On Monday, March 18, opening arguments began in the murder trial of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion doctor who is charged with running a charnel house for babies. Gosnell is charged with first degree murder; Gosnell caused the deaths of seven viable infants who were born alive, killing them by cutting into their necks and cutting their spinal cords with scissors in a technique he called “snipping.”

Additionally, Gosnell is charged with third degree murder in the death of 41-year-old Karnamaya Mongar, a refugee from Bhutan who came to his clinic from Virginia seeking an abortion. Mongar, who weighed 90 pounds and spoke no English, died after being given a lethal dose of anesthesia and painkillers by members of Gosnell’s untrained, unlicensed and underage staff.

Gosnell’s attorney, Jack McMahon, accused city officials of performing a “prosecutorial lynching” of his client, who is Black, and of applying “Mayo Clinic” standards to Gosnell’s inner-city Women’s Medical Society, a clinic located in the Mantua section, one of Philadelphia’s poorest and most depressed areas.

McMahon told the jury of seven men and five women, “This is a targeted, elitist and racist prosecution of a doctor who’s done nothing but give [back] to the poor and the people of west Philadelphia.” He painted Gosnell as a dedicated doctor with a medical degree from Thomas Jefferson University who chose to forego more lucrative opportunities to stay and help the neighborhood.

But prosecutors paint a different picture, charging Gosnell with running a rogue clinic, preying on poor, desperate, minority women looking for late-term abortions and making a fortune from it. Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore cited a 281-page 2011 grand jury report that detailed Gosnell’s gruesome operation, telling jurors, “The standard practice here was to slay babies. That’s what they did.”

Gosnell ran a high-volume, highly profitable operation, specializing in late-term abortions. In Pennsylvania, abortion is illegal after 24 weeks. Pescatore told the jury that the case was about murder, not abortion.

Gosnell simply ignored the state ban on late-term abortions. The staff was instructed to manipulate ultrasounds and other records to deceptively report the gestation age and size of babies, most of whom were routinely recorded at 24.5 weeks. Babies were born alive and simply killed moments after birth.

Gosnell faces 43 criminal counts, including eight counts of murder in the deaths of Karnamaya Monger and seven newborn infants, conspiracy, drug delivery resulting in death, infanticide, corruption of minors, evidence tampering, theft by deception, abuse of corpse and corruption. He faces the death penalty if convicted and faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years. The trial is expected to last for eight weeks.