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Mother shares regrets amid Pennsylvania abortion trial

CNN
Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 8:34am

PHILADELPHIA (CNN) -- It's late afternoon on a recent Friday when Shree McKinley walks past the Women's Medical Society.

Making her way toward a large picture window, she peers inside the shuttered medical clinic, cupping her hand on the glass to block the glaring sun.

Backing away, she gasps at a series of petite baby hands made of plaster fastened to the windowsill.

"That is sad," she said. "But I guess it's the memory of the little kids that never made it."

McKinley said she was a patient of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia physician who was accused of killing babies born after attempted abortions in the sixth, seventh, and eighth months of their mothers' pregnancies at his Pennsylvania clinic, while operating in dangerous, deplorable conditions.

Gosnell carried out those killings in a particularly brutal manner: using scissors to cut the babies' spinal cords. He also was charged in the death of a 41-year-old woman during an abortion procedure.

He was found guilty Monday of three counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of the babies, and involuntary manslaughter for the woman's death.

The grisly allegations in the case -- dirty procedure rooms, blood-stained and weathered equipment, babies born alive, breathing and crying, and unlicensed staff administering anesthesia -- shocked the nation and prompted McKinley to rethink what she went through six years ago.

The 36-year-old now wonders if maybe her child was born alive and had its neck snipped.

"I try not to think about it. But I think about it, and it's sad. I wish I never did it," she said. "If I would have known what I know now, I never would have had an abortion."

McKinley, now a mother, said she was approximately six months pregnant at the time Gosnell performed her abortion, which was not part of the criminal case against him.

CNN could not independently verify McKinley's account.

It's illegal to perform an abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy in the state of Pennsylvania. Generally, most doctors will not perform abortions after 20 weeks, Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams said following Gosnell's arrest in January 2011. Prosecutors say Gosnell, who is not certified to perform abortions, falsified gestational ages on records.

"This doctor gained the reputation far and wide that he'd perform abortions at any time," Williams said.

Struggling with the idea of having a child, McKinley ultimately decided to terminate her pregnancy. So one evening, her father escorted her to Gosnell's crowded and unkempt clinic in West Philadelphia for the procedure.

"He seemed like he was a helpful person," she said of Gosnell, adding that her abortion cost $1,600. "I didn't have (all) the money up front. So I was able to give him partial money and come back and pay the rest off in payment plans."

Although unaware of the salacious allegations that later surfaced during the investigation of the clinic, McKinley said she felt "uncomfortable" and "scared" at the doctor's office.

"All the equipment was old, it was rusty. It looked like stuff from back in the 70s. And it was dirty," she said. "But I had to, you know, at the time, I had to do what I had to do."

During the trial, prosecutors accused Gosnell of reusing unsanitary instruments; performing procedures in filthy rooms, including some having litter boxes and animals present during operations; and allowing unlicensed employees -- including a teenage high school student -- to perform operations and administer anesthesia.

Gosnell's defense attorney Jack McMahon maintained that none of the infants was killed; rather, he said, they were already deceased as a result of Gosnell previously administering the drug Digoxin, which can cause abortion.

The conviction on three counts of first-degree murder mean Gosnell, who is not a board-certified obstetrician or gynecologist, could be sentenced to death.

"He deserves to die," McKinley said.

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