The Norman Transcript

May 16, 2013

Jurors: Pennsylvania abortion doctor got greedy, lost his way

By Maryclaire Dale
The Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Dr. Kermit Gosnell proved a serene but solitary figure in the courtroom during his long murder trial, in contrast to the chaotic life he built as an inner-city doctor, abortion provider and father of six.

Jurors who convicted him this week of killing three babies born alive at his run-down west Philadelphia clinic thought he began his career with good intentions but then lost his way.

“He started out as a good, practicing doctor, but eventually it just became a money-generating machine,” juror Joseph Carroll said Wednesday, after Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison without parole. “Most of us felt it probably came down to a greed factor.”

Gosnell, 72, had been the rare black student from his working-class neighborhood to go to medical school. He became an early proponent of therapeutic abortions in the 1960s and ’70s and returned from a stint in New York City to open up a clinic in the impoverished Mantua neighborhood, near where he’d grown up, the only child of a gas station operator and government clerk.

His Women’s Medical Center treated the poor, immigrants and teens, offering free basic medical care to elderly people, many of whom were seen in recent years by unlicensed doctor Eileen O’Neill.

But Gosnell made millions performing abortions, charging up to $2,500 or more in cash if women were in their second- or third-trimester. District Attorney R. Seth Williams said Wednesday that Gosnell put women through labor, then killed their babies “because it’s cheaper to do that.”

Former staffers testified that Gosnell once performed mostly first-term procedures, perhaps 20 a night, along with a few later-term procedures. But that ratio reversed itself from 2000 to 2010, as Gosnell increasingly attracted women who were further along.

According to prosecutors, he routinely performed abortions after the 20-week limit in Delaware, where he also worked, and the 24-week limit in Pennsylvania. And he did the late-term surgical procedures in his clinic, while they were more typically done in hospitals.

Gosnell by then was also attracting lawsuits from women who said they were injured during botched abortions at his clinic. One woman said he left fetal remains inside her and a trial witness said she spent two weeks in a hospital with sepsis after an abortion at age 17 that allegedly took place when she was nearly 30 weeks pregnant.

Workers testified that the clinic deteriorated over the decade they worked there, as Gosnell cut costs by reusing disposable medical equipment that spread venereal disease and relied on unlicensed doctors and untrained staff to perform skilled medical care. The jury found that contributed to the overdose death of a 41-year-old patient who was sedated repeatedly by medical assistants.