Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dr. Kermit Gosnell and the Philadelphia Abortion Mill

Inside the Clinic

Published 03/15/2012


Exterior view of the clinic on the corner of <br />38th St. and Lancaster Ave.
Exterior view of the clinic on the corner of
38th St. and Lancaster Ave. More Photos
For over 30 years, Dr. Kermit Gosnell ran the Women's Medical Society in Philadelphia. Ostensibly, this was a women's health clinic, where abortions were performed, but also where women could get check ups and prescriptions.

In a normal clinic, the walls are white, the lights are bright, and everything is sterilized and sparkling clean.

In Dr. Gosnell's world, the walls, the furniture, the chairs, the hospital beds, were bloodstained. The surgical tools used to operate on women often went uncleaned between patients. Fetal parts were kept in the freezer and in jars that lined the hallways. Medical equipment -- tools used for saving lives -- were broken and corroded. The office was a dangerous maze of narrow hallways, which made moving women from floor to floor or room to room difficult.

But these unsanitary conditions were only part of the egregious violations that Gosnell and his cast of unsavory characters allegedly performed on a regular basis at this clinic.

The Grand Jury investigation report overseen by District Attorney R. Seth Williams is a mind-boggling 281 pages -- enough for a novel.

For several months, according to the Grand Jury report, Gosnell had been carelessly handing out prescriptions for drugs like Oxycontin. This is perhaps the only reason he was caught. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Philadelphia Police Department, and the Dangerous Drug-Offender Unit busted into Gosnell's clinic on February 18, 2010. While their aim was to find evidence supporting their drug-trafficking charges -- they instead saw that Gosnell's clinic had entirely different problems -- problems that seemed far more serious.

According to the Grand Jury investigation, the conditions inside were described by the agents as: "filthy," "deplorable," "disgusting," "very unsanitary, very outdated," and "horrendous."

"There was blood on the floor. A stench of urine filled the air. A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets."

An examination chair at the clinic.
An examination chair at the clinic. More Photos
What investigators learned as they began interrogating the employees and going through the files, is that Dr. Gosnell didn't run a health clinic -- he ran a death clinic.

Dr. Gosnell and several of his employees are charged with killing one adult woman, and seven newborn babies. It is alleged that he and his staff killed babies by severing their spinal cords with scissors after they were born from induced labor. Countless others are alleged to have been delivered into a toilet by the women, and fished out later so as not to clog the pipes.

In the state of Pennsylvania, the cut off date for a late-term abortion is 24 weeks. The gestation period is determined by ultrasound. Women who elected to have a late-term abortion must wait 24 hours before undergoing the procedure; and they must receive counseling about other options.

In Dr. Gosnell's clinic, ultrasounds were routinely fudged to show that the women were not as far along in their pregnancies. Counseling and 24-hour waiting period were waived in lieu of cold, hard cash.

When he wasn't killing babies or patients, the Grand Jury report alleged, he was infecting women by not using sterilized tools. He spread venereal disease from patient to patient -- oftentimes young women from poor backgrounds and immigrant communities. During his surgical procedures, he would often puncture and perforate women's wombs. They would later need hysterectomies or further surgery. Often, they would be deprived of being able to have babies. Sometimes, according to the report, he'd leave behind fragments of the fetuses, causing his patients to get infections and nearly die. When they would get so sick that they would need to go to an emergency room, Gosnell and his staff would refuse to let them go. It didn't matter: the hallways were too narrow to transport patients on a gurney. And the emergency exit was padlocked; the key was hard to find, and the lock harder to open.

The clinic was open for over 30 years; and despite numerous reports and incidents, it had never had a full inspection by the heath authorities in the state. There is a now lawsuit underway brought by the family of one of the victims.

We're Following
Slender Man stabbing, Waukesha, Wisconsin
Gilberto Valle 'Cannibal Cop'