Gruesome photos, testimony mark first days of Gosnell's murder trial

by Whitney Williams
Posted 3/21/13, 12:55 pm

The defense lawyer for a Philadelphia abortionist who allegedly killed seven babies born alive tried Wednesday to prove the first baby died in the womb and that the mother was not as far along as the prosecution claims.

A young woman who was 17 when she chose to terminate “Baby A” gave hours long testimony in Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s murder trial, which began Monday.

According to the prosecution, the expectant mother was almost 30 weeks pregnant when she arrived at Gosnell’s facility. One of Gosnell’s medical assistants, who earlier testified that the spines of late-term babies were routinely severed with scissors after delivery, added to that claim, saying she was disturbed by the baby’s size and rosy color.

But Gosnell’s defense lawyer, Jack McMahon, said no babies survive after the drug digoxen is injected into the womb. Gosnell gave the drug to the teen, according to her medical records, which also show her aunt paid $2,750 in cash to take the baby’s life. McMahon also tried to show the teenager’s pregnancy could have been less advanced than originally thought.

Even if she was not as far along, prosecutors maintain she was well beyond the 24-week abortion limit in Pennsylvania. Gosnell initiated a three-day outpatient procedure on the teen in 2008 in Deleware, where the limit is 20 weeks. The baby arrived, alive according to prosecutors, in Gosnell’s facility in West Philadelphia.

The medical assistant, Andrienne Moton, said she was so concerned by the baby’s lively appearance that she took a photo of it using her cell phone. Moton testified this week that the tiny necks of late-term babies were routinely cut with scissors after delivery “to ensure fetal demise,” acknowledging she herself killed at least 10 babies using this technique.

Gosnell, 72, is charged with first-degree murder in the seven infant deaths, and third-degree murder in a patient's death from an anesthetic overdose. He faces the death penalty if convicted in the infant deaths.

The jury, made up of seven men and five women, along with five alternates, suffered through graphic testimony and photographs throughout the day, including one that showed an approximately 2-inch slash in the back of a baby's neck.

Dr. Daniel Conway, a Philadelphia neonatologist with St. Christopher's Hospital, testified even premature babies, born in the second trimester, feel pain. He said doctors define them as "born alive" if they have a heartbeat. At that point, he said, they are taken care of as patients and, at a minimum, kept comfortable, even if they are thought too young to survive.

As for viability, Conway said babies of 27 to 30 weeks have an 85 percent chance of survival, with a low risk of serious disabilities. At 22 to 24 weeks gestation, the chances are not good, he said.

The gestational age of the baby in question remains to be determined. The prosecution isn’t denying the age of the other six.

Click here for WORLD’s recent coverage of the case and Kermit Gosnell.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Listen to a report on the Kermit Gosnell case on WORLD’s radio news magazine The World and Everything in It.

Whitney Williams

Whitney is a member of WORLD's development team.

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