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Pa. abortion doctor’s case near trial

PHILADELPHIA — Jury selection began Monday in the murder trial of a Philadelphia abortion provider, a potentially sensitive task since the case involves both abortion and the death penalty.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is charged with eight counts of murder. He is charged with third-degree murder in a woman’s 2009 death during a botched abortion, and first-degree murder for allegedly killing seven viable babies. Gosnell faces the death penalty if convicted on the latter counts.

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He has pleaded not guilty and insists he helped many vulnerable women and teens get medical care, including second-term abortions not offered at many clinics.

Three women were picked as jurors Monday, and selection will continue Tuesday.

Pennsylvania laws ban abortions after 24 weeks. Authorities believe at least some of the abortions performed at Gosnell’s clinic involved third-trimester pregnancies. The 2011 grand jury report details one case in which Gosnell allegedly joked the aborted fetus was so big it could walk to the bus stop.

The report described the clinic as filthy, blood-stained, and macabre, with a collection of fetal body parts in jars.

Former clinic employee Eileen O’Neill is also on trial, charged with practicing medicine without a license. Eight others have pleaded guilty to murder or lesser charges. Some are expected to testify against their former boss.

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