Women: Pa. abortions left us sterile, near death

By Maryclaire Dale

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Jan. 23 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

In this Friday, Jan. 21, 2011 photo, Davida Johnson, 30, seen with her husband Bobby Johnson, reacts as she reads a grand jury report brought to her by the Associated Press during an interview in Philadelphia. Johnson believes she contracted a venereal disease while undergoing an abortion in 2001 at Dr. Kermit Gosnell's clinic, and says she has since had four miscarriages. Gosnell was arraigned Thursday on eight counts of murder in the deaths of seven babies and one patient.

Matt Rourke, Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — When Davida Johnson walked into Dr. Kermit Gosnell's clinic to get an abortion in 2001, she saw what she described as dazed women sitting in dirty, bloodstained recliners. As the abortion got under way, she had a change of heart — but claims she was forced by the doctor to continue.

"I said, 'I don't want to do this,' and he smacked me. They tied my hands and arms down and gave me more medication," Johnson told The Associated Press.

Johnson, then 21, had a 3-year-old daughter when she became pregnant again. She said she first went to Planned Parenthood in downtown Philadelphia but was frightened away by protesters.

"The picketers out there, they just scared me half to death," Johnson, now 30, recalled this week.

Someone sent her to Gosnell's West Philadelphia clinic, at the Women's Medical Society, saying anti-abortion protesters wouldn't be a problem there. She said she paid him $400 cash.

A few months after the abortion, she began to have gynecological problems. An examination revealed venereal disease. She blames Gosnell, 69, for the lifelong illness, which she declined to identify, and for the four miscarriages she has subsequently suffered.

Johnson learned last week that Philadelphia prosecutors believe Gosnell frequently delivered late-term babies alive at his clinic, then severed their spines with scissors, and often stored the fetal bodies — along with staff lunches — in refrigerators at the squalid facility. Tiny baby feet, prosecutors said, were discovered in specimen jars, lined up in a macabre collection.

"Did he do that to mine? Did he stab him in the neck?" Johnson asked at her North Philadelphia home. "Because I was out of it. I don't know what he did to my baby."

Gosnell was charged last week with killing seven babies born alive and with the 2009 death of a 41-year-old refugee after a botched abortion at the clinic, which prosecutors have called a drug mill by day and abortion mill by night. The medical practice alone netted him at least $1.8 million a year, much of it in cash, they say.

Prosecutors said uncounted hundreds more babies died there.

"(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," said a report of the grand jury that investigated Gosnell and his clinic for a year.

The grand jury said while it believes Gosnell killed most of the babies he aborted after 24 weeks, it could not recommend murder charges for all of the cases.

"In order to constitute murder, the act must involve a baby who was born alive," the grand jury said, adding that it was stymied by files that were falsified or removed and possibly destroyed.

"His entire practice showed nothing but a callous disdain for the lives of his patients," said the nearly 300-page grand jury report, released Wednesday.

The panel also had scathing criticism for Pennsylvania state health and medical regulators, saying they had numerous opportunities to shut Gosnell down over the years but ignored complaint after complaint about filthy conditions and illegal operations.

In all, prosecutors said, state officials failed to inspect the clinic despite repeated complaints from 1993 until January 2010, when a federal drug raid investigating heavy painkiller distribution at the clinic shut it down.

"His contempt for laws designed to protect patients' safety resulted in the death of Karnamaya Mongar," the refugee from Bhutan, the grand jury report said.

Unlicensed staff members gave Mongar far too much anesthesia for her 4-foot-11-inch, 110-pound body, hours before Gosnell arrived for his evening slate of abortions, the grand jury charged.

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