“House of Horrors” Comes to Court

Prosecutors bring operation table, medical equipment into the courtroom as mother of baby allegedly killed by Gosnell testifies

On day three of the murder trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, prosecutors brought the clinic to the courtroom.

Prosecutor Joanne Pescatore placed an operating table, medical equipment and supplies from Gosnell’s clinic, the Women’s Medical Society, in the middle of the third-floor Philadelphia courtroom.  In her opening arguments Monday, she told jurors how she wanted to take them to the clinic, but was unable.

“We’re going to bring that facility to you. You’re going to live it with us,” she said.


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Prosecutors say investigators found dirty instruments and blood-stained blankets and recliners inside the clinic at 3801 Lancaster Avenue. Cats roamed freely throughout the building, according to prosecutors and court documents.

Gosnell, 72, is charged with the murder of seven babies and a woman. He's accused of performing late-term abortions and severing the spinal cords of babies who were born alive.

Shay’Quana Abrams, the mother of one of those babies, continued her testimony about an abortion she had performed by Gosnell. In court, her child is referred to as Baby A.

Abrams said she was 17-years-old when she sought out an abortion and initially saw Gosnell in a Delaware abortion clinic. The woman says she thought her pregnancy was only 17 to 19 weeks along, but that Gosnell told her the ultrasound showed Baby A was 24 weeks old. That’s past the legal limit for performing abortions in Delaware, but within limits for Pennsylvania.

Abrams received a three-day abortion in 2008. On day one, Gosnell gave her dilation pills after the ultrasound. The next day, she was given a shot of digoxin, a drug meant to stop the baby's heart.

"I felt movement Friday and I felt movement Saturday...," Abrams said of the baby as she underwent the multi-day procedure. "I couldn't stand. I was having a lot of pain, nausea, vomiting..."

The woman went to Gosnell's Philadelphia clinic on the third day to finish the procedure. Abrams says she spent nearly 12 hours inside and did not remember signing consent forms.

On cross-examination, Gosnell’s attorney, Jack McMahon, showed her several consent documents with her signature. One of those documents stated she would receive medication to cause fetal demise.

Abrams testified: “I don’t remember exactly what I signed." However, she admitted the forms were signed in the presence of her aunt, who paid $2400 for the procedure.

While Abrams was told her baby was 24 weeks along, a former employee says the baby was much older.

Former clinic employee Adrienne Moton testified Tuesday that Baby A was 29-weeks old when it was aborted. Prosecutors claim Gosnell snipped the baby's spinal cord from the back of its neck.

Moton said Baby A was so big, she took a picture of it with her cell phone following the procedure. Jurors were shown that photo during her testimony.

Prosecutors allege that when Gosnell performed illegal late-term abortions, he changed the information on ultrasounds to cover up the real fetal age.

Pescatore says Gosnell didn't cover his tracks well-enough. Ultrasound records show Baby A was 24-and-a-half weeks old, which is over the legal limit.

Testifying in court Wednesday, Dr. Daniel Conway, an expert in the treatment of premature infants, agreed with Moton's age assumptions.

"I wouldn't be surprised if this baby was 27, 28, 29 weeks," Conway told the court.

After examining a photo of Baby A in the fetal position, Conway says he was able to estimate its age based on the baby's skin texture and visible hair. He believes the baby could have survived if born that day.

"That baby survives and survives well...an infant born at 27, 29 weeks...85-percent of the time do very well," he said.

Abrams, who is now 21-years-old, says she experienced severe complications after her abortion. She testified that she developed an abscess the size of a grapefruit in her right side and a blood clot in her heart. She says she was hospitalized for two weeks because of the complications.

McMahon maintains Gosnell is not liable for the complications since they were outlined in the consent forms.

Gosnell has pleaded not guilty. He has maintained that the purpose of his clinic and medical practice was to give vulnerable women and teens the medical care they needed.

He could get the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder in the death of the seven babies whose spinal cords were cut with scissors.

Gosnell also faces third-degree murder in the death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar. Mongar died in 2009 after receiving a lethal dose of anesthesia and pain killers during an abortion procedure.

Experts are expected to testify about conditions inside the clinic Thursday. The trial is expected to last several weeks.

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