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National News

May 1, 2013

Guide to Philadelphia abortion doctor murder case

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is on trial, charged with murder, in the deaths of a female patient and four babies prosecutors say were born alive at the abortion clinic he ran. A look at the facts in the case:

THE INVESTIGATION

In 2010, federal agents who were raiding Gosnell’s clinic in search of drug violations instead stumbled upon “deplorable and unsanitary” conditions, including blood on the floor and parts of aborted fetuses in jars.

State regulators shut down the Women’s Medical Society clinic in west Philadelphia and suspended Gosnell’s license.

THE GRAND JURY REPORT

A nearly 300-page grand jury report released in 2011 described Gosnell’s clinic as a filthy, foul-smelling operation that was overlooked by regulators. The district attorney called it a “house of horrors.”

Prosecutors said Gosnell made millions of dollars over three decades performing thousands of dangerous abortions, many of them illegal late-term procedures. The clinic had no trained nurses or medical staff other than Gosnell, a family physician not certified in obstetrics or gynecology, yet authorities say many administered anesthesia, painkillers and labor-inducing drugs.

The grand jury report stated furniture and blankets in Gosnell’s clinic were stained with blood, instruments were not properly sterilized and disposable medical supplies were used repeatedly. Bags, jars and bottles holding aborted fetuses were scattered throughout the building, which reeked of cat urine because of the animals allowed to roam freely.

State regulators ignored complaints about Gosnell and the 46 lawsuits filed against him and made just five annual inspections since the clinic opened in 1979, investigators said. Several state employees were fired and two agencies overhauled their regulations after the allegations.

THE CHARGES

Gosnell is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of four newborns and third-degree murder in the 2009 death of a 41-year-old Bhutanese refugee who prosecutors say received lethal doses of sedatives and painkillers at the clinic while awaiting an abortion. He also is charged with violating Pennsylvania abortion law by performing abortions after 24 weeks, operating a corrupt organization and other crimes.

He pleaded not guilty and has remained held without bail since his arrest. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the infant deaths.

Prosecutors estimated Gosnell ended hundreds of pregnancies by inducing labor and cutting the babies’ spinal cords and caused scores of women to suffer infections and permanent internal injuries, but they said they couldn’t prosecute more cases because he destroyed files.

Eight clinic workers including Gosnell’s wife, a beautician accused of helping him perform illegal third-term abortions, have pleaded guilty to a variety of crimes. Three of Gosnell’s staffers, including an unlicensed medical school graduate and a woman with a sixth-grade education, pleaded guilty to third-degree murder for their roles in the woman’s overdose death or for cutting babies in the back of the neck to ensure their demise.

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