Criminal Justice

Abortion Doc Charged with 8 Murders; 9 Clinic Workers in Custody, 4 Also Face Murder Charges

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A physician whose medical license was suspended after a raid last year on his Philadelphia abortion clinic has been charged with 8 counts of murder.

Nine of the untrained workers at Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s now-shuttered clinic are also in custody, and prosecutors say four clinic employees face murder charges, too, reports the Associated Press.

District Attorney Seth Williams, who announced the charges today, described Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society as a “house of horrors” where low-income, minority and immigrant women were treated in squalid conditions and viable infants born after labor was induced in late-term abortions were killed by severing their spinal cords with scissors, the news agency reports.

Of the eight murder counts against Gosnell, 69, seven concern babies and the eighth concerns a woman patient who allegedly died of cardiac arrest after being given too much Demerol, the article says.

The clinic, where abortions were mostly performed at night after labor was induced during the day, hadn’t been inspected by regulators since 1993, despite complaints, the AP reports. However, Williams said no criminal charges against state workers were justified.

Authorities stumbled on the situation while investigating drug complaints early last year, finding what Williams described as aborted fetuses in containers “scattered throughout the building” and jars lining shelves holding severed feet that were retained for no medical purpose.

The clinic is accused of using unsanitary instruments and allowing unlicensed individuals, including a high school student, to give anesthesia and perform abortions, reports the New York Times.

Attorney William J. Brennan, who represented Gosnell while the case was being investigated, says that he is innocent until proven guilty and notes that he treated low-income patients in an underserved community for decades.

Pennsylvania has one of the most restrictive laws in the country concerning late-term abortions, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Among other provisions, it requires pathologist review of fetal tissue when abortions are performed after 20 weeks of gestation and outlaws abortions after 24 weeks, except when “necessary to preserve maternal life or health.” It also requires medical treatment of a viable newborn by a second doctor present “in the same room” if this might be the result of an abortion.

Gosnell allegedly ignored these requirements and falsified documentation concerning late-term abortions, the Inquirer reports.

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