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Gosnell waives appeal, avoids death penalty

WASHINGTON (BP) — Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell has waived the right to appeal his murder convictions in order to avert a possible death sentence.

Gosnell received three consecutive life terms without parole for the first-degree murders of three babies after their deliveries at his Philadelphia abortion clinic, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Judge Jeffrey Minehart sentenced Gosnell to two of the life sentences Tuesday (May 14) and the third Wednesday (May 15).

The longtime abortion doctor, 72, faced the possibility of capital punishment after the May 13 murder convictions. The Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury that convicted Gosnell was scheduled to begin the sentencing phase of the trial May 21, but his decision to forego his appeal rights for life sentences made those deliberations unnecessary.

The three babies Gosnell was convicted of murdering were only some of hundreds at least six months into gestation who were killed outside the womb after induced delivery at a clinic marked by deplorable, unsanitary conditions, according to a 281-page report issued by a grand jury in 2011. Gosnell, who destroyed the records in most of those deaths, or a co-worker typically killed the living children by a technique he called “snipping” — jabbing scissors into the back of a baby’s neck and cutting the spinal cord.

In a trial that began March 18, jurors also found Gosnell guilty of involuntary manslaughter, instead of third-degree murder, in the 2009 death of Karnamaya Mongar, 41, after an abortion. In addition, the jury convicted him of 21 of 24 counts of violating a state ban on abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy and of 210 of 227 counts of transgressing the state’s 24-hour waiting period, according to The Inquirer.

Both pro-life and pro-choice advocates applauded Gosnell’s convictions, but pro-lifers — unlike the abortion rights defenders — contended his crimes were not isolated incidents.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said, “The grotesque atmosphere of Doctor Gosnell’s clinic stands as a graphic reminder of what is happening to our unborn and newly born citizens in similar clinics across America.”

Republicans in Congress are calling for investigations of abortion clinics and cooperation from states to prevent the kind of murderous and horrific practices described at the trial by former Gosnell employees and other witnesses.

The 2011 report by the grand jury said a “regulatory collapse” by Pennsylvania and city agencies enabled Gosnell to maintain what was described as a “house of horrors” for more than three decades. The state Department of Health provided only intermittent reviews from the time Gosnell’s West Philadelphia opened in 1979 until 1993. It totally halted inspections of abortion clinics for “political reasons” in 1993 under Gov. Tom Ridge, a pro-choice Republican, the grand jury reported.

A 2010 raid of Gosnell’s clinic in an investigation of prescription drug trafficking led to multiple charges and the closing of the facility. The grand jury’s report said federal and state authorities discovered the following during the raid:

–The remains of 45 babies stored in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons and cat-food containers, with some in a refrigerator and others in a freezer.

— The severed feet of babies in jars.

— “Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room . . . ”

— Conditions in the clinic that were “by far, the worst” the investigators had ever seen, with blood on the floor and on blankets covering dirty recliners, a “stench of urine,” cat excrement on the stairs, “filthy and unsanitary” surgery rooms, dirty instruments and broken equipment.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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