In Abortion, Lifelines, Pro-Life

Out of a Philadelphia abortuary comes a grisly tale of horror that could have been made in China.

“Pennsylvania is not a third-world country,” the grand jury investigating abortionist Kermit Gosnell insists, yet the clinic he ran bears a closer resemblance to the killing fields of one-child China than to a legitimate medical facility in the U.S.

In fact, the description of Gosnell’s operation contained in the grand jury report reminded me of some of the abortion mills that I have visited in China: “The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment — such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff — was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.”

With the exception of the cats, which would have wound up on someone’s dinner table, this could be a description of rural clinics in southern Hubei in 2010. It was to such clinics, on the orders of provincial officials, that mothers accused of violating the one-child policy were given lethal injections into the womb, or were induced and had their babies killed at birth. Floors grew sticky with blood as the bodies of dead babies piled up. Some of the little corpses were thrown on local rubbish heaps, to be discovered later by horrified passers-by.

Everyone in China knows that it is fruitless to complain to the authorities about such atrocities. After all, it is the authorities who are responsible for enforcing the one-child policy in the first place.

But if the Gosnell case proves anything, it proves that it can be equally fruitless, in some states at least, to complain to the authorities about botched abortions, late-term abortions, and even infanticide in the United States.

Consider that Gosnell opened his house of horrors in 1979 and performed hundreds of illegal late-term abortions in the decades that followed. Many of these babies were born alive after induced labor, only to be murdered by Gosnell. He would give them what he lightly termed “the snip,” which meant that he would dig into their back with a pair of scissors and sever their spinal cord. These babies had just a “few moments of life [outside the womb] spent in excruciating pain,” in the grand jury’s words.

When his efforts to induce labor failed, he would attempt to remove the unborn child himself, with sometimes disastrous complications for the women. Torn cervixes, perforated uteruses, and slashed intestines sent a constant stream of women to local emergency rooms.

Numerous complaints about Gosnell’s practices were filed by his patients, by family members, and even in some cases by employees. These were ignored by state officials who were under pressure from pro-abortion politicians and groups not to act against abortion clinics, however sleazy and corrupt, lest abortion “rights” be infringed upon.

In fact, it was not his barbaric abortion practice at all that finally ended Gosnell’s run, but an investigation into complaints that he was selling prescriptions for Oxycontin and other controlled substances. FBI agents and detectives from the district attorney’s office carried out a raid, only to find jars filled with severed baby feet lining the walls of his office, along with milk jugs and other containers filled with aborted fetuses scattered about the clinic.

How did Gosnell get away with such horrors for decades on end? The grand jury states that several Pennsylvania agencies share the blame.

First, the State Health Department stopped inspecting abortion facilities 15 years ago following the election of Governor Tom Ridge. As Brad Mattes has noted, “The politics of a pro-abortion governor put an end to inspections. Abortion mills got a free pass.”

Even a cursory inspection would have revealed that Gosnell’s own patient records contained enough evidence to convict him of performing illegal late-term abortions. But nobody bothered to check.

Second, the Department of State ignored dozens of complaints from women, relatives, and former employees about Gosnell’s behaviour. The department could not bring itself to take action even when a whistle blower—a former employee of Gosnell—came to it and “laid out the whole scope of his operation.”

Gosnell should have been stripped of his license to practice medicine years ago. Instead he was allowed to continue to kill babies and mutilate women.

Third, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health failed to enforce its own regulations. The department knew that he was in violation of local health regulations. They knew that he had no medical waste plan. They could hardly not have known, since one of Gosnell’s own employees complained to them that aborted babies were being stored in the same refrigerator that employees used to store their lunches.

They could have shut down Gosnell’s mill for any one of a number of violations. Instead they turned a blind eye.

Fourth, the local hospitals did not report—as legally required—the large number of complications that followed from Gosnell’s botched abortions. Local emergency room personnel had seen it all: patients with torn uteruses and perforated intestines; patients overdosed on pain medication; patients with baby body parts still inside of them.

But they protected Gosnell—and thus failed to protect his patients.

The grand jury report also faults the National Abortion Federation (NAF), whose representative described the small brick building on the corner of 38th and Lancaster in Pennsylvania as the worst facility she had ever seen. Yet she did nothing and told no one, confirming the suspicions of pro-lifers that the abortion industry is incapable of policing itself. To put it bluntly, if you are willing to kill babies for profit, what won’t you do?

There is a lot of money to be made by doing abortions: Just ask Planned Parenthood, which rakes in a couple hundred million a year from the practice. The grand jury estimated that Gosnell was bringing in nearly $1.8 million a year, mostly in cash, just from doing first and second trimester abortions. Add to this the money that he made by performing even more lucrative—and illegal—third trimester abortions, which he performed on Sundays in secret with only his wife to assist him. And don’t forget the prescriptions for narcotics, which must have been good for another couple hundred thousand or so.

If Gosnell was driven by greed, he was protected by pro-abortion groups that maintain that ordinary medical regulation and supervision will curtail access to abortion.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Health apparently agreed for, as the Gosnell grand jury noted, it “has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical service providers. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety.”

An entire wall of our offices at the Population Research institute is covered with regulations promulgated by HHS, OSHA, and the Department of Labour which we are required to post. I have not been inside of Gosnell’s so-called “Women’s Health Society,” but I venture to say that its walls are bare of such postings.

If the Gosnell case proves anything, it proves that greedy abortionists—the slumlords of the medical profession—have gotten a regulatory pass for far too long. Neither the National Abortion Federation nor individual abortionists can be trusted to regulate themselves.

Pro-life legislatures need to lower the boom on the abortion business by burdening its practitioners with extensive paperwork and expensive equipment. Pro-life governors need to follow up by ensuring that such laws and regulations are vigorously enforced. Inspectors need to show up on the doorstep of every abortion mill in the country every week, or even every day. Any violation, however slight, should be grounds for closure.

The pro-aborts at NARAL and Planned Parenthood will loudly decry the imposition of what they call TRAP laws, which stands for Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers. And they will fight hard to prevent such laws, once passed, from being enforced.

They know, as we all should by now, that reasonable medical regulation of abortion clinics would expose them for the human slaughterhouses that they are, and would ultimately threaten abortion-on-demand.

Because of the grand jury charges, which ran to over 200 pages, Kermit Gosnell is now locked up without bail, charged with the death of a female patient and accused of murdering seven babies born alive in his squalid clinic.

But how many more Kermit Gosnell’s are there in the U.S. plying their grisly trade, evading scrutiny because of the ideological bias or cowardice of the authorities.

Meanwhile, women and babies die.

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