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Trail begins for Philly abortion doc

JASMIN K. WILLIAMS Amsterdam News Staff | 4/4/2013, 10:48 a.m.

Pescatore argued that Gosnell not only preyed on women desperate to end their pregnancies, but on his staff as well, most of whom were also poor, desperate and low-paid. The two other "doctors" on staff were unlicensed medical student doctors. The anesthesiologist was a sixth-grade dropout. A high school student was promoted from the reception desk to helping in the surgical and recovery rooms, sometimes working until 3 a.m. and having to go to school the next day. Eight co-defendants have pled guilty and face their own trials, which could net them 20 to 40 years in prison. Most are scheduled to testify against Gosnell. Gosnell's wife, Pearl, also pled guilty to assisting Gosnell on Sundays when he handled the bigger babies.

Jurors were denied a chance to visit the shuttered facility, but prosecutors recreated the scene with a patient room complete with a hospital bed, stirrups and aging obstetric equipment. The first to testify was 35-year-old Adrienne Moton, a family friend who moved in with the Gosnells. Moton, who has been in prison since the indictment two years ago, worked at the clinic from 2005 through 2008, earning between $8 to $10 an hour. She testified to "snipping" the necks of at least 10 babies herself, as per Gosnell's instruction, and is charged with third-degree murder.

It was Moton herself who delivered one of the most compelling pieces of evidence against Gosnell. It was a cell phone image taken of a child called "Baby A," who was estimated to be 27 to 30 weeks. Moton testified that she took the picture because she was disturbed by the child's size and pinkish color. Gosnell later joked that the child that was "big enough to walk to the bus stop."

The mother of Baby A, who was 17 at the time of the procedure, testified that an aunt had taken her to Gosnell's other clinic in Delaware, without her mother's knowledge, paying $2,500 in cash. Abortions were banned in Delaware after 20 weeks so she came to the west Philadelphia clinic to finish the procedure. She already had an infant daughter.

Baby A's mother testified to being in extreme and excruciating pain after the procedure and that it got worse. She ended up in a hospital two weeks later with a large abscess and a blood clot near her heart. Prosecutors hope to prove that she is just one example of the botched and dangerous procedures at the hands of Gosnell.

Gosnell made a fortune over his 40-year career. Authorities found $250,000 in cash when they searched his home. Gosnell charged between a few hundred dollars in cash for a first-term abortion to $3,000 for late-term abortions. The bigger the baby, the more he charged. Patients were even allowed to choose their anesthesia cocktail, local, heavy or twilight, based on how much they could pay. Gosnell made hundreds of thousands more by operating a pill mill and had a steady stream of customers at the west Philadelphia facility, where he sold fake prescriptions.