Kermit Gosnell's
Associated Press/Photo by Matt Rourke
Kermit Gosnell's "House of Horrors" in West Philadelphia.

Documenting death rather than preserving life in the Gosnell trial


PHILADELPHIA—Refreshingly, someone took the witness stand Wednesday in the Kermit Gosnell murder trial who had nothing to do with killing babies—neither in the West Philadelphia facility the media likes to call the “House of Horrors,” nor in the gleaming Abington Memorial Hospital abortion unit the media, well, does not.

Dr. Frederick Hellman, chief medical examiner for Delaware County (Pa.), performed the autopsy on infant “Baby Girl A” in September 2007. The mother of then-14-year-old pregnant “Nancy” took her (rather reluctantly) to the Women’s Medical Society, where Gosnell inserted laminaria for dilating the cervix, and had injected her in the abdomen with digoxin. The drug digoxin was pioneered by Wichita abortionist George Tiller and became popular with late-term abortion providers after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed partial-birth abortion in April 2007.

The prosecution brought Hellman to the stand to tell the jury that in his examination of the tiny cadaver he found no pinprick on the body that would be consistent with an injection of digoxin. Hence, the baby was born alive, and Gosnell is a murderer.

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This tactic worked well enough until the defense, which had done its medical homework, brought out the fact that digoxin, in abortions, is not always injected directly into the baby but can alternatively be injected into the amniotic fluid. Defense attorney Jack McMahon got Hellman to admit that this could have happened, and the baby may have died in the uterus. Therefore, according to the defense, “No fetal death certificate was required because there was no birth.” In that view, Gosnell is an abortionist but not a murderer.

Please know I have condensed hours of testimony here. Much of the day’s proceedings consisted of technical descriptions of the elaborate lengths to which the forensic pathologist went to examine little “Baby Girl A.” This dead child, ladies and gentlemen, was given VIP treatment to ascertain her demise. There was not an organ in her cold body that was not painstakingly tested and documented: skin, lungs, heart, liver, kidneys, spleen, adrenal glands, lymph nodes, muscular-skeletal system, thymus, etc.

Imagine that: Absolutely no care given to a baby when she was alive, and then lavish scientific scrutiny after her death. A student of history might be forgiven a flashback to the WWII medical teams of Josef Mengele, and their professional interest in studies of twins in concentration camps, sometimes injecting their eyes to see if they would change color, sometimes stitching twins together in the hopes of conjoining them. Of the 1,500 sets of twins tested, only 200 individuals survived.

“Baby Girl A” may have been stillborn, although that’s not yet proven—but this trial is showing our society to be more interested in documenting death than preserving life. 

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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