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Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - Page updated at 05:30 a.m.
PA abortion clinic worker describes cutting babies
By MARYCLAIRE DALE
A jury weighing murder charges against a Philadelphia abortion provider heard grim testimony about unorthodox procedures used on inner-city clinic patients.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, faces the death penalty if convicted of killing seven late-term babies after they were born alive. He is also charged with third-degree murder in the overdose death of a 41-year-old refugee who sought an abortion in 2009.
Medical assistant Adrienne Moton admitted Tuesday that she had cut the necks of at least 10 babies after they were delivered, as Gosnell had instructed her. Gosnell and another employee regularly "snipped" the spines "to ensure fetal demise," she said.
Moton sobbed as she recalled taking a cellphone photograph of one baby because he was bigger than any she had seen aborted before. She measured the fetus at nearly 30 weeks, and thought he could have survived, given his size and pinkish color. Gosnell later joked that the baby was so big he could have walked to the bus stop, she said.
Defense lawyer Jack McMahon disputes that any babies were born alive and challenges the gestational age of the aborted fetuses.
Jurors saw Moton's photograph of the boy called "Baby A" on a large screen in the courtroom, which took on a bizarre look Tuesday as witnesses testified near a hospital bed with stirrups and other aging obstetric equipment. Denied the chance to bring jurors to the shuttered inner-city clinic, prosecutors are instead recreating a patient room in court.
The mother of "Baby A" testified later in the day, describing a painful three-day abortion process that started at Gosnell's other clinic in Delaware. She was 17, had an infant daughter and was told by Gosnell she was 24 weeks pregnant - the legal limit in Pennsylvania, but not in neighboring Delaware, where abortions are banned after 20 weeks.
The woman said she given abortion drugs in Delaware and sent home each of the first two days, then was directed to the West Philadelphia clinic the third day to have the fetus expelled. She was in severe pain by then, pain that only worsened the following week, she said.
Her aunt had taken her to the clinic and paid the $1,300 fee, and they had not told her mother.
"I never felt pain like that, ever," the woman said. "I couldn't talk to anybody and tell anybody."
But the teen ended up being hospitalized for two weeks with a large abscess and a blood clot near her heart. Prosecutors say she is one of countless patients injured during botched abortions or unsanitary conditions.
Moton, 35, had lived with Gosnell's family during high school because of problems at home, then went to work for him years later. She earned about $10 an hour - off the books - to administer drugs, perform ultrasounds, help with abortions and dispose of fetal remains from 2005 to 2008.
She once had to kill a baby delivered in a toilet, cutting its neck with scissors, she said. Asked if she knew that was wrong, she said, "At first I didn't."
Abortions are typically performed in utero.
Moton has pleaded guilty to third-degree murder, which carries a 20- to 40-year term, as well as conspiracy and other charges. She has been in prison since early 2011, when Philadelphia prosecutors arrested Gosnell, his third wife, Pearl, and eight other employees. Most of them have pleaded guilty and are expected to testify.
McMahon told jurors in opening statements Monday that Gosnell returned to the impoverished neighborhood after medical school when he could have struck it rich in the suburbs. He called the prosecution of his client, who is black, "a lynching."
But prosecutors believe Gosnell made plenty of money over a 30-year career using cheap, untrained staff, outdated medicines and barbaric techniques to perform abortions on desperate, low-income women.
And they say he made even more on the side running a "pill mill," where addicts and drug dealers could get prescriptions for potent painkillers. Authorities found $250,000 in cash under a mattress when they searched his home in 2010.
The trial resumes Wednesday morning.
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