. (The jurors would go on to review thousands of pieces of evidence and hear testimony from 58 witnesses). The clinic is shut down a few weeks later.
January 14, 2011: The scathing 261-page Grand Jury Report dubs the clinic “a house of horrors.”
March 18, 2013: Gosnell’s trial begins in Philadephia
What are the charges against him?
Among other charges, Gosnell faces 8 counts of murder: 7 first-degree counts of murder regarding the deaths of seven babies, and one third-degree murder charge regarding the death of a female patient, a 41-year-old refugee from Bhutan named Karnamaya Mongar who was given a lethal overdose of anesthesia and painkillers during a 2009 abortion.
If convicted, he faces the death penalty or could be sentenced to up to 100 years in prison. He will also face federal charges involving alleged distribution of painkillers to drug dealers and addicts.
What are some of the highlights of the 2011 Grand Jury Report?
The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.
The people who ran this sham medical practice included no doctors other than Gosnell himself, and not even a single nurse. Two of his employees had been to medical school, but neither of them were licensed physicians. They just pretended to be. Everyone called them “Doctor,” even though they, and Gosnell, knew they weren’t. Among the rest of the staff, there was no one with any medical licensing or relevant certification at all. But that didn’t stop them from making diagnoses, performing procedures, administering drugs.
Because the real business of the “Women’s Medical Society” was not health; it was profit. There were two primary parts to the operation. By day it was a prescription mill; by night an abortion mill. A constant stream of “patients” came through during business hours and, for the proper payment, left with scripts for Oxycontin and other controlled substances, for themselves and their friends. Gosnell didn’t see these “patients”; he didn’t even show up at the office during the day. He just left behind blank, pre-signed prescription pads, and had his unskilled, unauthorized workers take care of the rest. The fake prescriptions brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. But this drug-selling operation is the subject of separate investigation by federal authorities.
But the illegal abortion business also posed an additional dilemma. Babies that big are hard to get out. Gosnell’s approach, whenever possible, was to force full labor and delivery of premature infants on ill-informed women. The women would check in during the day, make payment, and take labor-inducing drugs. The doctor wouldn’t appear until evening, often 8:00, 9:00, or 10:00 p.m., and only then deal with any of the women who were ready to deliver. Many of them gave birth before he even got there. By maximizing the pain and danger for his patients, he minimized the work, and cost, for himself and his staff. The policy, in effect, was labor without labor.
There remained, however, a final difficulty. When you perform late-term “abortions” by inducing labor, you get babies. Live, breathing, squirming babies. By 24 weeks, most babies born prematurely will survive if they receive appropriate medical care. But that was not what the Women’s Medical Society was about. Gosnell had a simple solution for the unwanted babies he delivered: he killed them. He didn’t call it that. He called it “ensuring fetal demise.” The way he ensured fetal demise was by sticking scissors into the back of the baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that “snipping.”
Over the years, there were hundreds of “snippings.” Sometimes, if Gosnell was unavailable, the “snipping” was done by one of his fake doctors, or even by one of the administrative staff. But all the employees of the Women’s Medical Society knew. Everyone there acted as if it wasn’t murder at all.
Most of these acts cannot be prosecuted, because Gosnell destroyed the files. Among the relatively few cases that could be specifically documented, one was Baby Boy A. His 17-year-old mother was almost 30 weeks pregnant – seven and a half months – when labor was induced. An employee estimated his birth weight as approaching six pounds. He was breathing and moving when Dr. Gosnell severed his spine and put the body in a plastic shoebox for disposal. The doctor joked that this baby was so big he could “walk me to the bus stop.” Another, Baby Boy B, whose body was found at the clinic frozen in a one-gallon spring-water bottle, was at least 28 weeks of gestational age when he was killed. Baby C was moving and breathing for 20 minutes before an assistant came in and cut the spinal cord, just the way she had seen Gosnell do it so many times.
And these were not even the worst cases. Gosnell made little effort to hide his illegal abortion practice. But there were some, “the really big ones,” that even he was afraid to perform in front of others. These abortions were scheduled for Sundays, a day when the clinic was closed and none of the regular employees were present. Only one person was allowed to assist with these special cases – Gosnell’s wife. The files for these patients were not kept at the office; Gosnell took them home with him and disposed of them. We may never know the details of these cases. We do know, however, that, during the rest of the week, Gosnell routinely aborted and killed babies in the sixth and seventh month of pregnancy. The Sunday babies must have been bigger still.
[For photos of Gosnell’s late-term aborted babies, shown in the Grand Jury Report, click on pages 85, 102, and 115 of the report. Please proceed with caution, as these photos are highly disturbing.]
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