“People die.” Christine Dutton, Chief Legal Counsel of The Pennsylvania Department of Health
I apologize for the length of this post. My only defense is that I am enraged and have to get this off my chest. You see someone suggested to me that the recent events in Philadelphia were not about abortion and I just have to respond.
The incredible evil that Dr. Kermit Gosnell (that will be the last time in this post I put the title “Dr.” before his name) and his staff worked over the last several decades at The Women's Medical Society in West Philadelphia has now been exhaustively detailed in Grand Jury Report filed on the 14th of January. The report is full, and I do mean full at 261 pages plus appendices, of unconscionable acts described as every day occurrences.
Gosnell did not perform “late term abortions” (no veneer of clinical justification here today) He induced labor in heavily tranquilized women and then killed their children as they were born. He called this practice “ensuring fetal demise.” He did not anesthetize women properly, but gave them uncontrolled doses of drugs such as Demerol administered by non-medical staff in preset amounts determined by how out of it they wanted the woman to be. The more a woman complained, the more they dosed her until they accidentally killed a woman. Cats ran free and defecated where they liked. The exam table and the recovery room were stained with blood, the halls were too narrow to get emergency patients out on a gurney, the emergency exit was permanently locked with a chain and padlock, and by all accounts the facility reeked. Perhaps the most bizarre and ghoulish of all were the random body parts and collections of the products of his unspeakable acts that he kept and displayed under the pretense that the genetic material may one day be necessary for paternity tests (insane!). This included jars with pairs of feet that he severed from the babies he killed. Gosnell acts like a character from Criminal Minds keeping trophies of his victims and it is hard to imagine that he is not a clinically disturbed individual.
It might end with Gosnell's insanity except that he had a staff that worked with him and complied with all of this barbarity. These people did it all as well including dosing women with drugs they did not understand, helping to cover up the many life threatening and ultimately deadly mistakes Gosnell made, the horrifying practice of “snipping” the spinal cords of newborns, and the illegal trafficking of prescription drugs.
In fact, were it not for that last offense Gosnell might still be in business today. Why? Was he a mastermind that so cleverly covered up what was happening that state agencies could not make charges stick? Was he so brilliant as to build a web of deceit that took years for dedicated public servants to untangle? No, he was an evil and obvious mad man. The reason he got away with it, and perhaps the most horrifying fact of all, is because the people that should have stopped this all didn't care. Not even when several independent and respectable sources filed official complaints. Not even when an organization that supposedly operates to protect the rights of women to have safe abortions walked in the door, evaluated the practice, and determined it to be the worst abortion facility they had have ever seen. They all knew something bad was happening and all of them did nothing to stop it.
This is where it becomes inconceivable to hear anyone say that this is not about abortion. It is all about abortion. Gosnell is clearly insane and no hero to the abortion rights groups and is a criminal with no regard for the lives of the women he hurt or the children he murdered. People like him are why we have oversight from agencies empowered to shut medical facilities down in the first place. Gosnell does not represent every doctor that performs abortions in the sense that he is not normal, but this is inescapably about abortion and the nature of protecting brutality as a right.
Lets look at some of the text from the report to support this claim. Starting on page 8 under the title See No Evil:
Pennsylvania is not a third-world country. There were several oversight agencies that stumbled upon and should have shut down Kermit Gosnell long ago. But none of them did, not even after Karnamaya Mongar’s death.
What agencies? End of page 8 and top of 9:
The first line of defense was the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The department’s job is to audit hospitals and outpatient medical facilities, like Gosnell’s, to make sure that they follow the rules and provide safe care.
Per the report, they issued a license in 1979 to perform abortions, showed up for on-sight inspections in 1989 (10 YEARS LATER!!), 1992, and 1993. Every visit produced violations and in every instance he was allowed to continue as long as he promised to “fix it.” But in 1993 all sight inspections stopped so no follow up was done. Why? Page 9:
Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and
babies would pay.
Here is where the lie that it is not about abortion abruptly ends. Oversight was stopped and Gosnell continued his evil because the main agency in charge of monitoring people like him feared doing their job would produce barriers to abortion. That is sick and an outright betrayal of public trust motivated by dedication to abortion over law.
