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Editor’s Note: This article deals with extremely-disturbing themes and subjects. Please be advised.
During Monday’s court proceedings, Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s lawyer, Jack McMahon, echoed what pro-life advocates have long argued: That abortion is a violent (or “rough,” as he termed it) act, particularly when the unborn are further along in their development. And TheBlaze was in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania courtroom to see the attorney’s controversial arguments first-hand.
In defending his client in front of the judge and jury, McMahon said of abortion, “The process itself is kind of rough. You go in with forceps…[you may go in and pull out an arm, a leg].” What he was essentially admitting here is that the procedure involves, in many cases, dismemberment — an unpleasant detail that may not always be considered when debating whether or not an abortion is a “woman’s right.”
While it’s hard for those not in the courtroom to understand why McMahon would make such a proclamation, his rationale was clear, as the lawyer explained that his client’s alleged horrific actions presented to the court on Monday are consistent with what one would expect to see in a “normal” abortion procedure.
So, while the images of cut-off fetal feet, dismembered babies and other related charges seem horrifying, the defense seemingly went the extra mile to explain that these elements are commonplace — or, at the least, not unexpected, when it comes to abortion.
Initially, the argument seemed odd as I sat in the courtroom listening, but upon reflection, strategically, it makes sense. If McMahon can prove that abortion is gruesome and that his client was merely participating in its legal practice, then the notion that his client did nothing out of the ordinary is a bit stronger.
This is the latest development in the Gosnell case, which has been particularly striking, because it has offered — and continues to deliver — a rare glimpse into the abortion process — one that exposes its violent (or “rough”) nature. Regardless of where one stands on the issue, this is undeniable: Abortion isn’t a pleasant experience for any of the parties involved.
This fact struck me throughout the day, as images and testimony painted immensely chilling pictures.
Courtroom photos, almost unbearable to look at, corroborated this notion, as they showed aborted babies from Gosnell’s clinic, ranging in gestational age — but fully formed. The photos and the alleged details, combined, paint some pictures about what abortion really consists of — and it seems McMahon used this description in the defense of his client.
To say that I felt uncomfortable throughout the day would be an understatement, as the discussions, at moments, forced me to hold back from cringing or visibly reacting to what was being said.
Entering its fifth week, the trial’s events on Monday consisted mainly of prosecutors continuing to call witnesses to the stand. After Dr. Charles Benjamin, one of Philadelphia’s few remaining abortion providers, spoke, the majority of the time was spent with Dr. Sam Gulino, the chief medical examiner of the City of Philadelphia, on the stand.
While Benjamin focused on outlining the proper protocols for conducting abortions (which painted a stark contrast to the allegations against Gosnell), Gulino’s testimony was focused on his first-hand experience analyzing the fetal remains taken from the embattled doctor’s clinic.
Gulino told the court that his office handles odd or uncommon deaths — or a sudden expiration that occurs among an otherwise healthy person (this includes suicide). An expert in forensic pathology, he detailed the role he has had in the case since 2010: Examining the remains of the 47 babies that were stored at the clinic.
Following the FBI raid on Gosnell’s clinic, the Women’s Medical Center, in 2010, authorities delivered the remains to Gulino over the period of a few months, ranging from February to October of that year. What they were stored and delivered in, though, according to the witness, raised some eyebrows in the courtroom.
Severed feet and pieces of tissue were kept in specimen containers and were purportedly submerged in formaldehyde. One contained a “lower extremity,” which he described as being part of the pelvis and a complete right leg. While pictures of this weren’t shared with the jury, the description created a troubling mental picture for me as I imagined what the doctor was describing.
These five containers — all delivered to Gulino’s office in June 2010 — were labeled with dates (the feet were one of the many indicators he used to figure out the fetal age of the babies through a heel to toe measurement).
But other samples were not delivered in such an organized manner. Gulino told the court that he also received large bags filled with various containers. These containers were not described as being medical in nature; in fact, juice jugs and other similar, mostly-unlabeled non-medical holders were said to house additional fetuses — and the remains were reportedly frozen.
