Before leaving for a job in telemarketing, Steven Massof masqueraded as a doctor at Gosnell’s clinic for five years. An online resume claims he attended medical school in Grenada, but he was not licensed and was paid in cash. He testified that approximately 40 percent of abortions performed at the clinic were on fetuses beyond 24 weeks and that he personally severed the spinal cords of about a hundred babies. Massof, 48, is charged with murder, theft by deception, conspiracy and drug violations.
The report describes daily operating procedure: As patients seeking abortions arrived, whoever was manning the front desk fed them unregulated quantities and mixtures of drugs. The chemical cocktails were designed to simultaneously induce labor and sedate the women. In many cases, the women were pumped so full of drugs they were out cold, or as D.A. Seth Williams explained on a recent episode of NPR’s Radio Times, “like zombies.” He added: “[Patients] did not know inducing the labor and severing the spinal cords of live babies was going to happen.”
The report stated that “All afternoon and evening, as patients woke and complained of pain, workers would continue to medicate them with injections of sedatives. Between doses, the staff would leave the patients largely unattended. This would go on until the doctor arrived, some six or more hours after the patient did, or until the woman delivered.”
Sometimes, depending on how far along the woman was in her pregnancy, the “procedure” would last as long as three days.
“If … a baby was about to come out, I would take the woman to the bathroom, they would sit on the toilet and basically the baby would fall out and it would be in the toilet,” testified Latosha Lewis, who worked for Gosnell for more than eight years. “I would be rubbing her back and trying to calm her down for two, three, four hours until Dr. Gosnell comes. She would not move.”
The latter happened so often that James Johnson, the clinic’s janitor—and common-law husband of 51-year-old Elizabeth Hampton, who is herself Gosnell’s wife’s sister—refused to pull any more flesh out of the plumbing.
Hampton, 51, faces charges of hindering prosecution, perjury, false swearing, and obstructing administration of law.
“[Johnson] described how he had to lift the toilet so that someone else—he said it was too disgusting for him—could get the fetuses out of the pipes.”
If the fetus or babies hadn’t “fallen out” (or “precipitated” in the euphemistic language employed by the staff) by the time Gosnell arrived, staff would push and shove on the women’s abdomen.
“By maximizing the pain and danger for his patients, [Gosnell] minimized the work, and cost, for himself and his staff,” states the report. “The policy, in effect, was labor without labor.”
Once delivered, he would cut the spinal cord, then crush the skulls.
Upstairs, there was one clean room with a television. Tina Baldwin is a 45-year-old who worked at the clinic testified that the separate room was reserved for white women only.
“The … black population was … big here. So he didn’t mind you medicating your African-American girls, your Indian girl, but if you had a white girl from the suburbs, oh, you better not medicate her. You better wait until he go in and talk to her first.”
Baldwin is facing charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and corruption of a minor for allowing her teenage daughter to also work at the clinic.
Targeting the poorest women, women of color and immigrants like Mongar who didn’t speak English and could not read the papers they signed, was lucrative for Gosnell. When the grand jury searched the doctor’s home, they found $240,000 in cash—and a gun—in a closet of his 12-year-old daughter’s room.
The cash is a pittance compared to the millions of dollars generated over decades.
His butcher shop of an abortion factory and prescription-pill mill were operated in the unbridled pursuit of profit. He made little pretense to care for patients. When not fatally neglecting women and killing babies, he regularly hit them and forced abortions on underage girls at their guardians’ request.
The depths of inhumanity that can reside behind a gentle face is one facet of this story. That racism and sexism—both of his own and the institutions that failed to respond to complaints—enabled the atrocity is another.
“Bureaucratic inertia is not exactly news. We understand that,” states the report. “But we think this was something more. We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.”
Journalist Steve Lopez once wrote that Philadelphia is a city without pretense in a state without shame—and that was long before Harrisburg legislators stooped low enough to exploit murdered babies to push a bill into law that would result in what critics call a “back-door ban” on abortion in Pennsylvania.
Nine months after a grand jury concluded that the number of babies and women who died in Kermit Gosnell's women's health services clinic is “literally incalculable,” a pair of guerilla artists sent out invitations to a renegade art installation titled Regard, to be showcased by lights tonight at the former site.
Under the leadership of 44-year-old Troy Newman, Operation Rescue has become known for zeroing in on defined areas and then pressuring individual clinics and practitioners until operating becomes unreasonable or impossible.
A timeline of events in the case against Dr. Kermit Gosnell.
Last year, in the wake of the arrest of Kermit Gosnell, Operation Rescue came to town. They met in the basement of St. Agnes Church in West Chester. As PW reported in March, the militant anti-abortion organization was there recruiting volunteers to gather doctors’ names and schedules by pretending to be mothers of daughters who were seeking abortions.
PW's Summer Guide 2015