PHILADELPHIA — Several employees of Philadelphia’s notorious abortionist, Kermit Gosnell, have pleaded guilty to third-degree murder.
Lynda Williams, 43, pleaded guilty Nov. 9 in her role in the death of a 41-year-old woman undergoing an abortion at Gosnell’s clinic, as well as one of seven babies who were killed after birth.
In late October, Adrienne Moton, 36, admitted to killing babies delivered alive, while Sherry West, 52, admitted her role in the 2009 death of Karnamaya Mongar, a 41-year-old Bhutanese immigrant. Mongar was 19 weeks pregnant when West gave her an overdose of painkillers and anesthesia. The overdose killed both Mongar and her unborn child.
West is not being charged with the death of the child.
The women had no training or licensing for the work they did at the Women’s Medical Society in West Philadelphia. The business, operated by Gosnell, was described by Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams as a “house of horrors.” The premise was littered with aborted babies and parts of babies, covered in filth, and run by untrained staff. Gosnell was not certified in obstetrics or gynecology, and his business had not been inspected since 1993.
In their report on the death of Mongar, the grand jury stated that she “died as a result of the wanton, reckless conduct of Kermit Gosnell, Lynda Williams and Sherry
West, who all disregarded the extremely high risk that their conduct — the unlawful administration of large doses of a Schedule II narcotic — might cause death or serious bodily injury. The Philadelphia medical examiner concluded that the manner of death was homicide.”
On Nov. 19, 2009, West administered the drug Cytotec at a rate of two tablets per hour to produce the uterine contractions that would expel the fetus and administered Restoril to cause drowsiness. West called Gosnell to tell him that Mongar “was really uncomfortable, and they wanted to give her something else to make her comfortable.” West said that Gosnell told her to just “med her up” with their “custom sleep” sedation, a cocktail of Demerol, Promethazine and Diazepam.
This cocktail’s 75-mg dose of Demerol was characterized as “very, very heavy” by the grand jury’s expert witness on anesthetics. When combined with other medications, the drug can fatally depress respiration. Another worker testified that the same dose was given to every patient who was 15 or more weeks pregnant, regardless of age or weight. Women were never weighed but simply told to choose from an “Anesthesia for Surgery” menu listing options and prices, with workers encouraging the women to pay extra for heavier medication. Mongar was 4 feet, 10 inches tall and weighed 110 pounds.
When Mongar failed to regain consciousness, West grabbed her file and rode with her to the emergency room. Along the way, she altered the file so it appeared as though Mongar had received far less medication that she actually had.
Scenes of Infanticide
West was one of several workers singled out for her incompetence and callousness by co-worker Latosha Lewis. “They basically came in late and goofed around and ate and would just wait for the doctor to come in, while they just — they would give women medications and not watch them,” Lewis said. “And a lot of times they would just be goofing off and playing around. Even though, you know, you’re administering medications to people, you still need to look out for certain signs; and it’s still things that you need to follow that they would not follow. It was a game to them.”
Another worker, Marcella Stanley Choung, testified that “training” for the administration of anesthesia consisted of a 15-minute description by Gosnell. In addition, West had hepatitis but rarely took precautions to protect patients and often didn’t even wear gloves.
Defense attorney Michael Wallace said that West is “very sorry about the death of that young lady. She got caught up in a series of things that probably she did not realize the significance of.”
Another worker, Adrienne Moton, was charged with seven counts of murder, conspiracy, racketeering and solicitation. Moton admitted to cutting the spinal cords of multiple babies born alive. In the gruesome case of the child known only as “Baby D,” a woman delivered in the bathroom before the doctor arrived. Witnesses said that the child was large and appeared to be “swimming” in the toilet when Moton reached in, lifted the child out, and cut the child’s spinal cord.
Moton was present during the 2008 murder of the child known only as “Baby Boy A.” The 32-week-old boy was born alive, moving and breathing. Gosnell joked that “this baby is big enough to walk around with me or walk me to the bus stop.” Then he slit the boy’s neck.
Workers were alarmed by the baby’s size and snapped pictures of his body on their cell phones. One of these photos was found on Moton’s phone. The women testified that they took the pictures because, as worker Kareema Cross said, they could see “everything, the hair, eyes, everything. And I never seen for any other procedure that he did; I never seen any like that.”
The pleas came one month after Judge Benjamin Lerner denied defense motions to try Gosnell and his eight co-defendants separately. The next pretrial hearing was set for Nov. 17 and was to deal with defense motions to bar certain evidence at trial.
Sentencing for Moton and West is set for December. Moton faces a maximum of 120 years, while West faces a maximum of 140 years.
Gosnell, 70, is in jail, charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of the woman and seven babies. He could face the death penalty.
Thomas L. McDonald writes from Trenton, New Jersey.