The criminal trial of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist on trial for murdering seven babies during a grisly procedure in which he or his assistant cut the newborns’ spinal cords, continues. Gosnell faces the death penalty for his actions at the clinic dubbed the “House of Horrors.” At least one woman is alleged to have died at Gosnell’s hands. Pennsylvania does not allow abortions after 24 weeks.
Philadelphia media and LifeSiteNews.com have been leading the coverage, while most national news outlets have tended to ignored the case. The New York Times reported on the first day of the trial:
Rebutting prosecution claims that Dr. Gosnell was profiting from the desperation of poor women, [Gosnell’s attorney] said his client had passed up lucrative positions in obstetrics and gynecology so that he could provide an essential service in West Philadelphia, where he performed more than 16,000 abortions over 31 years.
In 2011, Catholic News Service reported that the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation that would require abortion clinics to adhere to the same standards as other outpatient health facilities in the state. The measure, H.B. 574, mandated more stringent fire and safety regulations, personnel and equipment requirements, and adherence to quality assurance procedures as is currently required of the state’s ambulatory surgical facilities, such as laser eye surgery centers or colonoscopy clinics. The bill passed by a vote of 148 to 43 and will be sent to the state Senate. It began as a response to a grand jury report that detailed deplorable conditions at the Women’s Medical Society, a clinic that Gosnell ran in West Philadelphia. The report cited illegal late-term abortions that Gosnell performed there, which led to the death of one woman and at least seven newborn babies. The deaths, according to the report, resulted from “the reckless and illegal manner in which Gosnell operated his clinic.”
“The investigation of Gosnell’s government-approved clinic revealed filthy, unsafe conditions and evidence that unlicensed workers illegally treated patients,” Amy Hill, communications director for the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the state’s bishops said in a 2011 story by CNS. “Basic standards of cleanliness and infection control were not met. The office had no access for a stretcher in the case of an emergency. Exit doors were padlocked shut or blocked, resulting in a delay in the ability to respond in previous emergencies,” she said.
That year, according to CNS, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia set aside a potential grave site in the recently opened infant section of All Souls Cemetery in West Brandywine and sought contributions for a burial fund. The grand jury estimated that “hundreds” of late-term babies were born alive and killed in Gosnell’s clinic then stored in jars and containers, some in a freezer. The 2011 CNS report continued:
Robert Whomsley, director of the archdiocese’s Catholic Cemeteries Office, said at the time that he is “prepared to receive these children and bury them in whatever way the archdiocese decides.”
Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre said, “Every effort will be made to identify the babies as individuals and bury them that way. If there are body parts, we would probably bury them in a dignified manner, in one coffin.”
Besides providing dignity in death, Bishop McIntyre said the burial offer is “testimony to the church’s respect for all human life from the moment of conception to natural death.”
“If we can move people’s hearts through this story to see the true sacredness of all human life, then we can say that these infants did not die in vain,” he said.
No funeral can take place until Gosnell has been tried and exhausted his appeals. Until then, the babies, and parts of infants, must be held as evidence. The process could take months or even years.
The idea for a burial fund came from Rachael Tennyson Gallagher, a Bucks County mother of four adopted sons, who offered to make a gift and raise money from others.
Bishop McIntyre said donated money will be kept in the fund until the bodies are released, and that the fund “would pay for a memorial and other things, such as the caskets.”
Plans call for a Mass to be celebrated at which the public can pay their respects.
If donations exceed the funeral costs, Bishop McIntyre said the remaining money would be used to help bury other infants whose parents were unable to afford a funeral or a burial.
That year, the archdiocese issued the following statement in response to the Grand Jury investigation of the Women’s Medical Society:
It was both a shock and a horror to learn of the practices of Dr. Kermit B. Gosnell and his staff who now face criminal charges, including murder, in connection with the Women’s Medical Society at 38th Street and Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia, which was closed after a raid in February 2010. As Catholics, we believe in the dignity and sacredness of all human life from conception until natural death. The repeated actions of Dr. Gosnell and his staff were abhorrent and intrinsically evil in their disregard for the lives of the unborn and the welfare of the women who sought their services. The charges filed by the District Attorney’s Office today bear witness to these facts.
The report’s use of the language of “infants and babies” for the unborn and the charges of murder underscore our conviction that every child in the womb is created in the image and likeness of God.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia offers fervent prayers for all who have been affected by these heinous practices. We are prepared to assist with support services for the women who suffered these abortions and stand ready to provide proper burial at the appropriate time for the aborted babies previously stored in Dr. Gosnell’s office.
The Grand Jury Investigation can be found here: http://www.phila.gov/districtattorney/grandJury_WomensMedical.html
Here’s another 2011 story from Catholic News Service on Gosnell:
Doctor charged in baby deaths; Archdiocese calls actions ‘abhorrent’
PHILADELPHIA (CNS) — A Philadelphia doctor who routinely performed illegal late-term abortions for more than 30 years was charged in the death of a female patient and accused of murdering seven babies born alive in his squalid health clinic. A grand jury indicted Kermit B. Gosnell and nine associates Jan. 19 on dozens of charges in connection with the deaths of Karnamaya Mongar, 41, of Woodbridge, Va., and the newborn infants.
The indictment said the babies were killed when their spinal cords were severed with scissors. News of the practices in Gosnell’s West Philadelphia Women’s Medical Society prompted the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to offer “fervent prayers” for the victims, their families and all touched by “these heinous practices.” The archdiocese said in a statement: “The repeated actions of Dr. Gosnell and his staff were abhorrent and intrinsically evil in their disregard for the lives of the unborn and the welfare of the women who sought their services.”
The statement added: “We are prepared to assist with support services for the women who suffered these abortions and stand ready to provide proper burial at the appropriate time for the aborted babies.” At a news conference announcing the charges, District Attorney Seth Williams said the babies were born alive and viable. Williams also said it was likely that hundreds of other babies died at the clinic between its opening in 1979 and February 2010, when federal agents served warrants at the location and Gosnell’s home in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia.