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Sentencing put off for Pa. abortion clinic workers

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 2 2015 5:25 a.m. MDT

FILE - In this March 8, 2010 file photo, Dr. Kermit Gosnell is seen during an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News at his attorney's office in Philadelphia. Gosnell, an abortion provider charged with killing a patient and four babies, trial is scheduled to begin closing arguments Monday, April 29, 2013. (Philadelphia Daily News, Yong Kim, Associated Press) FILE - In this March 8, 2010 file photo, Dr. Kermit Gosnell is seen during an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News at his attorney's office in Philadelphia. Gosnell, an abortion provider charged with killing a patient and four babies, trial is scheduled to begin closing arguments Monday, April 29, 2013. (Philadelphia Daily News, Yong Kim, Associated Press)

PHILADELPHIA — Sentencing was postponed Wednesday for two women who pleaded guilty for their work at a corrupt, grimy Philadelphia abortion clinic whose owner was convicted of killing babies born alive.

A judge rescheduled the sentencing date for Sherry West, 53, and Tina Baldwin, 47, because both women still have unresolved federal drug charges pending.

West was convicted of third-degree murder. Baldwin pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy, and corrupting a minor — her daughter, who also worked at Dr. Kermit Gosnell's clinic. West and Baldwin are now scheduled to be sentenced June 24.

Gosnell, 72, was convicted this month of three counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of three infants, and involuntary manslaughter in the death of patient Karnamaya Mongar, who was given a fatal overdose of painkillers.

Gosnell routinely performed illegal abortions past Pennsylvania's 24-week limit, delivered babies who were still moving, whimpering or breathing, and he and his assistants dispatched the newborns by "snipping" their spines, as he referred to it, former clinic employees testified at his trial.

This undated photo provided by the Philadelphia Police Department shows Sherry West.  West and another abortion clinic worker pleaded guilty Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, to third-degree murder in two deaths at a Philadelphia clinic where seven babies were allegedly killed with scissors and a woman died from a drug overdose.   (Philadelphia Police Department, Associated Press) This undated photo provided by the Philadelphia Police Department shows Sherry West. West and another abortion clinic worker pleaded guilty Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, to third-degree murder in two deaths at a Philadelphia clinic where seven babies were allegedly killed with scissors and a woman died from a drug overdose. (Philadelphia Police Department, Associated Press)

The case became a flashpoint in the nation's polarized abortion debate. Foes said it exposed the true nature of abortion in all its disturbing detail. Abortion rights activists warned that Gosnell's practice foreshadows what women could face if abortion is driven underground with more restrictive laws.

Also scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday was Gosnell's wife, Pearl, 51, who has spent two years on house arrest and could be sent to prison for racketeering and performing an illegal abortion. She feels she's left "holding the bag" after her husband shamed the family, turned down a plea deal that would have kept her out of prison, and refused to speak at his trial, her lawyer said Tuesday.

"You can tell from the arrogance that he displayed — turning down the deal, as well as refusing to speak — he's left her holding the bag in terms of talking to the public and apologizing," defense lawyer Michael Medway told The Associated Press.

"Her name is still Gosnell, unfortunately," he added. "I guess it's like being Mrs. Frankenstein."

West's lawyer described Gosnell as a controlling, charismatic figure who manipulated naive, poor and uneducated employees. She pleaded guilty to murder for helping give narcotics to the patient who died, although she was the only employee who also accompanied the dying woman to the hospital.

FILE - This undated photo released by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office shows Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Women went to Gosnell to end their pregnancies. Many came away with life-threatening infections and punctured organs; some still had fetal parts inside them when they arrived at nearby hospitals in dire need of emergency care. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which operates two hospitals within a mile of Gosnell's squalid abortion clinic in West Philadelphia, saw at least six of these patients _ two of whom died. But they largely failed in their legal and ethical duties to report their peer's incompetence, according to a grand jury report.   (Philadelphia Police Department via Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Associated Press) FILE - This undated photo released by the Philadelphia District Attorney's office shows Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Women went to Gosnell to end their pregnancies. Many came away with life-threatening infections and punctured organs; some still had fetal parts inside them when they arrived at nearby hospitals in dire need of emergency care. Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which operates two hospitals within a mile of Gosnell's squalid abortion clinic in West Philadelphia, saw at least six of these patients _ two of whom died. But they largely failed in their legal and ethical duties to report their peer's incompetence, according to a grand jury report. (Philadelphia Police Department via Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, Associated Press)

Many of the Gosnell co-defendants have already been in prison for more than two years, since a 2011 grand jury report lifted the veil on what prosecutors have called a "house of horrors."

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