“I tried to give my patients the care I expect my daughter to receive.”
Kermit Gosnell said those words to me as we sat in a conference room last March, said them as quietly and seriously as a priest saying his morning prayers.
They jump off the page at you now, given the revolting story a grand jury told on Wednesday about Gosnell’s medical practice in an almost-too-horrifying-to-be-true 261-page report.
Daily News readers who have read the report, which accused Gosnell of murdering “hundreds” of babies and at least one patient over the last 30 years, have asked me two questions, over and over again: What was Gosnell like in person, and what did you think of him?
A quick recap: Authorities raided Gosnell’s practice, Women’s Medical Society, on Feb. 18, looking to bust what they thought was a “pill mill.
What they found defied belief: barely conscious women moaning on bloodstained recliners, blood-spattered floors, and jars and bags filled with countless fetal remains.
In the weeks that followed, numerous women reached out to the People Paper to share their own personal horror stories about near-death experiences they had suffered at Gosnell’s hands because of botched abortions.
He instantly became a pariah.
I asked Gosnell’s then-attorney, William J. Brennan (who said he isn’t representing him now), if I could interview the doctor, to see if he could explain what really had been going on inside his West Philadelphia clinic.
On March 8, we met at Brennan’s Center City office.
Gosnell was soft-spoken, but very sure of himself, very sure that he had done nothing wrong.
When I asked him about the numerous women who had sued him over botched abortions, some of which nearly killed them, he responded that no one was perfect, but that he sure tried.
When I asked about the reports of his office being the equivalent of a bloodstained butcher’s shop, he inched his chair next to me and pulled out his iPhone.
He flipped through photos of bathrooms. “We have nine bathrooms,” he said with a small smile, “and each has a terrarium.”
The grand-jury report said the bathrooms were often streaked with vomit and blood, and toilets were sometimes clogged with the remains of aborted fetuses.
He talked a lot about his connection to Mantua, to West Philly, to the community he had grown up in and served for decades.
He talked about his seven kids and his wife, Pearl. The negative press, he said, “has been very difficult, especially for my wife.”
Pearl Gosnell was charged earlier this week with performing illegal abortions.
Our discussion always returned to the nauseating headlines, the lurid accusations. But it was all a misunderstanding, Gosnell insisted. “I feel in the long term, I will be vindicated,” he told me.
As proof, Gosnell noted that the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which sets the standards for abortion care in North America, had visited his clinic in December 2009, and raised nary a concern.
The president of NAF later told me that the exact opposite was true, that Gosnell’s clinic had an extensive list of problems.
But the truth didn’t matter to him. Kermit Gosnell kept smiling, so content with the idea that he provided the type of care he’d want his daughter to have.
Here's a rundown of this week's coverage of Dr. Kermit Gosnell from the Daily News:
To read the grand jury report yourself (be warned that it is filled with EXTREMELY GRAPHIC images) click here.