By Cheryl Sullenger
Queens, NY – Robert Rho and Kermit Gosnell were both little-known abortionists who ran abortion facilities that operated under the radar of regulators as well as the general public until their arrests and ensuing trials thrust them into the public spotlight.
But the two men have more in common that a shared profession and having worn a matching set of “bracelets.”
Both have been criminally convicted for killing women during late-term abortions that went terribly wrong.
Robert Rho pleaded guilty to negligent homicide on May 4, 2018, for causing the needless death of Jaime Lee Morales during a horribly botched abortion at his small Flushing, New York, abortion facility in 2016. Rho had unsuccessfully attempted to conduct an abortion on Morales in her 26th week of pregnancy in just one day. As a result, he lacerated her cervix, sliced a 7.5-inch gash through her uterus, severed her uterine artery, and deeply cut into the wall of her vagina. Rho conducted a second procedure – not to fix the severe internal injuries, but to conceal her hemorrhaging. With the business day ebbing away, he discharged her in an unstable condition and Morales died soon after.
Gosnell is best known for his convictions on three counts of first degree murder for killing babies born alive during late-term abortions at a squalid clinic in West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. But Gosnell also was convicted of the same crime as Rho – negligent homicide – for killing Karnamaya Mongar during an illegal late-term abortion. Mongar was overdosed by Gosnell’s staff with Demerol, a cheaper drug that those with fewer side effects. During her abortion, her vital signs began to slip, but Gosnell continued with the second trimester abortion without attending to his dying patient. When paramedics arrived, Mongar was found unattended on the abortion table, naked from the waist down, with her legs still in the stirrups – and in full cardiac arrest. Paramedics were able to temporarily revive her, but Mongar did not survive.
I personally attended the 2013 Gosnell trial (and even wrote a book about it), so I am very familiar with Gosnell’s attitude and behavior as well as the evidence and testimony during his murder trial. For Rho’s case, I relied on an observer, Lauren Handy, who attended ten days of the trial and relayed to me Rho’s actions and demeanor during his trial as well as details concerning the testimony and evidence in the case.
Of course, there were significant differences between the two criminal abortionists. Gosnell’s demeanor in the courtroom was serene and almost prideful. He had the look of a man who truly believed he had done nothing wrong, which was striking, given the horrific nature of the case. He never seemed troubled by the damning case presented by the prosecution and didn’t seem to care how long the trial lasted.
On the other hand, Rho appeared angry and impatient — even argumentative with his attorney, who he did not seem to trust. He wanted the trial over as soon as possible and seemed to resent having to sit through the proceedings.
But there were also a striking number of similarities. Both men operated in a reckless and criminal manner because them somehow believed that no negative consequences would ever come of their behavior.
This “above-the-law” attitude and conduct must serve as a warning. There are others out there that share these commonalities, and if they haven’t yet killed a patient, it is just a matter of time before they do.
Here’s a closer look at aspects that Gosnell and Rho have in common.
Testimony in the Gosnell case reflected he engaged in bizarre behavior at inappropriate times. For example, when police raided Gosnell’s office, Gosnell proceeded to calmly feed the turtles in the dirty tank in his office, delivered a dead baby from a woman in labor, and then sat down to eat his lunch while still wearing torn and bloody surgical gloves.
For Rho, his behavior could also be described as “bizarre” but in a much different way. Rho seemed impatient and paranoid. When and Associated Press reported sat down to speak with Lauren Handy, Rho interrupted and told the reporter not to speak with Handy because she was “anti-abortion.”
A photographer was tasked with photographing Rho and snapped pictures of him in the hallway outside the courtroom during one of the breaks in the proceedings. Rho approached the photographer and told him he could not use that picture because it showed him near the restroom door, then ordered the photographer to retake his picture.
During breaks, he openly argued with his attorney Jeff Lichtman about the cost of his defense, prompting Lichtman to tell him, “I don’t know what it’s going to cost. I’m just trying to keep you out of jail.”
At one point, Rho startled onlookers when he slammed his hand down on a table and shouted, “I’m stretched thin in my bank account!”
It seemed that Rho had much difficulty trusting his defense counsel and controlling his emotions and actions, which nearly led to a mistrial.
Rho’s most disruptive and shocking behavior came in his attempts to improperly communicate with the jury. While Gosnell would often try to make eye contact and smile at his jury members in an effort to connect with them, Rho would make faces and gesture to the jury in an attempt to influence them. These childish outbursts earned him a stern rebuke from Judge Gregory Lasak.
During a break in deliberations, Rho even approached a juror and tried to tell her his side of the story about one piece of testimony, which was completely outrageous conduct. The jury had to be polled to see how many others had heard his outburst or felt influenced by it. Luckily, the jury was allowed to continue deliberations.
Late-Term Abortions Past Legal Limit
Both Gosnell and Rho had no qualms about conducting late-term abortions beyond the legal limits in their states, which happened to both be 24 weeks. These laws meant little to either man.
While Mongar’s baby was determined to be 16-18 weeks gestation – well within the legal limit – other evidence showed he routinely aborted babies more than 30 weeks into pregnancy.
In the Rho case, Morales’ baby was determined by a forensic anthropologist to be 24-26 weeks gestation. This finding was consistent with Rho’s own determination that the Morales baby was 25.1 weeks gestation, or just into her 26th weeks of pregnancy – over the legal limit for an abortion in New York.
