What I saw at the Gosnell trial
By J.D. Mullane J.D. Mullane can be reached at 215-949-5745 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter @jdmullane. | Updated 2 weeks ago
It is hard to decide the most appalling images to emerge Thursday at the murder trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell. What happened in his abortion clinic is beyond any morbid Hollywood horror.
Tiny severed feet and hands stored in jars over a sink in the “procedure” room.
Digitalis injected into the stomachs of pregnant women to stop the beating hearts of their unborn babies so that they would be born dead.
Survivor babies whose spinal cords were severed, whose brains were removed with suction, whose tiny bodies were placed in a waste bin for disposal.
Then there is commonwealth exhibit C-147, depicting a large baby balled in the fetal position, bloody, stuffed in a bin. “Big enough to walk me home,” joked Gosnell when he saw the child’s remains, testified Ashly Baldwin, a clinic employee.
Gosnell, 72, is charged with killing seven born-alive babies and causing the death of Karnamaya Mongar, 41, an immigrant from Nepal who had sought an abortion at his West Philadelphia clinic. The clinic was busy, doing brisk cash business, catering not only to local women in West Philadelphia, but also women from the affluent surrounding suburbs of Bucks and Montgomery counties. Gosnell’s reputation for no-wait abortions was so well known, women would fly in from other states.
The prosecution alleges that Gosnell’s clinic regularly delivered live babies in the third trimester and killed them by severing their spinal cords or a “snip,” which according to testimony is what Gosnell called the procedure.
On Thursday, when I was there, Ashly Baldwin, 22, testified that she began working at the clinic when she was 15. Though unqualified and unlicensed as a medical technician, she began medicating women, even administering injections with a butterfly needle, under Gosnell’s instructions.
She testified that she saw digitalis injected, and explained that its purpose in abortions is to kill the unborn child so “it would come out dead.”
But in some of the most horrifying testimony of the day, Baldwin described how she saw babies born alive, with hearts beating rapidly, some of them moving and “flinching,” and some making baby sounds or “screeching.”
Until the FBI raided his clinic in 2010, he had operated for 30 years at 3801 Lancaster Ave., in the clinic he called the “Women’s Health Society.”
There was little healthy about it. Bloody floors, dirty equipment. The filthy gynecological bed with stirrups on which Karnamaya Mongar went into cardiac arrest from a drug reaction, and later died, sat in the middle of the courtroom, in front of the jury.
Tina Baldwin testified that Gosnell treated women differently, based on their race. White women “with money” were taken to an “immaculate” upstairs room where Gosnell treated them personally. Poor black, Latino and other women were kept in the clinic’s dingy, dirty downstairs rooms, and were usually treated by medically unqualified staff.
Tina Baldwin said she asked Gosnell about why he treated white women differently from the others. She recalled him saying, “Sorry, but that’s how it is.”
Thursday’s testimony had sensational details. The court staff, convinced it would attract journalists from around the nation, has set aside three rows of seats to accommodate up to 40 reporters. But all Thursday morning, as Ashly Baldwin testified to horror after horror, only one reporter was in the reserved seating — me.
Several local news outlets were there, scattered about the mostly empty courtroom. The Philadelphia Inquirer had a reporter there. NBC10 sent a blogger for its website. The AP stopped in, but the reporter told me that resources are thin and trial coverage is not gavel to gavel.
An hour into afternoon testimony, Jon Hurdle of The New York Times showed up, and a few minutes later was gone.
The lack of daily media coverage for the most sensational abortion trial angers pro-lifers who said there is a “media black out” on the Gosnell trial.
I asked one of the court staff why so few are interested.
“If you’re pro-choice, do you really want anybody to know about this,” he said, motioning to the filthy medical equipment set up in the courtroom.
It’s a good point. As saturation coverage of the Sandy Hook elementary school coverage has caused Americans to reconsider the limits of the Second Amendment, saturation coverage of Kermit Gosnell’s clinic would likely cause the same reconsideration of abortion rights.
The details are that horrifying.