In the clink …

Friday 07 February 2014 10.37


By Washington Correspondent Richard Downes

Dr Kermit Gosnell’s House of Horrors was well-known to the local community of West Philadelphia.

His reputation was as sleazy as it comes. He was the “go-to” doctor if you wanted a late term illegal abortion. But you had to pay cash … and lots of it. This was sketchy but not cheap.

Before we go on to the details of the case, it is important to remember a couple of points. Firstly, abortion is totally legal in the United States and is openly available in the state of Pennsylvania up to and including the 24th week of pregnancy. Secondly, after that an abortion is still possible, if the life of the mother is threatened in any way.

What we’re talking about here is a doctor who was outside this regime. A rogue doctor, in truth.

Testimony in the case showed that in the distant past, Dr Gosnell had been a very conscientious doctor. His records were well kept and the clinic was apparently run in a reasonable fashion.

But as time went on, the doctor appeared to become greedier and greedier and he was prepared to go way outside the law to keep himself in the luxury, to which he had become accustomed.

It all started to unravel with a raid at the clinic by the Federal authorities. They weren’t initially interested in abortion-related activities. They were chasing allegations that the doctor was effectively selling prescriptions to drug addicts.

What they found horrified them.

The clinic was filthy. A flea-ridden cat had free access to the entire building, including the operating “theatre”. Everywhere was grim: dirty linen, disgusting instruments and evidence that the mean doctor re-used cheap disposable instruments.

They could hardly believe what they found and as they gave evidence in the courtroom in Philadelphia, they were clearly revolted by what was found.

In the end the jury agreed with almost all of the prosecution case. Dr Gosnell was a monster. When botched late term abortions were performed and the babies were born alive, he took a scissors and “snipped” their necks in three cases. He murdered the babies, when it was his clear legal duty to try to revive them.

Those who spoke up for Dr Gosnell pointed out the lack of proper medical services in the poor part of Philadelphia he served. They said he had been a careful guardian of the local community, although even his most ardent supporters seem to concede that he went astray in recent years. And how astray! It may cost him his life.

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