The Philadelphia doctor whose late-term abortions were carried out in an alleged "House of Horrors" was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder Monday.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, was also found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a woman after a late-term abortion. He was acquitted of a fourth charge of first-degree murder. After 10 days of deliberation, the jury could not reach a verdict on two other charges against the Philadelphia physician, the Associated Press reported.
Gosnell was accused of severing the spines of babies born alive at his Women's Medical Society clinic in West Philadelphia. The clinic was shut down by the FBI following a 2010 raid over his high-volume distribution of painkiller drug prescriptions. Authorities stumbled upon abortions being performed late at night amid allegedly filthy conditions. They reported finding 47 aborted fetuses stored in refrigerators at the clinic.
Prosecutors claimed Gosnell treated women with unsterilized equipment and untrained workers, while performing more than 1,000 abortions a year on an "assembly line" of patients. Three of seven first-degree murder charges were dismissed when the court ruled the prosecution had failed to provide evidence the infants had been born alive. A 300-page grand jury report in 2011 said there had been hundreds of babies born alive, only to have their spines severed, at Gosnell's clinic.
"Gosnell had a simple solution for the unwanted babies he delivered," the report said. "The way he ensured fetal demise was by sticking scissors into the back of the baby's neck and cutting the spinal cord. He called that 'snipping.'"
Killing infants in the womb has been protected as a constitutional right since the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973. The high court has, however, upheld both state and federal bans on a certain type of late-term procedure, known as partial-birth abortion, in which an infant is partially withdrawn from the womb and his or her skull is punctured and collapsed.
According to the grand jury report, Gosnell's "House of Horrors" had blood on the floor and reeked of urine. Many of the women who came to the clinic were infected with sexually transmitted diseases from contaminated instruments or had been given overdoses of dangerous drugs, the report said.
Despite repeated complaints to state officials and 46 lawsuits filed against Gosnell, state regulators had conducted only five inspections of the clinic since it opened in 1979. Pennsylvania authorities had failed to conduct routine inspections of all of its abortion clinics for 15 years by the time Gosnell's facility was raided and closed down, the AP reported. Two top state health department officials have since been fired, and tougher rules for clinics have been imposed.
Gosnell's attorneys argued that the doctor provided care to poor, minority women and that the prosecution was "racist" and elitist" in pursuing their case against him, the AP reported. But pro-life groups hailed the verdict as a victory for human rights.
"We see this as a triumph of justice," said Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, a group that has taken a lead role in efforts to enact anti-abortion laws in state legislatures.
"This case was about infanticide," Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List wrote in an e-mail to supporters. "Gosnell's attorney tried to argue that squirming, crying babies weren't alive, that they didn't have rights." Gosnell's case, she wrote, is but "the tip of the iceberg" of the abortion industry.
"Kermit Gosnell's actions are not rare," said Dannenfelser, "They are the product of the abortion lobby's ideology."
Photo of Dr. Kermit Gosnell: AP Images