Murder trial of Philly abortion doctor looms

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 18, 2013 at 12:09 am •  Published: March 18, 2013

Despite the new rules, which took effect in June, nearly all of the state's abortion centers have remained open, state health officials said. The most recent state data shows that 36,280 abortions were performed in 2011, down somewhat from 37,284 in 2009. The highest annual total on record is 65,777 in 1980; the lowest is 34,494 in 1999.

Mongar had fled Bhutan and spent 19 years in refugee camps, some in Nepal, before arriving in the U.S. in 2008 with her husband and three children. When she discovered she was pregnant, she went to a clinic in Virginia, where she lived, but was referred to Gosnell because she was in her second trimester. She was 19 weeks pregnant when her adult daughter brought her to Gosnell's Women's Medical Center.

The thin, 4-foot-11 Mongar, who spoke no English, was allegedly given a lethal dose of Demerol and other drugs before Gosnell, the only licensed doctor on staff, ever arrived.

"She was older, with grown children and grandchildren, and that clearly was the basis for her decision to ... terminate the pregnancy," said Smalley, who filed the family's civil suits against Gosnell, city health officials and others. "If it's legal, people have an opportunity to pursue it if they believe it's in their best interest and in the best interest of their family, especially for my client, given all they had been through before they ever got to this country."

Smalley grew up in the West Philadelphia neighborhood and recalls the Gosnell family's good reputation. Gosnell earned kudos by returning to the area after medical school, when he could have set up shop in the suburbs. He worked out of a storefront he bought in the run-down Mantua section.

But Gosnell came to operate under the radar, relying on unlicensed medical school graduates, untrained clerical staff and even a teen working after school to administer anesthesia and help perform abortions, usually on poor and immigrant women paying a few hundred dollars in cash, the grand jury found.

"At some point, he made a left-hand turn," Smalley said. "But somebody should have known about it long before my client died."

Gosnell also ran what federal drug investigators call a pill mill, allegedly making millions of dollars over the years by selling prescription painkillers to addicts, drug dealers and others. Federal drug charges await him after the murder trial, which is expected to last six to eight weeks.

"Even though everything points back to Gosnell himself, to me it's a mystery why so many people that he hired on as staff would be complicit in what he was doing," said Thomas Shaheen, vice president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, which opposes abortion. "He was the one profiting, but it puzzles me that during that whole time and that whole tragedy, no one blew the whistle."