A Philadelphia judge Wednesday ordered an immediate trial for abortion clinic doctor Kermit Gosnell, his wife and eight employees on murder, conspiracy and other charges, saying a 300-page grand jury investigation detailing the filthy conditions and brutal practices at the clinic made a preliminary hearing unnecessary.
With Dr. Gosnell appearing in court in a T-shirt and jeans, Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes cited testimony to a grand jury by some 62 witnesses about the conditions at the now-closed Women's Medical Society, where federal investigators say the illegal clinic's practices left two women dead and routinely killed late-term babies by creating an incision in their necks and then severing their spines with scissors.
Pro-life forces, energized by the Republican gains of the midterm elections, have cited the case and other abuses as a reason to tighten government policies on funding and oversight for abortion services.
Two Pennsylvania state senators announced separate investigations into the failure of state health agencies to regulate the Philadelphia clinic, which first opened in the late 1970s.
Maria Vitale, education director for Pennsylvania Pro-Life, said that her organization is deeply concerned, and that they would want to see yearly inspections at abortion facilities and tougher regulations.
"We hope that the General Assembly will be proactive in taking action to ensure the health and safety of women and babies throughout Pennsylvania," she said.
In Washington, a leading House Republican, Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, said Wednesday that undercover videotapes that appear to show Planned Parenthood clinic employees offering advice to a faux "pimp" and services for underage "prostitutes" are just the latest evidence that Congress needs to cut funding for the organization.
The videos, shot by the anti-abortion group Live Action and released online, apparently show Planned Parenthood clinic workers agreeing to provide "confidential" services for prostitutes as young as 14. The offer was made to a man and a woman posing on the tapes as a pimp and a prostitute.
In an interview with "America's Morning News," a radio talk-show affiliated with The Washington Times, Mr. Pence said the videos are "heartbreaking evidence employees of Planned Parenthood … facilitating, essentially, the abuse of a minor and sex-trafficking.
"There's nothing really new in these tapes. We've been seeing this kind of behavior by Planned Parenthood organizations … for a number of years," the Indiana Republican said.
Mr. Pence said he is pushing Congress to support the Title 10 Abortion Providers Prohibition Act, which would "cut off what is in excess of $350 million in taxpayer money that flows into Planned Parenthood through Title 10."
Planned Parenthood officials, who immediately fired one employee seen offering the counseling, have insisted the videos do not give an accurate picture of its overall safeguards and have ordered new training for clinic counselors.
In the Philadelphia case, officials at the pro-choice National Abortion Federation have noted that Dr. Gosnell had been rejected when he applied for membership because "his facility did not meet NAF's standards for quality care."
Federal investigators say a raid of Dr. Gosnell's clinic, which catered to a largely poor, inner-city clientele, uncovered containers and bags of fetal parts that had been frozen for three decades. The clinic reeked of urine, the floor was stained with old blood, and a shelf was lined with jars of baby feet, according to the 260-page grand jury report.
Dr. Gosnell arrived in court Wednesday with Jack McMahon, a prominent Philadelphia criminal lawyer specializing in high-profile defense cases. The judge denied a request for a public defender after it came to light that Dr. Gosnell and his wife owned at least a half-dozen real estate properties.
• David Eldridge contributed to this report.
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