Jurors at the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell have heard shocking testimony about the conditions at his “House of Horrors” – the Women’s Medical Society in Philadelphia. Gosnell, who potentially faces the death penalty, was charged with seven counts of first-degree murder for killing late-term babies born alive as well as one count of third-degree murder for the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a refugee from Bhutan.
Gosnell killed the seven babies by severing their spines. Prosecutors claim that all of them were killed after the 24 week abortion limit in Pennsylvania. Mongar, who came for an abortion at 19 weeks gestation, died of a Demerol overdose.
The trial, which started on March 18, is being heard before the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas presided by Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart. Gosnell’s attorney, Jack McMahon, said that the prosecution was conducting “a prosecutorial lynching” because Gosnell is black and his abortion facility catered to poor women. “If you want Mayo Clinic standards, then you go to the Mayo clinic,” he said.
The prosecutor said the issue was murder, not race. “The baby is alive, you’re a doctor, you have to do the minimum,” said assistant district attorney Joanne Pescatore. “If it moves, breathes, has a pulsating umbilical cord, you can’t kill it. That’s murder.”
Adrienne Moton, former medical assistant at the abortion facility who had two of her own abortions done by Gosnell, was paid $10 per hour to give drugs, do ultrasounds, assist in abortions, and dispose of the bodies. She testified that she took a cell phone photo of one baby she killed, which she believed was at 30 weeks gestation and could have survived. Gosnell joked that the baby was big enough to walk to the bus stop.
Shayquana Abrams, who at 17 was so heavily drugged during the abortion that she could not remember it, told the court that her aunt paid Gosnell $2,750 in cash to have the procedure done. After the abortion, she faced serious pain, heavy bleeding, and vomiting. She could not walk and had to stay at the hospital for two weeks to treat a blood clot near her heart and an abscess on her right side the size of a grapefruit. Even today, she suffers from fatigue, stress, and headaches.
The defence denies that Gosnell conducted abortions after the 24 week limit in Pennsylvania and that the babies were born alive. McMahon claimed that the babies were injected with Digoxin (which causes cardiac arrest) and the spinal cords were snipped to make sure that the babies were dead. The medical examiner and the toxicologist, though, could not find any evidence of these injections, suggesting that the children born alive were killed by having their spinal cords snipped.
While Mongar’s record showed that she was given 150 milligrams of Demerol, a forensic toxicologist found 710 micrograms in her blood. McMahon disputed this and claimed Mongar died because respiratory problems that she hid from Gosnell made her more vulnerable to Demerol. Patients could allegedly choose between “twilight,” “heavy,” or “custom” anaesthesia based on how much they paid and were largely unmonitored afterwards.
Jars with preserved aborted baby feet were found at the abortion mill. Gosnell told Morton that it was in case patients wanted them for DNA samples. “There are alternate ways of preserving DNA,” Daniel Conway, a neonatologist at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, testified.
Pescatore suggested in her opening remarks that the feet were kept as a “trophy” by Gosnell.
Elizabeth Hampton, Gosnell’s former employee and sister-in-law, testified that Gosnell allowed white women to wait in the office of Steven Massof because it was cleaner than in the facility. Black women were never given this privilege and waited in a room that smelled like cat urine.
One of Hampton’s cleaning duties was to dump the bottle from the suction machine that filled with blood and fetal remains into a wash sink, grind the contents, and illegally dump them down the drain. She also testified that she gave Mongar twice the recommended dose of a uterine stimulant while she was in a stupor in the recovery room.
Steven Massof, who graduated from medical school in Grenada but could not obtain a residency in the U.S., was offered an illegal “residency” by Gosnell in 2003. Massof later did abortions and reported that he saw over 100 babies born alive who then suffered “literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body.” When the abortion facility was busy, women were administered contraction-inducing drugs at the same time, causing it to “rain fetuses, fetuses and blood all over the place.”
Sherry West, a former employee who administered drugs and IVs, testified that she was called to help with an 18-to-24 inch baby without eyes in a glass pan “screeching, making this noise” that “sounded like a little alien,” which “freaked (her) out” and made her leave the room. She also reported that she called the murdered babies “specimens” because it made it “easier to deal with mentally.” Ashley Baldwin, who started working for Gosnell when she was 15, also said she saw live born “moving” babies and that one was “screeching” as Gosnell killed it.
Lynda Williams, a worker with an eighth grade education and certification as a “phlebotomist,” was asked by Pescatore if she knew she was committing murder. “I only do what I’m told to do,” she said. “What I was told to do was snip their neck.” One day, after a patient delivered her baby into the toilet while Gosnell was absent, Williams followed his instructions by stabbing the baby’s neck with scissors, after which the arm “jumped.” Gosnell told her that the baby was already dead.
James Johnson, who worked as a janitor, plumber, and maintenance man at Gosnell’s abortion mill, said that his job was to put abortion remains into the basement. The babies were ejected by the patients into the toilets and would clog the plumbing one to two times per week. Johnson would open the outer clean- out pipe and scoop up the body parts that spilled out into a bag which would subsequently be deposited into the rat-infested basement.
The trial is expected to last until the middle of May.