Stepping into the room, the FBI was flummoxed by the pungent smell of urine in the air and blood spilled on the floor. Originally there to search for illegal prescription drugs, officials stumbled upon an egregiously disturbing and disgusting situation. They found unsterilized, damaged, and outdated equipment and suction tubes for abortions; fetus remains in used household cartons and containers; and unlicensed and "fake" hospital personnel.
Atrocity and devastation have hit the globe hard this past month: explosions at the Boston Marathon, an earthquake that killed over 100 people in China, and an ongoing genocide in Syria. And somehow, the mainstream media has overshadowed one of the most unspeakable and barbaric stories involving Kermit Gosnell.
The description above is what was found on February 18, 2010 when the FBI raided the Women'’s Medical Society. Today, Gosnell, 72 years old, is finally on trial for numerous allegations including illegal medical malpractice, illicit abortions, and seven accounts of first-degree murder.
Here are four heart-wrenching and triggering stories that everyone should know about the Kermit Gosnell case:
1. Gosnell performed late-term "abortions" by inducing labor:
After 24 weeks, most pregnancies result in live babies, who can survive if they are appropriately nourished and given necessary medical treatment. However, Gosnell would "ensure fetal demise" and kill the baby "by sticking scissors into the back of the baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord." While hundreds of these "snippings" occurred, Gosnell astutely expunged the files, so only a few cases have been documented. According to the Grand Jury report, one baby "was breathing and moving when Gosnell severed his spine and put the body in a plastic shoebox for disposal." Another baby, born after 28 weeks, was discovered frozen in a gallon water bottle.
2. Gosnell allegedly performed forced abortions:
On January 31, 1998, 15-year-old Robyn Reid went to the Women’s Medical Society for an abortion with her grandmother After having some last minute doubts, Reid decided that she didn't want to go through with the procedure. But Reid was voiceless. "When I said no, the doctor got upset and he ended up taking my clothes off, hitting me, my legs were tied to the stirrups," she said. Reid didn’t wake up for 12 hours and when she awoke, the abortion was complete and she was in her aunt's house. When Gosnell was asked to comment, he said, "This is the same care that I would give to my own daughter."
3. Gosnell didn't even bother to provide the correct amount of anesthetic to patients:
According to the report from the Grand Jury, "Gosnell allegedly prepared a list of preset dosage levels to be administered in his absence. But no allowances were made for individual patient variations for any monitoring of vital signs." Whether the person was 300 pounds or 90 pounds, the dosage would be the same at the Women’s Medical Society. And while it knocked Reid out for 12 hours, it caused the death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar. Recently an immigrant from Bhutan, Mongar had been overdosed with cheap anesthetics by Gosnell's team and had eventually stopped breathing during the procedure. After failing to perform CPR and being unable to use the broken defibrillator, the paramedics were called. However, Gosnell's team covered up the poorly prepared abortion procedure and lied to the paramedics about the overdose, and consequently, the hospital did not know what to treat. Ultimately, there was no way to help her, given the extremely long waiting period to provide her assistance and the falsified information Gosnell’s team had provided.
4. It's not being reported on because the victims are poor and non-white:
Perhaps one of the greatest reasons why this story was not on the front page of every newspaper in the country is because the people targeted in these stories are typically the voiceless. Located in a lower socioeconomic area in West Philadelphia, Women’s Medical Society often served ethnic minorities, immigrants, and individuals who could not afford to go to better clinics. First-trimester abortions cost around $325, and after that they could cost between $1,600 and $3,000. Typically discriminated against in several contexts, atrocities against minority populations are often veiled by other shocking news. According to an article in the Atlantic, a previous employee said, "white patients often did not have to wait in the same dirty rooms as black and Asian clients. Instead Gosnell would escort them up the back steps to the only clean office … and he would turn on the TV for them." The employee continued to explain the discriminatory practices: "... if you had a white girl from the suburbs, oh, you better not medicate her. You better wait until he [goes in and talks] to her first. And one day I said something to him and he was like, 'that’s the way of the world.'"
Possibly the most terrifying aspect of this story is that this clinic was not a secret to Philadelphia. Several individuals, communities, hospitals, and government officials knew that it existed. Complaints had begun in 1989, but nothing had been done to chastise the Women's Medical Society. For so many years, those who were marginalized continued to be ignored.
Only recently has there been conversation about the issue, but why so late? There are so many conversations that need to be had — not just the abortion debate. What we need to talk about is reproductive justice, women’s rights, minority rights, and the way the media functions.