Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Defense Set to Begin in Abortion Doctor Case

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Defense Set to Begin in Abortion Doctor Case

Article excerpt

PHILADELPHIA -- For five weeks, jurors have heard one witness after another tell of beheaded babies, snipped spines, and a filthy clinic.

They have seen color photos of aborted fetuses -- some as old as seven months, others allegedly born breathing and moving -- and sat just feet an array of aged equipment from the West Philadelphia abortion clinic of Kermit Gosnell.

Overcoming this pile of evidence may seem insurmountable, but that is the job defense attorney Jack McMahon begins today.

Dr. Gosnell, 72, is charged with seven counts of first-degree murder -- seven babies prosecutors say were born alive and viable and killed by Dr. Gosnell.

If the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury of seven women and five men finds Dr. Gosnell guilty of any of those seven counts, it would begin hearing evidence to decide if he should be put to death or serve life in prison with no chance of parole.

Beyond the individuals involved, the doctor's trial has become a soapbox for a variety of causes.

Anti-abortion activists cite it as the ultimate impact of legalized abortion. Supporters of a woman's right to have an abortion say opponents have seized on an aberrant example to undermine the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that recognized the right to abortion.

The race card has been played by all. The Philadelphia grand jury and prosecutors called racist the decade-long failure of state health officials to inspect an inner-city clinic that largely served poor, black women. Mr. McMahon has called the prosecution racist and elitist for the same reason. And black anti-abortion activists have called Dr. Gosnell a "racist of the worst kind" for "preying on girls and women of his own race."

Conservative media critics lambasted the national "liberal mainstream media" for failing to cover the story and last week triggered a flurry of coverage at what had been a courtroom almost devoid of journalists and spectators.

Dr. Gosnell has rejected several plea deals from prosecutors, the last before jury selection started March 4. …

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