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First witness in Gosnell murder trial recalls how the necks of babies were “snipped” at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Center

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In reporting on the first day of the murder trial of West Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, we talked yesterday about the contrasting strategies of the prosecution and of Jack McMahon, Gosnell’s attorney.

As Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Joseph Slobodzian explained, McMahon played “the race card,” accusing city officials of “a prosecutorial lynching” of Gosnell who is black. (Never mind that most of the women Gosnell aborted were women of color.) McMahon insisted that the prosecution could not prove that the seven babies were born alive (and then killed when their necks were slit). Likewise, McMahon argued that the woman who died at the clinic did not die because of a lethal dose of anesthesia and painkillers during an abortion but from complications unrelated to her 2009 abortion.

Calling Gosnell a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore told the jury the case is about murder, not abortion. Pescatore told the jury that Gosnell specialized in what she called “high-volume, high-profit” illegal late-term abortions that “almost guarantee a live birth.” She insisted, “If the baby is alive and you don’t want it to be, that doesn’t mean you have the right to take a pair of scissors and plunge it into the baby’s neck,” the Associated Press reported.

Tuesday’s testimony from Adrienne Moton, the first Gosnell employee to testify, was highly emotional. (She testified as part of a guilty plea.)

Moton said “she snipped the spines of at least 10 babies during unorthodox abortions at a West Philadelphia clinic,” the Associated Press’ MaryClaire Dale reported. She said Dr. Kermit Gosnell and another employee did the same but “’couldn’t give you a number’ for how many times the 72-year-old doctor used the ‘snipping’ technique,” Slobodzian reported.

Moton sobbed as she recalled one baby who she said Gosnell joked was so big he could have walked to the bus stop. Moton, who estimated his age at 30 weeks, recalled taking a cellphone photograph of the bloodied baby who she found one day at her work station in the procedure room.

Moton’s testimony filled in some of the gaps in the history of both the women Gosnell aborted and the women he employed in his abortion clinic. Dale reported

“Moton, 35, sobbed as she described her work at the clinic. Because of problems at home, she had moved in with Gosnell and his third wife during high school, and she went to work for him from 2005 to 2008. She earned about $10 an hour, off the books, to administer drugs, perform sonograms, help with abortions and dispose of fetal remains. Workers got $20 bonuses for second-term abortions on Saturdays, when a half-dozen were sometimes performed.

“She once had to kill a baby delivered in a toilet, cutting its neck with scissors, she said. Asked if she knew that was wrong, she said, ‘At first I didn’t.’”

Moton has been in prison since early 2011 after Philadelphia prosecutors released a blistering 261-page Grand Jury report. She had pled guilty to third-degree murder, which carries a 20- to 40-year term, as well as conspiracy and other charges.

The judge would not allow the jury to visit Gosnell’s now closed abortion clinic so “prosecutors brought all of Gosnell’s equipment and furnishings from one of his procedure rooms and arranged it in the well of the courtroom so Moton could identify it and explain its use,” Slobodzian reported.


Chelsea Garcia is a political writer with a special interest in international relations and social issues. Events surrounding the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel are a major focus for political journalists. But as a former local reporter, she is also interested in national politics.

Chelsea Garcia studied media, communication and political science in Texas, USA, and learned the journalistic trade during an internship at a daily newspaper. In addition to her political writing, she is pursuing a master's degree in multimedia and writing at Texas.

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