Among the container types mentioned? A distilled water jug and a cherry-limeade container. And the most shocking? As Gulino described: “It was a container that you would have either cat or dog food in.”
The fetal remains were also said to be mixed with medical supplies, including rubber gloves, gauze, cervical dilators — and “bloody liquid.” For those who embrace pro-life sentiments, the notion that remains would be dumped with what appears to be mere garbage will likely be troubling. But the containers and the odd elements added in were the least of authorities’ problems — at least according to the forensic expert.
“It was the first time I had to deal with fetal remains that had been frozen,” the doctor said, going on to note that the freezing created a plethora of complications, making it more difficult to properly analyze the babies’ remains.
Gulino described painstakingly and slowly defrosting the fetal parts in an effort to slow decomposition and to properly analyze them. At issue was the medical professional’s ability to tell whether the babies were born alive and then killed — something that the effects of the freezing has left up in the air.
If the lungs contained air, then it would have been evident that the babies had potentially been born before being killed. That said, none of the fetuses in the Gosnell case were found to possess air in their lungs. It’s possible, then, that these babies were terminated before birth (which is entirely legal, pending they were aborted before the five-month period) or that the freezing process rendered the benchmark unmeasurable (Gulino said that the effects of freezing and defrosting could impact this indicator).
Naturally, part of the process was determining gestational age, a process that relied upon a number of factors, including height, weight and length of the foot, as mentioned. In the end, Gulino ended up with estimates — and at least one of those exceeded the 24-week limit for abortion in the state of Pennsylvania. Again, these are round-about figures, thus it’s difficult to tell definitively how old the baby was.
Of the 47 bodies analyzed, Gulino estimated that 17 were terminated during the first trimester and more than two dozen in the second trimester. While these fall below the 24-week point, the forensic expert believes that two additional fetuses were past that mark (at about 26 and 28 weeks of gestation). That said, there seems to be some uncertainty, as McMahon pointed out — and Gulino agreed — that these estimates aren’t definitive and can vary.
The condition of these bodies was chilling, as Gulino said that two of them that were estimated to be at or beyond the 20-week mark were incomplete. One of the babies was missing a left arm at the elbow and the other one was described as “partially fragmented.” His or her feet were severed at the lower leg and the right hand was removed at the wrist. Again, the images were uncomfortable to conjure.
It was in cross-examining the medical expert that McMahon entered into his explanation about abortion procedures being “rough.” In addition to explaining that what was found at the clinic is essentially par-for-the-course when it comes to this procedure, he seemingly attempted to explain the curious containers used to store frozen remains.
Considering that the fetal remains would be disposed of, he alluded to the fact that these containers were not surprising (he differentiated between these and the other specimen containers that held fetal feet — the latter of which were stored to be saved and preserved).
Perhaps most notably on the defense side, McMahon was able to get Gulino to admit that there is no evidence that the babies in question were born alive — something that is clearly key to trying to prove Gosnell’s innocence, as the doctor is on trial for eight alleged murders (the death of a female adult and for purportedly killing seven babies after birth with scissors).
While Gosnell is rebuffing some of the claims against him, TheBlaze has covered the shocking allegations in detail. As reported, in March, Adrienne Moton, a medical assistant at the clinic, provided sickening details about her alleged actions at the clinic, claiming that she snipped the spines of at least 10 babies; she said that another worker — and Gosnell himself — did the same. But that’s not the worst part. Moton also claimed that she once killed a baby after it was delivered in a toilet by cutting its neck with scissors. Moton plead guilty and has been in prison since 2011.
And that’s just a sliver of what’s been claimed (read the other allegations here).
At moments, the courtroom was tense, as Gosnell fluctuated between watching testimony and taking notes. I couldn’t help but watch him throughout the day. He remained relatively measured throughout.
There were a few unpredictable moments of note. Toward the end of the proceedings, the judged snapped at McMahon, who was becoming agitated at the prosecution. “You’ve got to act like a lawyer,” Judge Jeffrey Minehart barked.
The case will continue today and TheBlaze will update you as it progresses. The trial is still weeks away from concluding.