Victims say abortion doctor scarred them for life

Davida Clarke Johnson, with her husband Bobby Johnson, says she contracted a venereal disease from the unsanitary conditions at the abortion mill Kermit Gosnell is charged with operating.
Davida Clarke Johnson, with her husband Bobby Johnson, says she contracted a venereal disease from the unsanitary conditions at the abortion mill Kermit Gosnell is charged with operating.
Posted: January 21, 2011

FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD Robyn Reid didn't want an abortion. But when her grandmother forcibly took her to an abortion clinic one wintry day in 1998, Reid figured she'd just tell the doctor her wishes and then sneak away.

Instead, Kermit Gosnell barked: "I don't have time for this!" He then ripped off her clothes, spanked her, wrestled her onto a dirty surgical stretcher, tied her flailing arms and legs down and pumped sedatives into her until she quit screaming and lost consciousness, she told the Daily News yesterday.

Nicole Gaither got an abortion from Gosnell in 2001. After four days, she said, the pain was so bad she could barely walk. She returned to the clinic, where, she said Gosnell blithely told her he'd left fetal remains in her.

"Stand up! It don't hurt that bad!" he yelled at her, she said, before suctioning - without any medication - her insides.

In 2001, Davida Johnson changed her mind about aborting her 6-month fetus after seeing Gosnell's dazed, bloodied patients in his recovery room, she said. But in the treatment room, Gosnell's staffers ignored her protests, smacked her, tied her arms down and sedated her into unconsciousness, she said. She awoke no longer pregnant.

Weeks later, she said, she was diagnosed with a venereal disease that she believes she contracted from unsterilized equipment Gosnell used. Now, she can't carry a baby to term and said she has miscarried four times since her abortion.

One day after a grand jury issued a hefty report charging Gosnell with eight counts of murder stemming from his West Philadelphia practice, Reid, Gaither, Johnson and other women stepped forward yesterday to share stories of horrors they had hidden for years, unaware that they were part of a sisterhood of suffering.

"It was my first - and last - abortion. I didn't know it [Gosnell's treatment of her] wasn't OK," said Gaither, now 38, of Southwest Philadelphia.

Reid said she tried to report Gosnell.

"I called all kinds of 1-800 numbers, abortion hot lines. Not one person I talked to could give me any advice on what to do about the doctor," said Reid, now 28, of Northeast Philadelphia. "I was 15; I didn't know what else to do."

That Gosnell was able to practice so long, leaving such a wide wake of misery, is no surprise to some of his former patients. Abortion, some say, carries such a stigma that they were too ashamed to report their alleged mistreatment.

"A woman getting an abortion, to some people, that's not accepted. I didn't want to go to the wrong person and get treated like trash," said Johnson, now 30, of North Philadelphia.

Gosnell, 69, was denied bail at his arraignment yesterday and did not have an attorney to comment on the accusations from the former patients.

He opened his Women's Medical Society at 38th Street and Lancaster Avenue in 1979. Although he was not certified as an obstetrician or gynecologist, he performed thousands of abortions over the years, "specializing" in illegal late-term abortions and killing hundreds of viable babies, the grand jury alleged.

But instead of using traditional abortion methods, Gosnell preferred to induce labor, according to the grand jury. That occasionally resulted in live births, a complication that the doctor would handle by stabbing scissors into the newborn's neck to sever its spinal cord, the grand jury charged.

He kept grisly souvenirs of some abortions, chopping off fetuses' feet and preserving them in jars in the clinic's basement, the report said.

Gaither, who was about five months pregnant when she had her abortion, shudders when she wonders whether Gosnell kept any macabre mementos from her experience there.

After reading about the atrocities attributed to him, some former patients feel lucky that they didn't end up in the hospital or worse. Still, they remained scarred, even after all this time.

"I don't believe in the death penalty, even though I have an uncle who was murdered," Reid said. "But I think Dr. Gosnell is a monster. I think he enjoys it. That was his excitement for that day: 'I got to tie a girl down!' He ruined my life. If he got the death penalty, not only would I support it, I would show up to watch it."

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