Mixed reaction outside Gosnell's shuttered clinic

Outside the shuttered Gosnell clinic, plaster baby hands appear on the window sill.
Outside the shuttered Gosnell clinic, plaster baby hands appear on the window sill. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 14, 2013

Outside the Women's Medical Society, a small pot of dying white mums sat by the entrance of the three-story brick building on Lancaster Avenue where Kermit Gosnell practiced for 31 years. On the front window sill, someone had glued dozens of tiny white plaster baby hands.

Passersby expressed mixed views after the guilty verdict was announced Monday in the trial of Gosnell, a fixture in the West Philadelphia neighborhood once known for his good deeds.

Along Lancaster Avenue at 38th Street, about three blocks from the Drexel University campus, students live alongside longtime residents.

Benjamin Pramuk, a Drexel student from Pittsburgh, said he agreed with the jury.

"After what I've heard about this case, I would have convicted him too," Pramuk said. "This is a just punishment. I believe it is the woman's right to make a decision, but you should not perform late-term abortions."

Through the clinic's windows, broken chunks of plaster and other debris could be seen on the floor. Authorities estimated Gosnell had performed 1,000 abortions annually at the clinic, which was raided by authorities in February 2010. It closed shortly afterward when Gosnell lost his medical license.

Betsy Bowden, a resident of the neighborhood, said unequivocally that Gosnell did not commit the high crimes for which he was charged and convicted.

"It is not murder," Bowden said, "and this is definitely not murder in the first degree."

"Women who had abortions there wanted abortions, and he gave them what they wanted," said Bowden, adding that she thought the verdict would have been medical malpractice and not murder.

Authorities said Gosnell performed abortions on a sliding-fee scale, ranging from $325 for a first-trimester abortion to $3,000 for abortions up to 30 weeks.

Robert Jackel, who also lives in the area, said Gosnell should be held responsible for the deaths at his clinic.

"What he was doing wasn't about unborn babies. It's about babies who were born that he had killed," Jackel said.

He decried the unsanitary conditions reported at the clinic.

"The conditions at his health center were awful, and he was responsible for people's deaths," Jackel said. "He was preying on vulnerable people, women who had nowhere else to go who trusted him with their lives in his care."

Jackel said women need to be able to find legal abortions.

"It's very important to have safe access to abortion," he said. "I am concerned that this convinces people that there are fewer places to have access to abortions."

Vincent Farace, another Drexel student who lives in the area, said he was troubled that Gosnell was committing such crimes nearby.

"I pass that building every day," he said, "and I found it pretty disturbing that this was going on as close as it was."

Farace said the descriptions of conditions at the clinic were appalling.

"It's clearly unsanitary and unprofessional," he said. "You never think that those are conditions people have to go through. It was sickening."


Contact Vernon Clark

at 215-854-5717 or vclark@phillynews.com.

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