Pennsylvania prosecutors will seek the death penalty for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell in a state that has not executed an inmate in more than a decade.
In a case that has embarrassed state regulators, Dr. Gosnell is charged with killing seven live newborns and a woman who died from an anesthesia overdose at his inner-city Philadelphia clinic.
On Wednesday, prosecutors cited as aggravating circumstances the multiple deaths and ages of the victims at a preliminary hearing. Dr. Gosnell did not attend the hearing.
Dr. Gosnell’s attorney, Jack McMahon, said that, even if convicted, the 70-year-old physician would die of old age before a death sentence could be carried out.
Prosecutors said one of the abortion provider’s victims was Karnamaya Mongar, 41, a war refugee from Bhutan. Ms. Mongar had gone to Dr. Gosnell after a clinic in Virginia and a clinic in the District of Columbia refused to abort her second-trimester fetus.
Ms. Mongar’s daughter, Yashoda Gurung, told reporters Wednesday that she was waiting in the clinic with her uncle and other relatives during the procedure when she heard an ambulance. She became concerned, but a clinic worker told her that everything was fine.
“She said, ‘Your mom is good, don’t worry about that,’” Ms. Gurung told WCAU-TV, the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia.
Ms. Mongar eventually was taken to an emergency room and died from the anesthesia overdose administered by an unlicensed attendant.
Last month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett fired a half-dozen employees and announced changes in two departments, calling the level of state oversight of the clinics “despicable.”
“This doesn’t even rise to the level of government run amok. It was government not running at all,” Mr. Corbett, a Republican, said. “To call this unacceptable doesn’t say enough.”
Dr. Eli Avila, the acting state secretary of health, said Wednesday that he found the events described “not only disturbing but repugnant.”
Dr. Avila said new regulations were being prepared that will including at least one unannounced inspection of Pennsylvania’s 24 independent abortion clinics each year.
The state also plans a new online system, to be ready by the end of March, through which people will be able to report problems at the clinics. Dr. Avila said he plans to personally visit all 24 clinics.
Maria Vitale, education director of Pennsylvania Pro-Life, said she hoped the Philadelphia case would be a “wake-up call” that the state’s abortion clinics need to be subject to stricter scrutiny.
“I feel awful for everyone who has been impacted by these horrendous crimes,” she said, “including members of Gosnell’s family.”
Dr. Gosnell was arrested in January after a drug raid at his clinic. Federal agents discovered a freezer stuffed with bags of fetal remains, as well as jars of baby feet on a shelf in the filthy, bloodstained building. Investigators contend the doctor had killed the seven newborns by delivering them live and then snapping their spines with scissors.
Dr. Gosnell is being held without bail awaiting trial. Six other defendants also face charges. All had some role at the Women’s Medical Society clinic, which served mostly low-income minority women.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.