Gosnell and Rho both maintained grossly unqualified staffs. None of Gosnell’s workers were properly qualified or trained. He employed one woman with just a sixth-grade education. Another worker was a 15-year old teenager. Both routinely administered sedation drugs outside Gosnell’s presence. Gosnell also hired two medical school graduates, but neither had bothered to obtain valid licenses in Pennsylvania. However, they conducted duties as if they were licensed physicians.
In Rho’s case, none of his staff were properly qualified or trained, either. He hired two women to work as receptionists, but soon had them helping in surgery and conducting ultrasound exams even though they had no medical background. One of Rho’s workers was tasked with taking vital signs during surgery, which she did not know how to do. When she reminded him of that, he told her to “just put down numbers” on the patient’s chart.
Corners-Cutting on Patient Care and Safety
In the medical profession, there are certain standards that physicians must adhere. Facilities must be clean. Medical records must be properly and completely filled out. For certain procedures, such as abortions, there are also standards that must be met. The standards are there to protect the patient from adverse outcomes or harm.
Gosnell operated his abortion facility as if he was the supreme lawgiver. The workers were taught that he was the doctor and could not be questioned. That is how he convinced his staff that snipping the necks of viable babies that were born alive during abortions was standard practice in every abortion clinic.
Rho also ignored patient care standards, a practice that led to Morales’ death, just like Gosnell’s violation of patient standards regarding anesthesia led to the death of Karnamaya Mongar.
Rho’s attempt to conduct a nearly 26-week abortion in one day violated one of those standards. Cinching Morales’ cervix shut to hide the internal hemorrhaging instead of calling an ambulance was another. When Rho released Morales in a semi-conscious, unresponsive state, Dr. Arup De, an expert in anesthesiology, testified that Rho had violated patient care standards.
The utter disregard for the most basic care required made both of these men extremely dangerous and led to the deaths of Mongar and Morales.
Apathy About Fixing Mistakes
Kermit Gosnell didn’t do much for Karnamaya Mongar when she went into respiratory distress, which led to cardiac arrest. He performed no CPR. He simply walked away. When paramedics arrived, Gosnell had moved on from Mongar and was unhelpful to those who were trying to save his patient’s life.
Rho didn’t even bother calling an ambulance for his dying patient. He never tried to repair all the damage he had done to Morales or stop the internal bleeding. In fact, he tried to cover up her hemorrhaging and gambled that someone would realize she needed to go to the hospital. He was impatient and left his office just five minutes after discharging Morales.
“He just wanted her gone,” prosecutor Brad Leventhal told the jury during closing arguments, emphasizing his lack of concern.
Difficulty Admitting Culpability
Both Rho and Gosnell had much difficulty admitting they had done anything wrong and expressed no remorse for their victims. Even after Gosnelll had settled into his new prison home, it was reported that he had begun training for a triathlon that he wanted to compete in once he was released – despite the fact he agreed to give up his right to appeal in exchange for a life sentence with no parole. The alternative had been capital punishment. He even once remarked that one day people would come to understand what he did and embrace it.
When Rho accepted a plea deal on a lesser count, he was forced to admit his culpability in court. At first, he simply stated that he had lacerated the victim’s cervix, repaired in twice, then sent her home where she died unexpectedly. Finally, he was forced to admit – albeit through clenched teeth – that he killed Jaime Morales by inflicting serious internal injuries during an abortion.
While Gosnell will sit in prison for the rest of his life, Rho’s difficulty admitting guilt is a warning flag that he must never be allowed to practice medicine again.
Lack of Empathy for the Family
Neither Gosnell nor Rho had much sympathy for the family. Gosnell had written a letter to the Monger family after Karnamaya’s death, but he never expressed his sorrow. This caused offense and hurt in an already grieving family.
For Rho, his behavior in court, his open arguing over money, his bizarre attempts to communicate with the jury is disagreement and his willingness to allow his attorney to attack the character of Morales as a heavy drinker and her family members as just in it for the money, all offended caused pain for the family.
But perhaps the worst of all for them was when Judge Lasak announced that the jury had reached a verdict. That is when Rho’s attorney jumped up and told the judge he wanted to cop a plea to the lesser charge. After over three weeks of emotional testimony, the family was denied hearing the verdict that had been reached.
Arrogance and Greed
Gosnell and Rho shared two critical traits that led to two needless patients’ deaths and their own downfall: arrogance and greed.
Gosnell, in his arrogance, believed he was never wrong. In his greed, he cut so many corners on safety and practices that he became a danger to his patients.
The same could be said for Rho. His arrogance and greed manifested in his constant arguing with his defense team over money, along with the corners cutting at his abortion facility that was meant to maximize profits without care for his patients’ health, safety, and lives.
They both also lacked remorse. To this day, neither man truly believes he deserves his fate.
How many other abortionists are out there operating under similar dangerous attitudes? Probably more than we know.
Rho is scheduled to be sentenced on June 26, 2018. It is hoped that he will be given the maximum prison sentence of four years — not nearly enough for taking Jaime Morales’ life.
It is Operation Rescue’s hope for both men that during their much deserved time in prison, they may contemplate their hurtful actions, realize a sense of remorse, and eventually come to repentance.
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