In a case that attracted national attention, Philadelphia inner-city abortion provider Kermit B. Gosnell was found guilty of first-degree murder Monday in the deaths of three born-alive babies by “snipping” their spines.
Pro-life advocates quickly praised the results but warned that Gosnell is not the only abortionist who flouts laws or engages in grisly activities.
“How many women, girls and infants must die before the abortion industry is held accountable?” asked Charmaine Yoest, president and chief executive of Americans United for Life.
“If Gosnell had severed the spines of those babies before delivering them, many of their deaths would have been legal. America needs to think long and hard about the morality of that,” said Rep. Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican and one of several members of Congress who have asked for reports on late-term abortions from all state departments of health.
“We are ecstatic about these verdicts. Justice was done. This could spell the end of Roe v. Wade,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue.
But pro-choice groups that also applauded the jury’s verdicts urged the country to distinguish Gosnell from reputable providers.
“This case has made clear that we must have and enforce laws that protect access to safe and legal abortion, and we must reject misguided laws that would limit women’s options and force them to seek treatment from criminals like Kermit Gosnell,” said Eric Ferrero, spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“Justice was served to Kermit Gosnell today, and he will pay the price for the atrocities he committed,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America. “We hope that the lessons of the trial do not fade with the verdict. Anti-choice politicians, and their unrelenting efforts to deny women access to safe and legal abortion care, will only drive more women to back-alley butchers like Kermit Gosnell,” she said.
The jury will return May 21 to hear evidence on whether Gosnell should get the death penalty. He has been in prison since a January 2011 report dubbed his West Philadelphia clinic “a house of horrors.”
The 72-year-old physician also was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 overdose death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Virginia woman who was given high levels of sedatives by untrained medical assistants in the clinic. Gosnell was cleared in the death of a fourth baby, who prosecutors say let out a soft whimper before he snipped its neck.
His attorney, Jack McMahon, told reporters after the verdict was read that his client was “disappointed and upset,” but praised the jury for working methodically through more than 260 charges. He said he thought the doctor got a fair trial but the defense felt at times like “salmon swimming upstream” because of the negative media coverage of his client.
Co-defendant Eileen O’Neill, 56, was convicted on several counts of conspiracy, helping to run a corrupt organization and “theft by deception” by providing medical services when she was not a licensed doctor.
On Tuesday morning, a group of black pastors, including the Rev. Alveda King, director of African-American outreach for Gospel of Life Ministries, plan to hold a news conference and go to Capitol Hill to ask lawmakers to investigate whether there are “other Gosnells” in other clinics and whether poor and minority communities are being targeted for abortion clinics.
Pro-choice supporters strongly refute such claims about clinics.
The Gosnell case reverberated far beyond Philadelphia after pro-life groups complained that major media outlets were ignoring the findings about his Women’s Medical Society clinic.