Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Abortion doctor guilty over deaths

Dr Kermit Gosnell is seen during an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News (AP)

A Philadelphia abortion doctor has been found guilty of first-degree murder and could face execution in the deaths of three babies who authorities say were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his grimy clinic, in a case that became a flashpoint in America's debate over abortion.

Dr Kermit Gosnell, 72, was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the drug-overdose death of a patient from Bhutan who had undergone an abortion. He was cleared in the death of a fourth baby, who prosecutors say let out a soft whimper before he snipped its neck.

The jury will return May 21 to hear evidence on whether Gosnell should get the death penalty.

Former clinic employees testified that Gosnell routinely performed illegal late-term abortions past Pennsylvania's 24-week limit, that he delivered babies who were still moving, whimpering or breathing, and that he and his assistants "snipped" the newborns' spines, as he referred to it.

"Are you human?" prosecutor Ed Cameron snarled during closing arguments as Gosnell sat calmly at the defence table. "To med these women up and stick knives in the backs of babies?"

The grisly details came out more than two years ago during an investigation of prescription drug trafficking at Gosnell's clinic in an impoverished section of West Philadelphia.

Authorities said the clinic was a foul-smelling "house of horrors" with bags and bottles of stored foetuses, including jars of severed feet, along with bloodstained furniture, dirty medical instruments, and cats roaming the premises.

Pennsylvania authorities had failed to conduct routine inspections of all of its abortion clinics for 15 years by the time Gosnell's facility was raided and closed down. In the scandal's aftermath, two top state health department officials were fired, and Pennsylvania imposed tougher rules for clinics.

Four former clinic employees have pleaded guilty to murder and four more to other charges. They include Gosnell's wife, Pearl, a cosmetologist who helped perform abortions.

Both sides of the abortion divide seized on the case. Abortion foes said it exposed the true nature of abortion in all its disturbing detail. Abortion rights activists warned that Gosnell's rogue practice foreshadows what poor and desperate young women could face if abortion is driven underground with more restrictive laws.

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