Coverage of the trial of Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell

Obama Talks About Gosnell Trial

The president says he's aware of the murder trial involving Dr. Kermit Gosnell

By Vince Lattanzio
|  Wednesday, Apr 17, 2013  |  Updated 10:13 PM EDT
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In an interview with the TODAY Show, President Obama says he's aware of the trial of former abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.

In an interview with the TODAY Show, President Obama says he's aware of the trial of former abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.

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President Barack Obama says he's "familiar" with the murder trial of former abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell.

In an exclusive interview on the TODAY Show Wednesday, host Savannah Guthrie asked Obama whether he's been following the trial which has been playing out in a Philadelphia courtroom.

Obama said he was aware of the case, but that he couldn't comment specifically since the trial is ongoing.

The president did, however, offer his thoughts on providing abortions. Citing comments by former President Bill Clinton, Obama says he believes "abortion should be safe, legal and rare."

"If an individual carrying out an abortion, operating a clinic or doing anything else is violating medical ethics, violating the law, then they should be prosecuted," he said.

Gosnell is accused of performing illegal, late-term abortions and killing babies that were alive.

The 72-year-old faces first-degree murder charges in the deaths of seven babies. Prosecutors allege Gosnell snipped the fetuses' spinal cords with scissors to kill them.

Investigators testified they found deplorable conditions inside Gosnell's West Philadelphia clinic, the Women's Medical Society. Dirty instruments, fetuses stored in freezers and baby feet preserved in jars were found inside the clinic.

Former Gosnell employees told the jury gruesome details about their time working at the clinic.

Stephen Mastoff, who acted as an unlicensed doctor at the clinic, said "it would rain fetuses." Another employee, Sherry West, testified she was disturbed when a baby made a screeching noise during a procedure.

"It sounded like a little alien. It really freaked me out," West told the court.

Ashley Baldwin, a third employee who was 15-years-old when she worked for Gosnell, said she saw at least one baby's chest move during a procedure.

Gosnell also faces third-degree murder charges in the death of his patient Karnamaya Mongar. The 41-year-old died after being given a lethal dose of pain killers and anesthesia.

Defense attorney Jack McMahon said the babies were given drugs to terminate them inside the womb and were not born alive.

McMahon said his client, who is black, is the victim of "an elitist, racist prosecution." He also likened the trial to a "lynching."

McMahon told the court officials could not apply "Mayo Clinic" standards to Gosnell's inner-city clinic when discussing the former facility's conditions.

The trial is in its fifth week and is expected to last several more. If convicted of first-degree murder, Gosnell will face the death penalty.

NBC10.com has been covering the Gosnell "House of Horrors" trial extensively. We have daily reports from inside the courtroom. Visit our "House of Horrors" section for more.

 


Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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