Abortion Doctor Kermit Gosnell Ends Defense With No Witnesses

Hemera/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- The attorney for controversial abortion doctor and accused murderer Kermit Gosnell rested his defense Wednesday without presenting any witnesses or calling on Gosnell to testify.

The announcement by Gosnell's attorney, Jack McMahon, came just a day after the defense began presenting its case, and signaled a quick end to a trial that has seen five weeks of testimony from prosecution witnesses.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys will have the rest of the week to prepare closing statements in the case, which they will present on Monday, according to ABC News affiliate WPVI.

Gosnell is charged with four counts of first-degree murder stemming from the practices at his Philadelphia abortion clinic, where he allegedly used untrained staff to help perform late-term abortions that included, according to testimony, delivering babies and then killing them outside the womb.

He is accused of using scissors to snip the spinal chords of infants in cases where the abortion inside the womb failed, and the babies were delivered.

He could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder.

Prosecutors also say that the doctor overdosed a female patient with anesthesia and failed to get her medical help, which led to her death. He is charged with third-degree murder in her death.

Earlier this week, Judge Jeffrey Minehart dismissed three other murder charges that concerned allegedly killing infants who were born alive. Minehart said there was not enough evidence to send the charges to a jury.

Workers from the clinic had testified during the prosecution's case that they had seen some of the infants take a breath or move after they were delivered from their mothers, which prosecutors said showed that Gosnell killed viable infants after botched abortions, leading to the murder charges.

Gosnell's attorney asked Minehart to dismiss the charges after the prosecution rested.

"There is not one piece - not one - of objective, scientific evidence that anyone was born alive," McMahon said, according to WPVI. "These are not the movements of a live child."

The trial has roused both sides of the abortion debate, with abortion-rights activists condemning Gosnell's murder as far outside the bounds of legalized abortion and anti-abortions rights groups hoping the trial sheds light on what they see as the troubling aspects of abortion.

Ann Scheidler, a vice president for the Pro-Life Action League, said that the dropped charges showed the "gray area" that is difficult to sort through when it comes to judging when an infant is considered alive, with its own rights.

"It certainly does highlight the complications that begin to emerge when you're talking about life and death and that short distance, that short time between being in the womb and out of the womb," Scheidler said.

"At some point we're going to have to face the issue of just what is the difference and why is it okay to take a person's life if that life is still inside the womb, or when the baby is outside the womb but the intention was to take its life inside," she said.

Vicki Saporta, president for the abortion rights group National Abortion Federation, said that Gosnell took advantage of the women who came to him in need of an abortion. She said his clinic is not representative of safe, regulated abortion clinics.

"Unfortunately, you do have rogue providers that prey on the most vulnerable of women and regardless of a woman's income level they deserve access to high-quality care," Saporta said.

Saporta 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.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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