After weeks under the radar, the Philadelphia trial of an abortion provider accused of killing seven prematurely born babies is now gaining serious press attention and even President Obama is following the coverage.
But the White House wouldn’t say Monday whether Mr. Obama has drawn any conclusions from the gruesome testimony that pro-life groups have complained has not gotten the national media attention it deserves.
“The president is aware of this,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in response to a reporter’s question of whether Mr. Obama is paying attention to the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.
But asked if Mr. Obama has reached any public-policy lessons from the abuses and shoddy practices being aired in the trial, Mr. Carney said, “The president does not and cannot take a position on an ongoing trial.”
Dr. Gosnell is on trial for murder and other charges in connection with an alleged “house of horrors” abortion clinic in a poor inner-city Philadelphia neighborhood. In testimony Monday, Philadelphia’s chief medical examiner told jurors he could not be sure if any babies were born alive at the now-shuttered abortion clinic.
Dr. Sam Gulino said he examined 47 fetuses recovered from the clinic run by Dr. Gosnell after a 2010 FBI raid. However, Dr. Gulino said many of the bodies had been stored in a freezer, complicating his examinations because some fetal tissue degraded as it thawed, the Associated Press reported.
Prosecutors maintain that Dr. Gosnell or his untrained staff killed at least seven babies after they had been born alive. The doctor’s defense lawyer has denied the charge, attributing any movement seen by staff to involuntary responses and saying the charges were in part motivated by racism against the doctor, who is black.
Earlier in the day, Dr. Charles Benjamin, one of about four abortion providers left in Philadelphia in the wake of Dr. Gosnell’s arrest two years ago, drew stark comparisons between his work and Dr. Gosnell‘s. Dr. Benjamin said he doesn’t do abortions after 21 weeks gestation, or three weeks shy of the 24-week limit in Pennsylvania.
He said that he has registered nurses on staff to monitor patients, and that only he or a nurse anesthetist give anesthesia, unlike Dr. Gosnell’s clinic, where workers hired to clean instruments have testified that Dr. Gosnell trained them to administer potent intravenous drugs.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell said Monday “bureaucratic incompetence” from health officials and not political forces fostered a dangerous climate at the doctor’s clinic.
“I can guarantee you it wasn’t because of political pressure, because if you’re pro-choice like I am, you want guys like this found, arrested, convicted you want those clinics closed,” Mr. Rendell, a Democrat who served as governor from 2003 to 2011, told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show.
The gruesome details of the case are grabbing the attention of Republicans and Democrats alike, although politicians have different views on what it means for public policy.
Sen. Christopher Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, told MSNBC that the Philadelphia situation is a “horrendous case, and any time there are outliers like this, government should come in and crack down.”
“That has nothing to do with keeping abortion safe and legal for people who want to do it within the confines of the law,” Mr. Murphy said.
But Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Tennessee Republican, told the program it was about time that someone paid attention to the trial.
“It has been horrifying to me, and I am really thankful that the media is beginning to cover that case, because it is atrocious,” Mrs. Blackburn said.
She said the charges are proof that federal funds should not be used for abortion.
Federal funding bills often include “Hyde Amendment” language that prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion, although it’s not a permanent law.
•This article was based in part on wire service reports.