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Grand Jury report on Kermit Gosnell: Pennsylvania Department of Health took no action after medical examiner reported Gosnell aborted baby 29-30 weeks old

by | Mar 27, 2013

By Dave Andrusko

GosnellfoxnewsgraphicAs we have each day since the murder trial of Kermit Gosnell began last week, we are running excerpts from the Grand Jury’s exhaustive investigation of the West Philadelphia abortionist to accompany an update on the trial itself. In the following excerpt from  the 261 page report, we learn that Gosnell was aborted huge babies well into the third trimester and that he allegedly refused to stop an abortion of a baby estimated  to be 29 weeks old when the mother learned that Gosnell’s abortion clinic burned the bodies of aborted babies. (Fortunately, the mother went to the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania where a few days later she delivered a healthy baby girl.)

Gosnell caused a 30-week baby to be stillborn

The vast majority of Gosnell’s post-24-week abortions we learned of from files. But there were some that came to the attention of other doctors and hospitals that were called on to treat his patients. This is how the Grand Jury learned of one third-trimester viable fetus that Gosnell caused to die before it was born. He did so by initiating an  abortion on a 14-year-old girl who is estimated to have been 30 weeks pregnant. The teenager came to Gosnell for an abortion in September 2007.

Although most post-first-trimester procedures took two days to complete – one day for insertion of laminaria and dilation of the cervix, with the patient returning the next day for extraction – a woman we will call “Nancy” was scheduled for a three-day procedure because her pregnancy was so advanced. On the first day, Gosnell inserted laminaria to begin dilation. Two days later, Nancy returned to have the laminaria replaced for further dilation. She was scheduled to return the following day, a Sunday, for the abortion procedure.

At home at 3:00 a.m. Sunday morning, however, her membranes ruptured after several hours of labor. She attempted to contact the clinic, but was unsuccessful and went instead to Crozer-Chester Hospital. There, she delivered a stillborn baby girl weighing 2 lbs., 1 oz. Because the fetus was clearly beyond Pennsylvania’s 24-week limit for abortions, the hospital reported the stillbirth to the Delaware County Medical Examiner, Dr. Frederick Hellman.

Dr. Hellman’s autopsy established that the baby’s gestational age was at least 29 to 30 weeks, and perhaps as much as 34 weeks. This conclusion was corroborated by a neonatologist who testified before the Grand Jury. The expert witness told the jury that the average weight of a baby born at 29 weeks is a little over two pounds.

In response to a subpoena, Gosnell sent Nancy’s file and a letter to Dr. Hellman on September 28, 2007. In the letter, Gosnell stated that an ultrasound showed that the pregnancy was 24.5 weeks on September 7 (three days before the scheduled abortion). Gosnell’s own file, however, contained an ultrasound indicating that Nancy was more than 25 weeks pregnant, based on a measurement of the fetus’s head. Dr. Hellman testified that even that ultrasound appeared to have been manipulated to make the fetus’s head appear smaller. Dr. Hellman’s measurement of the skull during the autopsy showed that Nancy was almost 30 weeks pregnant.

Gosnell also wrote in his letter to Dr. Hellman that he had injected the fetus with Digoxin the day before the birth, in order to cause fetal demise before the intended abortion procedure. The medical examiner, however, testified that he found no indication that the fetus had, in fact, been injected with Digoxin. The autopsy did not reveal any puncture wound from an injection, nor was Digoxin evident in the toxicology screen. Based on scalp hemorrhage, the medical examiner concluded that the fetus had died during labor, possibly from the strong contractions that would have resulted from the heavy doses of labor-inducing medications. Dr. Hellman opined that Nancy’s baby was viable. The neonatologist told us that the survival rate for babies born at 29 weeks is 95 percent; at 30 weeks, the survival rate is nearly 100 percent.

Based on his findings, the medical examiner reported Gosnell’s violations of the Abortion Control Act to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. It took no action.

Gosnell began an abortion on a 29-week pregnant woman and then refused to take dilators out when the woman changed her mind.

We learned of another illegal, third-trimester abortion only because the mother changed her mind. In 2004, a 27-year-old woman went to Gosnell, pregnant with her first child. She testified that she was surprised when Gosnell told her she was 21 weeks pregnant. On the first day of what was to be a two-day procedure, Gosnell inserted dilators in the woman’s cervix.

After Gosnell had finished inserting the laminaria, the woman asked him what happened to the babies after they were aborted. She testified that Gosnell told her they were burned.

At home, thinking over how Gosnell disposed of the fetuses, the woman had a change of heart. She called her cousin and the cousin called Gosnell to tell him that they wanted him to take the laminaria out. Gosnell said that he could not do that once the procedure was started. And he did not want to return the $1,300 that the patient had already paid. The pregnant woman ended up going to the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania to have the laminaria removed. It was determined at the hospital that she was 29 weeks pregnant. A few days later, the 27-year-old delivered a premature baby girl. She was treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and is today a healthy kindergartener.

Either a doctor or a nurse at the hospital told the woman that what Gosnell had done was illegal. Gosnell recorded in the woman’s chart that she was 24.5 weeks pregnant.

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Categories: Gosnell