Murder trial of abortionist exposes 'culture of death'

By Tina Korbe Dzurisin
The Sooner Catholic

Editor's note: This story contains graphic details that are essential to the reporting of the case.

Now in its sixth week, the nationally significant capital murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Dr. Kermit Gosnell continues. 
Gosnell, 72, faces charges of seven counts of first-degree murder and one count of third-degree murder in the deaths of seven infants and an adult patient, Karnamaya Mongar, at his abortion clinic, Women's Medical Society in Philadelphia.

A 281-page grand jury report accuses Gosnell of shockingly gruesome practices at a clinic that trial observers have described as a "house of horrors" and "baby charnel house."

"He regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy -- and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors," the report states.

The prosecutors allege Gosnell murdered hundreds of babies in this way; investigators discovered documentary evidence to support seven first-degree murder charges.

According to the report, Gosnell operated in a fetid, unsanitary space in which cats were allowed to roam freely, furniture and blankets were stained with blood, and disposable medical instruments were used repeatedly.

The report also claims the abortionist kept fetal remains in freezers and baby feet in jars.

The abortionist earned millions of dollars in profits from the illegal practices he conducted at his clinic, which employed unqualified assistants and catered to women who were "too pregnant" to obtain abortions elsewhere.

A lack of governmental oversight is another element of the story: The report suggests that the Philadelphia Departments of Health and State — which licensed and approved Gosnell's facility — were repeatedly presented evidence of clinic violations, but chose to do nothing.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the clinic in February 2010 and, at that point, Gosnell's medical license was suspended. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the murders.

Since the trial began March 18, clinic workers — several of whom have themselves pleaded guilty to serious crimes — have given additional grisly testimony against Gosnell.

Stephen Massof, a former Gosnell worker, testified to snipping the spinal cords of babies, calling it 'literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body."

During busy times, when Gosnell gave labor-inducing drugs to patients to speed the process, "it would rain fetuses — fetuses and blood all over the place," Massof testified. "I felt like a fireman in hell."

For the first month of the trial, the case garnered little media attention, prompting grassroots activists on Facebook and Twitter to decry the media "blackout" and demand increased attention to a story with significant health policy implications.

"We've forgotten what belongs on Page One," USA Today contributor Kirsten Powers wrote in an April 11 column.

In response, several national news reporters expressed regret at the lack of attention to the case and pledged more comprehensive coverage of the remainder of the trial to come.

"We believe the story is deserving of coverage by our own staff, and we intend to send a reporter for the resumption of the trial next week," Washington Post executive director Martin Baron said April 12. "In retrospect, we should have sent a reporter sooner."

Jake Tapper, Erin Burnett and Anderson Cooper of CNN gave the story extensive coverage April 12. Reporters at Bloomberg, NBC, The Daily Beast and Politico, among others, also promised to give the story increased attention.