Gosnell ran a Philadelphia abortion clinic that specialized in low-income and immigrant clientele. Over twenty years he carried out countless thousands of abortions but did so in conditions that were nothing short of appalling.
The grand jury report is as startling, as nauseating as any you’ll ever read. “This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy—and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels—and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths.” The doctor was Kermit Gosnell and, justly, he is now in prison, charged with three counts of first degree murder, one count of involuntary manslaughter, and an extensive list of lesser crimes. His story is told by Ann McElhinney and Philem McAleer in their book Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer.
As vile as the grand jury report is, it hardly does justice to the reality. Gosnell ran a Philadelphia abortion clinic that specialized in low-income and immigrant clientele. Over twenty years he carried out countless thousands of abortions but did so in conditions that were nothing short of appalling. A former employee once filed a report with authorities that described some of the most startling violations:
Choung described how Gosnell had untrained workers performing specialized medical work. She included herself in this group. Uneducated, semiliterate workers were administering anesthesia and doing ultrasounds; the clinic was filthy, and two flea-infested cats roamed the procedure rooms, where Gosnell would eat sandwiches. The clinic reused single-use medical equipment. An autoclave sterilizer for abortion instruments didn’t work properly, and a worker who had AIDs hand-washed the instruments. Gosnell would sometimes have a bowl of cereal as he was performing an abortion.
There is more. He performed abortions on children who had been dragged in against their will. He kept jars of baby feet on his shelves. He performed abortions far beyond the limitations of the law. What he did was despicable and unconscionable. Yet for years, authorities did nothing. In fact, on a number of occasions they described his practice as clean, suitable, and up-to-code. It was only after he was found to be running an opiates mill that the authorities were finally forced to act. Gosnell’s practice was shut down and he was jailed. But by then he had stolen thousands or tens of thousands of lives.
Gosnell is a very difficult book to read, primarily because its subject is such a monstrous individual who did such harm to so many people. Yet I consider it an important book to read for a number of reasons.
First, it shows that the medical system will protect those who are engaged in abortion. It must do this, because it cannot allow people to see and know the true horror of abortion. Thus inspectors and administrators who ought to have shut down the clinic and bring charges against Gosnell refused to do so. They even protected him, despite his gross violations of medical standards and ethics.