This news is not for the faint of heart: Philadelphia police say that 69-year-old Dr. Kermit Gosnell has been running an illegal late-term abortion house of horrors, one in which fetuses born alive after six to eight months of gestation had their spinal cords fatally cut by scissors, and one patient died from an anesthetic overdose.
Gosnell and two other unlicensed and untrained staff of the Women's Medical Society clinic — Adrienne Moton and Lynda Williams — were arraigned yesterday and held without bail. A total of nine employees of the clinic have been charged. NBC Philadelphia reports that according to a grand jury report (warning: This PDF document has graphic details), Gosnell killed at least two women and hundreds of babies during his 30 years in practice, and was the "go-to guy" for illegal abortions past 24 weeks of pregnancy, netting $1.8 million in one year for his activities.
A day earlier when their charges were announced, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said that he was aware abortion is "a hot-button topic," but his job was to carry out the law. "A doctor who knowingly and systematically mistreats female patients, to the point that one of them dies in his so-called care, commits murder under the law. A doctor who cuts into the necks, severing the spinal cords of living, breathing babies who would survive with proper medical attention, is committing murder under the law."
The investigation began February 2010 when police received tips that Gosnell was illegally selling thousands of Oxycontin prescriptions to "patients" he had never examined.
After two patients allegedly died from complications in Gosnell's Women's Medical Society at 38th Street and Lancaster Avenue, authorities served the abortion doctor with search warrants for his practice and his home in Mantua last April.
In the clinic, FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents found abhorrent conditions, which included jars packed with severed baby feet lining the shelves; bags and bottles of aborted fetuses scattered throughout the office; bloodstained furniture and floors; and unlicensed employees who regularly injected sedatives into women having illegal, late-term abortions, according to Williams.
SOURCE: NBC Philadelphia
That this could have gone on as long as it did is horrifying. Regulators failed to follow up on complaints about what was going on at the squalid clinic, according to the grand jury that indicted Gosnell. The desperate women who sought out Gosnell were largely poor women of color, and as is too often the case, their plight was ignored.
This is not about the right to safe, legal abortions, because what Gosnell is alleged to have done is illegal in Pennsylvania. It is about upholding the law and looking after the health of the state's most vulnerable.
In other news: Michael Steele Says GOP Needs 'More Brothers.'
Sheryl Huggins Salomon is senior editor-at-large of The Root and a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based editorial consultant. Follow her on Twitter.