The Bad – Kermit Gosnell

This month I will share stories on Black History Month – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. History isn’t always pretty and sometimes we sanitize that which makes us uncomfortable. Here I will share all facets of Black History and try to focus on people not necessarily in the history books.

The Bad – Kermit Gosnell

Reader warning – this post deals with details of abortion. Reader discretion advised.  

No matter what your opinion on abortion, this man is a horror.

Kermit Gosnell
Kermit Gosnell

Kermit Gosnell was the only child born to a Philadelphia gas station operator and a government clerk on Feb. 9, 1941. He was in the top of his class in high school and graduated from Dickinson College followed by a Medical Degree at the Jefferson Medical School in 1966. He started his medical career working among the poor in West Philadelphia. He opened the Mantua Halfway House, a rehab clinic and a teen aid program. An early proponent of abortion rights, he opened up an abortion clinic in Mantua in 1972. Gosnell told the Philadelphia Inquirer:

as a physician, I am very concerned about the sanctity of life. But it is for this precise reason that I provide abortions for women who want and need them

In 1972, he performed 15 second-trimester abortions using the super-coil method. This method had coils into the uterus, where they caused irritation leading to the expulsion of the fetus. Nine of the 15 women suffered complications from the procedure, three of which were severe. Some called this procedure the “mother’s day massacre.”

Gosnell troubles started in the 1980s as he faced state tax liens against his halfway house and abortion clinic. But he faced more legal troubles, (directly quoted from Wikipedia):

  • 1989 and 1993 – cited by Pennsylvania Department of Health for having no nurses in the recovery room.
  • 1996 – censured and fined in both Pennsylvania and New York states, for employing unlicensed personnel.
  • Around 1996 – Pediatrician Dr .Schwartz – the former head of adolescent services at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and as of 2010, Philadelphia’s health commissioner – testified in the 2010 hearing that around 1996 or 1997, he had hand-delivered a letter of complaint about Gosnell’s practice to the Secretary of Health’s office and stopped referring patients to the clinic, but received no response.
  • 2000 – Civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the children of Semika Shaw, who had called the clinic the day after an abortion to report heavy bleeding, and died three days later of a perforated uterus and a bloodstream infection. The case alleged that Gosnell had failed to tell her to return to the clinic or seek emergency medical care. It was settled out of court in 2002 for $900,000.
  • Around 2001 – Gosnell claimed to be providing children’s vaccines under a program administered by the Health Department’s Division of Disease Control, but was repeatedly suspended for failing to maintain logs and for storing vaccines in unsanitary and inappropriate refrigerators, and at improper temperatures.
  • December 2001 – ex-employee Marcella Choung gave what the Grand Jury would later call “a detailed written complaint” to the Pennsylvania Department of State, one which she followed up with an interview in March 2002.
  • 2006 – Civil lawsuit filed by patient but dismissed as out of time. The complaint was that Gosnell had been unable to complete an abortion, but then apparently failed or refused to call paramedics or other clinical emergency personnel, after the patient had needed help. The patient reported, “I really felt like he was going to let me die.”

Gosnell had 46 known lawsuits had been filed against him over some 32 years. Gosnell was known to be an abortion provider for poor minority and immigrant women charging $1,600 – $3,000 per abortion.

Everything hit the fan in 2010.

On Feb. 18, Gosnell’s clinic, the Women’s Medical Society, was raided after an investigation into suspected illegal drug prescription use at the practice. In addition, investigators were looking into the death of patient Karnamaya Mongar in 2009. Mongar’s death brought to their attention the unsanitary conditions, the use of powerful drugs without proper supervision, and the use of untrained staff. Here is some of what was reported:

When the team members entered the clinic, they were appalled, describing it to the Grand Jury as ‘filthy,’ ‘deplorable,’ ‘disgusting,’ ‘very unsanitary, very outdated, horrendous,’ and ‘by far, the worst’ that these experienced investigators had ever encountered. There was blood on the floor. A stench of urine filled the air. A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets. All the women had been sedated by unlicensed staff – long before Gosnell arrived at the clinic – and staff members could not accurately state what medications or dosages they had administered to the waiting patients. Many of the medications in inventory were past their expiration dates… surgical procedure rooms were filthy and unsanitary… resembling ‘a bad gas station restroom.’ Instruments were not sterile. Equipment was rusty and outdated. Oxygen equipment was covered with dust, and had not been inspected. The same corroded suction tubing used for abortions was the only tubing available for oral airways if assistance for breathing was needed…”
[F]etal remains [were] haphazardly stored throughout the clinic– in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and even in cat-food containers… Gosnell admitted to Detective Wood that at least 10 to 20 percent… were probably older than 24 weeks [the legal limit]… In some instances, surgical incisions had been made at the base of the fetal skulls. The investigators found a row of jars containing just the severed feet of fetuses. In the basement, they discovered medical waste piled high. The intact 19-week fetus delivered by Mrs. Mongar three months earlier was in a freezer. In all, the remains of 45 fetuses were recovered … at least two of them, and probably three, had been viable.”

In addition, Gosnell was not trained in obstetrics and gynecology. His clinic also made an additional $10,000 – $15,000 a day in prescriptions.

Gosnell was arrested on Jan. 19, 2011 and charged with 8 counts of murder – 7 were babies born alive but had their spinal cords severed with scissors; the other death was that of Mongar who died in his care. Gosnell was charged with 7 counts of first-degree murder, 1 count of third-degree murder, infanticide, 5 counts of abusing a corpse, multiple counts of conspiracy, criminal solicitation and violation of a state law that forbids abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy. Some charges were dismissed at trial, but in the end, Gosnell was sentenced to life in prison without parole in May 2013.

There is way more Gosnell was found guilty of, but it’s too much for this blogger to attempt to write about, so read for yourself if you want.



Kermit Gosnell. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 20, 2017, from

Williams, R. Seth.(2011). In the Court of Common Pleas First Judicial District of Pennsylvania Criminal Trial Division (Report No. 0009901-2008). Retrieved February 20, 2017, from Scribd


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