The Corner

The Gosnell Grand Jury Report

I haven’t read many grand-jury reports, but I’ve read or perused a few. But not enough to feel like I can say I know what a typical grand-jury report reads like. Having now read the Gosnell grand-jury report, I must say I’m extremely impressed with how well-written it is. Yes, the underlying facts are horrifying and disgusting. But it reads like some of the best journalism. Is that typical?

Anyway, you can see what I mean. Here’s the opening overview:

This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we

mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester

of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with

scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in

which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among

them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two

occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that

something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.

Let us say right up front that we realize this case will be used by those on both

sides of the abortion debate. We ourselves cover a spectrum of personal beliefs about the

morality of abortion. For us as a criminal grand jury, however, the case is not about that

controversy; it is about disregard of the law and disdain for the lives and health of

mothers and infants. We find common ground in exposing what happened here, and in

recommending measures to prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

The “Women’s Medical Society”

That was the impressive-sounding name of the clinic operated in West

Philadelphia, at 38th and Lancaster, by Kermit B. Gosnell, M.D. Gosnell seemed

impressive as well. A child of the neighborhood, Gosnell spent almost four decades

running this clinic, giving back – so it appeared – to the community in which he

continued to live and work.

But the truth was something very different, and evident to anyone who stepped 2

inside. The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam

(and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were

not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were

reused, over and over again. Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the

pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it

wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in

cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal

remains. It was a baby charnel house.

Again: Horrifying and disgusting don’t remotely cover it. But that is compelling writing. 

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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