Yong Kim / Philadelphia Daily News via AP
Dr. Kermit Gosnell in 2010.
PHILADELPHIA — Jury deliberations began on Tuesday in the murder trial of a Philadelphia doctor accused of killing babies and a patient during botched late-term abortions at a clinic serving low-income women.
Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, who ran the now-shuttered Women's Medical Society Clinic, could face the death penalty if convicted by the jury in Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia.
The case focuses on whether the infants were born alive and then killed.
The seven-woman, five-man jury began deliberations early in the afternoon on Tuesday after receiving instructions for about an hour and a half from Judge Jeffrey Minehart. The trial is in its sixth week.
The charges against Gosnell and nine of his employees have added more fuel to the debate in the United States about late-term abortions.
It is legal in Pennsylvania to abort a fetus up to 24 weeks into a pregnancy. Other states have recently put new restrictions on abortions, with Arkansas banning them at 12 weeks and North Dakota at six weeks.
Gosnell is charged with first-degree murder for delivering live babies during late-term abortions and then deliberately severing their spinal cords, prosecutors said.
His defense contends there is no evidence the babies were alive after they were aborted.
Defense lawyer Jack McMahon, in his closing argument on Monday, cited testimony by Medical Examiner Sam Gulino, who said none of the 47 babies tested randomly from the West Philadelphia clinic had been born alive.
"You may not like that evidence, but it is the evidence," McMahon said.
Assistant District Attorney Edward Cameron said in his closing argument that witnesses testified that one of the aborted babies was breathing before its neck was cut, another made a whining sound and another moved its arms and legs.
"You have three witnesses who saw a baby breathe and move, and he killed it," Cameron said.
The clinic that prosecutors call a "house of horrors" has been cited as powerful evidence by both abortion and anti-abortion rights groups.
Reverend Frank Pavone, director of the anti-abortion group Priests for Life, said the often gory trial testimony "will change the conversation ... It'll help people engage and make them realize they're not just talking about a theoretical idea."
Abortion-rights activists said Gosnell was an outlier among predominantly safe and legal abortion providers.
"Gosnell ran a criminal enterprise, not a healthcare facility, and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law," said Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Testimony has depicted a filthy clinic serving mostly low-income women in the largely black community. McMahon said Gosnell wanted to help the under-privileged community.
Gosnell is also charged with murdering Karnamaya Mongar, 41, of Virginia, who died from a drug overdose after going to him for an abortion, prosecutors said.
The defense lawyer said Mongar was given guideline amounts of the drug Demerol as an anesthesia during the abortion, as had hundreds of other women at the clinic.
Gosnell, who has been in jail since his January 2011 arrest, is being tried along with Eileen O'Neill, a medical graduate student accused of billing patients and insurance companies as if she had been a licensed doctor. Eight other defendants have pleaded guilty to a variety of charges and are awaiting sentencing.