After 10 days of deliberations, a Philadelphia, Pa., jury convicted abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell on Monday of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of three infants born alive at his medical clinic. He was also pronounced guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old refugee from Bhutan who died after having an abortion at his clinic.
Gosnell was also pronounced guilty of 16 counts of violating the state's informed consent requirements, and guilty of 21 counts of performing abortions after 24 weeks of gestation, the legal limit in Pennsylvania.
Gosnell, 72, was charged with four counts of first-degree murder for allegedly cutting the spinal cords of third-term babies he delivered alive. He also faced one count of third-degree murder in the death of Mongar, and more than 200 other charges related to racketeering, performing illegal late-term abortions, and failing to comply with Pennsylvania's 24-hour waiting period requirement for abortions.
Abortion rights advocates applauded the verdict and said the Gosnell case highlights the need for access to safe, high quality, and legal abortion. Gosnell ran a medical clinic in West Philadelphia that catered mostly to poor, minority women. The clinic was shuttered after authorities raided it and discovered what the prosecution in the case characterized as a "house of horrors."
“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.
“From the lack of funding available for low-income women to access abortion services, to the sharp decline of reputable providers in Pennsylvania, to the gross negligence of authorities to enforce the law after complaints were filed against Gosnell, each aspect of this case must be a teachable moment for lawmakers: Until we reject the politicization of women's medical care and leave these decisions where they belong -- between a woman and her family and her doctor -- women will never be safe."
Susan B. Anthony List, an anti-abortion group, reacted to the verdict as well on Monday:
“The greatest tragedy is that Kermit Gosnell is not alone. Exploitation of women and complete disregard for their health and well-being are problems endemic to the entire abortion industry,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “There are numerous examples of negligence and even death in abortion facilities across the country. Now is the moment to realize that abortion is neither safe, nor rare. Abortion is a brutal, painful procedure, both for the child that it kills and the woman that it wounds. We must protect children both inside and outside the womb who experience unspeakable pain from abortion."
While the Gosnell trial has energized anti-abortion advocates and lawmakers seeking to restrict access to abortion, a Gallup poll released last week showed little change among Americans' opinions of the issue since the case became public. About a quarter of respondents said abortion should be legal in all circumstances, 20 percent said it should be banned without exceptions, and slightly over half (52 percent) of people said the procedure should be legal under some or most circumstances -- a ratio that has held steady since 1975.
Dr. Charmaine Yoest, president of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, blamed the poll results on a lack of media coverage of the trial.
"While you're not seeing the roadblock coverage you normally would with a case this sensitive and horrifying, it still happened, it's still real, it's part of the public record," she said. "So that's going to be part of the challenge to us and to pro-life legislators, to communicate the reality of this case."
"In any movement, it takes time to affect change, and so I don't expect it to be overnight," Yoest added. "But I think over the long-term, Gosnell is going to be a question that has to be addressed by the abortion industry."
The National Abortion Federation, a professional association of U.S. abortion providers, rejected Gosnell's application for admission in January 2010 because his clinic did not meet their guidelines for safety and quality of service. Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the NAF, told The Huffington Post in a phone interview that her inspectors did not witness any illegal activities at Gosnell's clinic at the time, or they would have reported him to local authorities.
Saporta said that abortion is still the safest medical procedure in the country and that the Gosnell trial should not be used to justify politically motivated regulations on abortion clinics.
"Abortion opponents try to use anything they can to further their goal of limiting women's access to abortion care, and they've seized on the Gosnell trial as a way to call for more regulations," she said. "But Pennsylvania already had very strict regulations in place. The problem was that they weren't enforcing them, not that they needed more."