Thursday, July 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Crumbling house of horrors?

Prosecutors say Kermit Gosnell's abortion clinic is unsafe.

Crumbling house of horrors?

The Women´s Medical Society in Philadelphia where abortion doctor Kermit B. Gosnell catered to minorities, immigrants and poor women. He is charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors.
The Women's Medical Society in Philadelphia where abortion doctor Kermit B. Gosnell catered to minorities, immigrants and poor women. He is charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors.

Kermit Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society clinic has been a fixture at the corner of 38th Street and Lancaster Avenue since 1979.

But maybe not much longer.

Authorities say the landmark building – actually four buildings, 3801 through 3805, that Gosnell renovated and turned into a maze of rooms for his family medical and abortion practice – has seriously deteriorated since Feb. 18, 2010 when a state-federal task force raided and closed the facility.

The buildings’ decline ruined one of the prosecution’s planned surprises for the Common Pleas Court jury hearing Gosnell’s murder trial: a field trip and tour of what has commonly been called the “house of horrors.”

Last week, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore and Edward Cameron told Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart that the buildings’ condition made a tour impossible.

A hole in the roof of 3801 – present before the 2010 raid – has only gotten worse, Cameron said, and the incoming water has pulled down ceilings and sheetrock.

“I feel sick every time I go in there,” added Pescatore, referring to the mold permeating the site.

And John Taggart, a police crime-scene officer who has been inside weekly since June 23 collecting and documenting evidence for the trial, said windows and doors have begun sagging and losing alignment.

The issue came up because Minehart asked prosecutors when they could remove the aging collection of medical equipment filling the well of the courtroom at the Criminal Justice Center. Because touring the site was impossible, prosecutors had police bring key pieces of equipment from the clinic for the edification of the jurors and witnesses. The collection now includes a gynecological exam table with stirrups, a recliner, ultrasound and suction machines, defibrillators and even artwork.

The artwork was from the two rooms where abortions were performed. One was known as the “O’Keeffe Room” because it was decorated with reproductions of pieces by American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. The other was the “Monet Room” because of copies of paintings by the French master of Impressionism.

Unfortunately for the judge, Pescatore said the clutter of equipment would be needed for a series of witnesses set to testify in the trial, which begins its fourth week on Monday.

About this blog
Inquirer reporter Joe Slobodzian covers the courts and writes about the people who find themselves there and what they face.

You can reach Slobodzian at 215-854-2985 or jslobodzian@phillynews.com. Reach Joseph A. at jslobodzian@phillynews.com.

Joseph A. Slobodzian
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected