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Philadelphia Abortion Doctor Starts Trial for Murder

Update Date: Mar 18, 2013 02:29 PM EDT
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Prosecutors say that the case of Kermit Gosnell is not about abortion, but about murder.

The 72-year-old is being charged with first-degree murder for seven babies' deaths and third-degree murder with a woman's 2009 death after a botched operation.

His co-defendant Eileen O'Neill, an unlicensed medical school graduate, is being charged with participating in a "corrupt organization".

The other staffers in the clinic have all pleaded guilty.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Gosnell's abortion clinic was dubbed a "House of Horrors". Officials say that, when they raided the clinic in 2010, it was filthy and macabre. Fetus body parts were placed in jars and kept in the same refrigerator where staffers kept their food.

Prosecutors say that many babies were born alive, and that Gosnell would kill them by snipping their spinal cords.

The investigation by the prosecution found that, because women with late-term pregnancies were induced, babies were born in a recliner, or fell onto the floor or into a toilet, NBC News reports.

Prosecutors also allege that, in order to perform late-term abortions, Gosnell would fudge dates so that women's pregnancies were all 24.5 weeks. This was done because Pennsylvania law states that abortions, except in rare circumstances, are illegal after the 24-week mark. The prosecution also says that Gosnell violated the 24-hour rule in at least 200 circumstances, where women seeking abortions are supposed to receive counseling and wait 24 hours before having the procedure.

Prosecutors also state that the practice would make women pay for varying levels of anesthesia, and treated white women differently than women of color. Reportedly, white women would receive meetings privately in the doctor's office, while women of color did not receive the same treatment.

Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania issued a statement on the matter, saying, "Planned Parenthood strongly condemns the alleged actions of Dr. Kermit Gosnell...Planned Parenthood has never referred any patient to Dr. Gosnell's practice."

However, Gosnell's defense has cast the tale in a different light. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the defense says that the prosecution is redefining medical complications as murder. He says that the woman in question, Karnamaya Mongar, did not inform the practice that she had respiratory problems that made her vulnerable to anesthesia. She had arrived in the United States from Bhutan just four months before the incident.

He also states that none of the fetuses that Gosnell allegedly killed were born alive.

The defense states that the prosecution is attempting to apply Mayo Clinic-level standards to a clinic that served the urban poor.

 "It fits their needs, this elitist, racist prosecution, to make this a homicide," defense attorney Jack McMahon said in his opening statement.

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