April 22, 2013 -- The defense of controversial abortion Dr. Kermitt Gosnell gets underway in Phialdelphia this week, but he cannot expect any support from some of the country's most pro abortion rights advocacy organizations who "unequivocally denounced" his practice.
Leaders from Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation said that Gosnell's abortion clinic was an affront to high-quality, safe abortion clinics who operate under proper regulations across the country.
Gosnell's attorneys were supposed to begin their defense today but it was postponed until Tuesday due to illness on the defense team. The trial is entering its sixth week of testimony in the high-profile trial, which could result in the death penalty for Gosnell.
The Philadelphia doctor is accused of killing infants after they were delivered live at his abortion clinic and blamed for the death of a woman during an abortion.
"We have consistently said that this is a horrifying and outrageous case, that Gosnell ran a criminal enterprise, not a health care facility, and that he should be punished to the fullest extent of the law," Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told ABC News recently.
Gosnell, 69, is accused of running an abortion clinic in which none of his medical staff were properly licensed or trained, and in which he would allegedly induce labor in women who were six, seven, or eight months pregnant and then kill the newborn children after they were delivered, according to ABC News affiliate WPVI. He is charged with killing seven infants and one mother, who died of an overdose of Demerol.
Prosecutors are entering the sixth week of the trial as they continue to present witnesses to testify about the conditions inside the clinic, including Gosnell's practice of keeping aborted fetuses and body parts in jars on shelves, according to testimony recounted by ABC News affiliateWPVI.
Gosnell has pleaded not guility.
The case flared into headlines recently as anti-abortion rights groups complained that the media was not covering the case with any prominence and suggested it was because the media was liberal and did not want to expose the grisly details of late term abortions.
But groups that would normally defend late term abortions said that is not what they consider the Gosnell case to be about. These groups consider the trial to be about illegal abortions performed under dangerous circumstances.
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said that Gosnell's practice was clearly illegal and substandard, and demonstrated the conditions some women are willing to go through to secure an abortion.
"What Gosnell was doing, at least as described by the grand jury report, was illegal from top to bottom under current state and federal law, so the fact that he was able to continue operating and particularly preying on poor women and women who felt they had no other options is indicative of what happens when you drive abortion underground and to back alley providers," she said.
"We think the Gosnell case is exactly why we need to keep abortion safe and legal and accessible to all people," Hogue said.
Prosecutors have laid out grim details as they have presented their case to a Philadelphia jury over the past five weeks, describing how Gosnell allegedly used scissors to snip the spinal chord of newborns after they had emerged, alive, from delivery.
"If the baby is alive and you don't want it to be, that doesn't mean you have the right to take a pair of scissors and plunge it into the baby's neck," prosecutor Joanne Pescatore said during opening statements.
Gosnell is fighting the charges. His attorney, Jack J. McMahon called the trial "an elitist, racist prosecution," noting that his client, a black man, mainly treated women of color.
Gosnell Defense Can't Expect Support From Abortion Rights Groups
"Unfortunately, you do have rogue providers that prey on the most vulnerable of women," said Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, "and regardless of a woman's income level they deserve access to high quality care."
Both Saporta and Hogue noted that Pennsylvania already has strict abortion regulations, but that the regulations were not enforced, allowing Gosnell to run an illegal operation.
"The fact that he wasn't providing care later and wasn't ensuring fetal demise and not operating under any established standards of care and outside of the law is the problem in this case, and not indicative of the high quality care available across the country," Saporta said.
"Gosnell is an extreme outlier when it comes to medical practice or abiding by the law," she added, noting that both the NAF and Planned Parenthood, along with other pro-choice groups, have condemned Gosnell's practices.
"This is why we have to keep abortion practices available as medical procedures, so that they are safe and legal between a woman and her doctor," Hague said.