The defense phase in the Dr. Kermit Gosnell murder trial began Tuesday, with Judge Jeffery Minehart dismissing three of the eight first-degree murder charges Gosnell faced, which included seven first-degree murder charges based on allegations that he killed seven newborns. Today Judge Minehart agreed with attorneys for Gosnell that the state failed to present sufficient, objective, scientific evidence that viable babies were born alive.
The local NBC affiliate reports that Gosnell still faces five murder charges, along with charges he violated state law banning abortions beyond 24 weeks. Attorneys involved with the trial are under a gag order, preventing them from discussing the trial while it is underway, and Judge Minehart offered no additional reasoning for his decision to drop the charges.
If Gosnell is convicted of any of the remaining first-degree murder charges, he faces the possibility of a death sentence.
Anti-abortion activists have tried to turn the Gosnell story into a universal indictment on all abortion providers. However, pro-choice advocates have noted that when individuals are cut off from safe, affordable health care, they become vulnerable to people like Gosnell: unscrupulous, poorly-trained doctors who are willing to prey on their isolation and desperation.
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Rewire has been reporting on the Gosnell case since 2010; you can find our comprehensive coverage here.