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Jury begins deliberating in US abortion doctor trial

Kermit Gosnell faces 258 charges, including five murder counts.

The Women's Medical Society in Philadelphia
The Women's Medical Society in Philadelphia
Image: Matt Rourke/AP/Press Association Images

A JURY HAS begun deliberating in the capital murder trial of a Philadelphia abortion doctor charged with killing a patient and four babies.

Prosecutors say 72-year-old Kermit Gosnell routinely performed abortions past the state’s 24-week limit and killed babies born alive because he did not know how to provide a proper abortion.

He is also charged in the 2009 overdose death of a patient. In that case, the woman was given anesthesia and monitored by two assistants and a teenager. State officials had not inspected the clinic since the early 1990s.

The defence argues that Gosnell helped poor, desperate women and teens who had no other access to care.

Gosnell faces 258 counts in all, including the five murder counts. Other charges against him include one count each of infanticide and racketeering, 24 counts of performing third-trimester abortions and 227 counts of failing to counsel patients a day in advance.

Jurors were given the case today.

The shamed doctor performed thousands of abortions over his 30-year career. Prosecutors believe he routinely cut babies in the back of the neck to sever their spines.

Back alley abortions. Coat hanger abortions.

“When people (who are) supposed to regulate these folks don’t do it right, that’s what happens,” Assistant District Attorney Ed Cameron told jurors in closing arguments yesterday. “Back alley abortions. Coat hanger abortions. That’s what happens.”

The abuses came to light when the FBI raiding the clinic in 2010 looking for prescription drug crimes. Instead, they found the nocturnal clinic in full swing.

Defence lawyer Jack McMahon argued that prosecutors who blasted the clinic as a filthy, flea-infested “house of horrors” in a 2011 grand jury report sensationalised the case to make headlines.

“This isn’t a perfect place by any stretch of the imagination – but it isn’t what they say it is,” McMahon argued.

Eight former workers have pleaded guilty to murder or other charges and have testified to seeing babies move, breathe or whine. Yet some said they did not consider the babies fully alive until they were charged after a 2011 grand jury investigation.

Comments have been disabled as legal proceedings are ongoing.

More: Obama won’t take position on Kermit Gosnell trial while it’s ongoing

Related: US doctor charged with killing seven babies

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