January 20, 2011 — The Philadelphia district attorney has charged Dr. Kermit Gosnell with eight counts of murder for allegedly killing a woman and seven newborns, the New York Times reports. A 281-page grand jury report describes how Gosnell, a family practitioner not certified in obstetrics, performed abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy and employed staff members who were not trained medical professionals (Tavernise, New York Times, 1/19). The report states that Gosnell falsified state-mandated ultrasound reports in order to perform abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy, which is prohibited in Pennsylvania (DiFilippo, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/20).
According to the district attorney's office, Gosnell "regularly performed abortions beyond the 24-week limit prescribed by the law." As a result, some viable fetuses survived after the abortion procedure. Gosnell allegedly killed them "by plunging scissors into their spinal cords. He taught his staff to do the same," the office said (Wisenberg Brin, Wall Street Journal, 1/20). Seven of the murder counts involve the deaths of infants, and one count involves the death of Karnamaya Mongar, who had received an overdose of anesthesia while undergoing an abortion later in pregnancy. Nine of Gosnell's employees also were charged (New York Times, 1/19).
The grand jury report describes unsanitary conditions at the clinic, broken and reused medical equipment, and improper storage of aborted fetuses (New York Times, 1/19). The report further charged that Gosnell had sold narcotics to patients he had not examined. The clinic mostly served low-income, minority patients.
National Abortion Federation President Vicki Saporta said, "If the allegations are true, it is absolutely appalling. It is criminal." She added that NAF had rejected a membership for the clinic after an inspection showed the facility fell short of the group's standards in "numerous" ways (Wall Street Journal, 1/20).
The Pennsylvania Board of Medicine last year suspended Gosnell's medical license because of "an immediate and clear danger" to public health. The grand jury report also stated that government and licensing officials had received reports about practices at the clinic for nearly two decades and no action was taken (Wall Street Journal, 1/20). According to the report, the State Department and Board of Medicine received a complaint from a former clinic employee about 10 years ago, detailing the unsterile conditions of the clinic and unlicensed employees, but the department dismissed the complaint after it investigated the case but did not inspect the clinic.
The grand jury report also said Philadelphia hospitals did not report complications from abortions Gosnell performed, as required by state law. The grand jury suggested 15 recommendations to examine issues involved in the case, such as that there should be no statute of limitations for infanticide, that the state Department of Health should license abortion clinics, and that the Abortion Control Act should be amended to prohibit the mutilation of fetal remains (Shaw, Philadelphia Daily News, 1/20).
Debra Ness, publisher & president, National Partnership
Andrea Friedman, associate editor & director of reproductive health programs, National Partnership
Marya Torrez, associate editor & senior reproductive health policy counsel, National Partnership
Melissa Safford, associate editor & policy advocate for reproductive health, National Partnership
Perry Sacks, assistant editor & health program associate, National Partnership
Cindy Romero, assistant editor & communications assistant, National Partnership
Justyn Ware, editor
Amanda Wolfe, editor-in-chief
Heather Drost, Hanna Jaquith, Marcelle Maginnis, Ashley Marchand and Michelle Stuckey, staff writers
Tucker Ball, director of new media, National Partnership