Prosecutor on Handling Abortionist's 'Stained' Files: 'You Might Want to Use Gloves'

Elizabeth Harrington | April 17, 2013 | 5:06pm EDT
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Dr. Kermit Gosnell, charged with 7 counts of first-degree murder, killing babies born alive at his abortion office in West Philadelphia, Pa. (AP)

( Philadelphia, Pa. – More than three years after Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic was raided by the FBI, blood-stained files recovered from the Women’s Medical Society still smell from the clinic, which was  described by the grand jury as a “baby charnel house.”

Gosnell currently is on trial in Philadelphia for the first-degree murder of seven babies that were born alive during abortions and then killed, the third-degree murder of a woman, and a variety of related charges.

Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron presented dozens of files from patients at the clinic in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on Wednesday, all for women who underwent abortion procedures beyond 24 weeks, which is illegal in Pennsylvania.

When presenting the files to Gosnell’s attorney, Jack McMahon, Cameron cautioned, “You might want to use gloves.”

“The files smell,” he said.  “You might want to use gloves because there’s a red dried substance.”

Cameron offered the files as evidence of inconsistencies in the bookkeeping at Gosnell’s clinic.  He questioned Latosha Lewis, 31, who worked there for nearly a decade from May 2000 until it was shut down after an FBI raid on Feb. 18, 2010.

“It was not uncommon that some bodily fluids would get on the file, is that correct?” Cameron asked.

“Yes,” Lewis said.

Lewis agreed to testify against Gosnell after pleading guilty to federal drug distribution charges in connection with the case.

Fetal remains in plastic bags in a freezer in the Women's Medical Society abortion clinic run by Dr. Kermit Gosnell. (Grand Jury Report.)

Lewis received a “medical assistant” diploma from the Thompson Institute in West Philadelphia in 2000, but was not trained to conduct ultrasounds or administer anesthesia to patients, though she regularly did for Gosnell.

She was trained by Gosnell to give patients Cytotec to induce labor and Restoril to sedate them, but said she cut back on the dosage amounts after witnessing a woman who was over-drugged.  Lewis said the women were “going into labor too fast” because of the medication.

Gosnell is charged with third-degree murder for the death of Karnamaya Mongar, who overdosed on pain medicine she received at the clinic.

Lewis testified that the Women’s Medical Society was “not kept very clean,” but after Mongar’s death the clinic was cleaned from “top to bottom.”

“The reason why was because there was a woman coming from NAF [the National Abortion Federation] to have an inspection,” she said.  “The floors were stripped, the whole clinic was cleaned top to bottom.”

During cross-examination, defense lawyer McMahon dismissed the allegations about the unkempt clinic, saying, “An abortion clinic can get pretty messy.”

McMahon questioned Lewis about how often patients would not pay for their abortions, which could cost $1,600.  Lewis said a lot of times women would pay a little up front and never come back.

The Women's Medical Society abortion clinic at 3801-05 Lancaster Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. (Grand Jury Report)

“But it never stopped Doctor Gosnell,” McMahon said.  “He continued to do these procedures for people.”

McMahon also pointed to the patient files because nearly all contained consent forms that women signed before undergoing an abortion.  However, the prosecution noted the abortions were for babies after 24 weeks.

“Whether there’s a consent or not, you can’t do them,” Cameron said.

The trial of abortionist Gosnell is now in its fifth week.  Gosnell, 72, is charged with seven counts of first-degree murder (seven babies), one count of third-degree murder of a mother, as well as infanticide, conspiracy, abortion at 24 or more weeks, abuse of a corpse, theft, corruption of minors, solicitation and other related offenses.

The grand jury report presented in the case said that Gosnell murdered "hundreds" of born babies over the years, by either suctioning out their brains or slitting the backs of their necks to sever their spinal cords.

“[S]cattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains,” the report states.  “It was a baby charnel house.”

Testimony during the trial has revealed that 47 frozen fetuses were discovered at the scene when federal agents raided the clinic in 2010.  Other body parts were stored in cat food containers and water jugs.

The prosecution said it plans to rest its case on Thursday.


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