Gosnell’s ‘fireman in hell’
Abortion | Andrée Seu Peterson
PHILADELPHIA—Last Thursday, during abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s murder trial, a man in an olive green prison jumpsuit occupied the witness stand all day. At least that’s the color I told the Philadelphia Magazine reporter who explained to me he was color-blind. The man in the witness stand, Steven Edward Massof, was employed at the Women’s Medical Society in West Philadelphia from 2003 to 2008, first apprenticing in Gosnell’s family practice, and later—“out of curiosity”—moving into the abortion side of the business.
Massof was not licensed to practice medicine, though he had graduated from St. George’s University Medical School in Grenada, passed his boards, and done post-graduate level medical research at Yale and then Johns Hopkins for seven years before going into the bar-restaurant business. (When defense attorney Jack McMahon asked Massof if the detour into food and spirits was his fallback, Massof answered that actually it was medicine that was the fallback.)
A chillingly detached and clinical witness, Massof often smiled and matter-of-factly spoke directly to the jury about his work at the abortion mill and the instruments of the trade. He introduced the term “precipitous birth” for labor and delivery—which he explained are not desirable outcomes when one’s raison d’être is precisely not to have labor and delivery. As time went by, the facility became so busy that Massof remarked, “I felt like a fireman in hell. I couldn’t put out all the fires. … I would run around with scissors.”
The surgical scissors were for cutting the umbilical chord and snipping the backs of babies’ necks at the fleshy part. (Here Massof motioned with his hands and invited the court to feel the backs of our necks and find the spot.) “We call it a trans-section, but it’s literally a beheading,” he said, “because what you’re doing is actually cutting the brain from the body.” He explained that after the federal government outlawed partial-birth abortions in 2007, Gosnell adopted the practice of injecting digoxin through a needle (Massof held up a Magic Marker to display the approximate length of 6 inches) into the heart of the unborn baby to cause the child’s “demise” inside the woman’s body. “If the heart was not beating after the digoxin, I would say, ‘Good shot.’”
You see, though Gosnell would follow the progress of the needle using the ultrasound as a guide, he would sometimes miss the heart. The reason? Well, the ultrasound machine only shows things in 2-D, but a human is 3-D, Massof coolly explained.
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