Four things to remember from Gosnell’s trial that (eventually) shook the world.

By Dan Bartkowiak

Five abortions every day for 22 years.

That amounts to over 40,000 abortions.

It stands as the number of abortions reported by Kermit Gosnell from his state-licensed abortion facility in West Philadelphia. And these are just the abortions he reported to the state.

Kermit Gosnell, do you know the name? I recently spoke with a group of college students, all political science majors, who had no idea who Kermit Gosnell was. Too many still have no idea.

He has been called America’s most prolific serial killer. Ten years ago, on May 13, 2013, after a five-week trial, a degree of justice was finally delivered for three of the thousands of babies aborted by Gosnell, as he was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and will spend the rest of his life in jail.

Ten years later, not only do many not know of this late-term abortionist but many think he was simply an outlier. But we know that isn’t the case, as the abortion industry continues to disregard the value of human life in their political pursuit to kill unborn babies and lobby for removing any restriction from their profit cash-cow.

Must-See Gosnell Documentary: 3801 Lancaster

Kermit Gosnell was a state-licensed abortionist who butchered and murdered women and babies. Known throughout the abortion industry as a late-term abortionist, his approach was to keep volume high and his expenses low. While many viewed him as the “good doctor” in the community, his “House of Horrors,” made him a millionaire.

Many knew what was going on in his West Philadelphia facility but did nothing to stop him. And if it wasn’t for an FBI drug raid on his clinic – unrelated to his abortion work – who knows how many more women and children he would have hurt before he was finally stopped and exposed – along with the entire political system that allowed him to operate such a barbaric enterprise.

When it finally came time for his trial, many in the media turned a blind eye until a picture was published  by reporter JD Mullane of empty media seats and a USA TODAY op-ed by Kirsten Powers finally sparked national attention.

The need to tell this story and for it not to be forgotten is the reason why Pennsylvania Family Institute helped back a documentary film. You can watch this award-winning documentary, 3801 Lancaster: American Tragedy, at

Four Highlights

There is so much we all need to remember from this shocking scar on America’s past. Here are just four stories:

1. Semika Shaw, a 22-year-old who died from a botched abortion by Gosnell.

The evidence showed at least two women were killed after a botched abortion at the hands of Kermit Gosnell. One is Karnamaya Mongar, whom Gosnell was convicted of killing by involuntary manslaughter.

The other was 22-year-old Semika Shaw, a mother of two who died after Gosnell perforated her uterus and cervix during an abortion in March 2000. It was already her fifth abortion. While the Shaw family received a financial settlement, there was no investigation or inspection from any state department upon notification of her death.

Semika Shaw’s family includes her cousin, former Pennsylvania State Representative Margo Davidson, who gave passionate remarks ahead of a vote on a bill to ensure abortion clinics are inspected and meet the same safety standards as any other ambulatory surgical facility in Pennsylvania.

2. Grand Jury: Bureaucratic inertia combined with the political football of abortion created an environment in which Gosnell preyed upon women and families for decades.

The 2010 grand jury report summed it up this way:

“[T]he Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.”

This grand jury, which covered “a spectrum of personal beliefs about the morality of abortion,” pleaded for Pennsylvania to classify abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities:

“If oversight agencies expect to prevent future Dr. Gosnells, they must find the fortitude to enact and enforce the necessary regulations. Rules must be more than words on paper. We recommend that the Pennsylvania Department of Health plug the hole it has created for abortion clinics. They should be explicitly regulated as ambulatory surgical facilities, so that they are inspected annually and held to the same standards as all other outpatient procedure centers.”

“The abhorrent conditions and practices inside Gosnell’s clinic are directly attributable to the Pennsylvania Health Department’s refusal to treat abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities.”

In response, the bill that would become Act 122 of 2011 was introduced to mandate clinic inspections and building and safety standards for abortion clinics, the same standards used for other ambulatory surgical facilities. 

3. 45 Democrat State Representatives voting in favor of the law passed in the wake of the Gosnell uncovering.

Davidson, a Democrat, joined a total of 45 Democrats to pass this Gosnell bill through the House in 2011. That was half of the Democrat caucus at the time, joining all but one Republican State Representative, in passing this bill through the PA House. Thankfully, the majority of the PA General Assembly did the right thing, and then-Governor Tom Corbett signed it into law.

Note: Current Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro voted against this bill, serving at the time as a State Representative.

These same regulations are at risk for removal in states like Pennsylvania where the abortion industry is using lawsuits and misinformation to conjure up their ultimate goal: to profit from abortion without any state restrictions – as they seek to reverse protections enacted on the Gosnell grand jury recommendations.

4. The one time the jury gasped during the trial – and it wasn’t about Gosnell.  

Everything about their position on abortion changed for Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer in April 2013 and Kermit Gosnell’s trial. They became pro-life as a result of their coverage of the Gosnell trial.

“Abortion arguments from pro-abortion advocates tend to avoid any actual talk of how an abortion is done and what exactly it is that is being aborted,” observes McElhinney. “I know a lot about both now.”

McElhinney and McAleer wrote the book, Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer, followed by producing the Gosnell movie, one of the most successful crowdfunded films in history.

I’ve heard McElhinney share numerous times about a particular observation from the trial, and it’s one that is not directly about Gosnell himself:

“Ironically, in a trial that featured so many graphic, gory images projected on the courtroom wall, it was an expert witness’s testimony about the realities of abortion that elicited the only audible gasps from the jury box. Dr. Charles Benjamin, an OB/GYN with thirty-three years of experience, was asked how many abortions he had performed over the course of his career. At least forty thousand, came his matter-of-fact reply. The jury was shocked. The prosecution and the defense got a glimpse of how difficult it would be to read the jury in this case.” (page 189)

Like Gosnell, abortion made Dr. Benjamin a millionaire. His clinic, Berger and Benjamin, closed in 2019 after they relinquished their registration certificate following an inspection by the PA Department of Health.


10 years later, I strongly encourage you to watch (or rewatch) the 3801 Lancaster documentary. In an interview ahead of its release, the film’s director, David Altrogge, draws attention to the reality of today’s abortion industry:

I don’t believe that Kermit Gosnell is an outlier in the abortion industry. If you look at the amount of money he made doing what he was doing, there’s no way that he’s the only guy doing it.

In the film, we also look at another clinic that also had some really dangerous practices going on in Delaware. The similarities between this Delaware case and Gosnell are striking as far as the Delaware Department of State not responding to complaints, just like the Pennsylvania Department of State failed to respond. Just incredibly similar.

Now, are all other clinics as filthy and unsanitary as Dr. Gosnell’s clinic? I don’t think that is an accurate statement either. But it would be naïve to say there are no others like Kermit Gosnell, who was making a significant profit providing abortion services.