The wife of West Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell pleaded guilty Tuesday to counts involving illegal late-term abortions on poor women at his Women's Medical Society clinic.

In a barely audible voice, Pearl Gosnell, 50, pleaded guilty to the charges brought against her in January: participating in an illegal late-term abortion, two counts of conspiracy, and being part of a corrupt organization.

The Gosnells and eight employees were charged in January after a grand jury recommended criminal counts from the operation of the clinic at 3801 Lancaster Ave.

Unlike the six others who have pleaded guilty, Pearl Gosnell will not testify against her husband when he and two others come to trial on March 14, 2013.

Under the law, explained defense attorney F. Michael Medway, she has an absolute privilege against testifying against her husband unless he waives the privilege.

Medway said that prosecutors had not asked her to testify and that "she does not want to testify."

Common Pleas Court Judge Benjamin Lerner set sentencing for Feb. 15 and warned Pearl Gosnell that she could face up to 54 years in prison, although he said her sentence would not be "nearly that long."

Lerner also said it was unlikely Gosnell and the six others would be sentenced until after the trial.

Kermit Gosnell, 70, is charged with first-degree murder and faces a possible death penalty if found guilty by a jury. The grand jury report accused him of causing the 2009 death of a Virginia woman undergoing an abortion and with killing infants born viable.

Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey P. Minehart set the trial date and noted that the trial was expected to last 10 weeks. Minehart has set a hearing on pretrial motions for Aug. 13.

Outlining the factual basis for Pearl Gosnell's plea, Assistant District Attorney Joanne Pescatore noted that, according to the grand jury report and presentment, witnesses testified that Gosnell assisted her husband with the most difficult illegal late-term abortions, performed on Sundays, when other employees were not there.

The grand jury described the Gosnell clinic as a "charnel house" where late-term pregnancies were ended and newborns were killed using scissors to sever spinal cords.

Contact staff writer Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985,,

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