So they weren't looking actively but they would still respond to complaints, right? If someone had just told them there was a problem they would have stepped in. Page 9 & 10:
Except that there were complaints about Gosnell, repeatedly. Several different attorneys, representing women injured by Gosnell, contacted the department. A doctor from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia hand-delivered a complaint, advising the department that numerous patients he had referred for abortions came back from Gosnell with the same venereal disease. The medical examiner of Delaware County informed the department that Gosnell had performed an illegal abortion on a 14-year-old girl carrying a 30-week-old baby. And the department received official notice that a woman named Karnamaya Mongar had died at Gosnell’s hands.
Yet not one of these alarm bells – not even Mrs. Mongar’s death – prompted the department to look at Gosnell or the Women’s Medical Society.
What finally prompted action?
Only after the raid occurred, and the story hit the press, did the department choose to act. Suddenly there were no administrative, legal, or policy barriers; within weeks an order was issued to close the clinic. And as this grand jury investigation widened, department officials “lawyered up,” hiring a high-priced law firm to represent them at taxpayer expense.
If only some other group could have known and stepped in to pick up the slack of the tragically disinterested Department of Health. Still page 10:
Another agency with authority in the health field, the Pennsylvania Department of State, could have stopped Gosnell single-handedly... Like their colleagues at Health, however, Department of State officials were repeatedly confronted with evidence about Gosnell, and repeatedly chose to do nothing.
So they probably did not have as much to go on as the Department of Health, though. What kind of good information could they have that the others did not? Pages 10 & 11:
Indeed, in many ways State had more damning information than anyone else. Almost a decade ago, a former employee of Gosnell presented the Board of Medicine with a complaint that laid out the whole scope of his operation: the unclean, unsterile conditions; the unlicensed workers; the unsupervised sedation; the underage abortion patients; even the over-prescribing of pain pills with high resale value on the street. The department assigned an investigator, whose investigation consisted primarily of an offsite interview with Gosnell. The investigator never inspected the facility, questioned other employees, or reviewed any records. Department attorneys chose to accept this incomplete investigation, and dismissed the complaint as unconfirmed.
Well certainly once they found out a woman died they sprung into action! I mean they could not still do nothing when Gosnell's practice finally killed an adult woman could they? Page 11:
Shortly thereafter the department received an even more disturbing report – about a woman, years before Karnamaya Mongar, who died of sepsis after Gosnell perforated her uterus. The woman was 22 years old. A civil suit against Gosnell was settled for almost a million dollars, and the insurance company forwarded the information to the department. That report should have been all the confirmation needed for the complaint from the former employee that was already in the department’s possession. Instead, the department attorneys dismissed this complaint too. They concluded that death was just an “inherent” risk, not something that should jeopardize a doctor’s medical license.
Oh, it gets so much worse. The State Department dismissed further complaints as not part of a pattern after failing to check the litigation database to see that five other women had been paid for serious injuries while under the care of Gosnell. The State only mustered up the outrage to yank his license after the story went public. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health had employees that visited the facility frequently to pick up blood samples and later responded with a sight inspection when they were informed he was storing dead fetuses in the refrigerator, and did nothing. One public servant, ONE, tried to do something. Page 12:
By asking questions and poking around, she was able to file detailed reports identifying many of the most egregious elements of Gosnell’s practice. It should have been enough to stop him. But instead her reports went into a black hole, weeks before Karnamaya Mongar walked into the Woman’s Medical Society.
Karnamaya Mongar was the second woman Gosnell's practice killed. And the public institutions in place to protect our citizens had all of the information that they needed to stop this insanity before she died. Read the report. It is a mess of every possible group that could have done anything to stop the butchering of human lives and the mistreatment and medical torture of women turning their heads and acting like it was not happening. The National Abortion Federation had a representative evaluate the facility and failed to report the outrageous conditions to the authorities (not that they would have cared). The University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center apparently failed to report multiple incidences of trauma treatment as a result of a botched abortion including, according to the report, when a woman showed up almost dead. It is depressing.
Why? Certainly the socio-economic level of the patients in question is in play. Even Gosnell understood that reality and instructed his staff to treat white women from the suburbs differently than his normal clientele, explaining to his employees that this was just “the way of the world.” There is more to it than that, though. The report summary ends with the following on page 13:
Bureaucratic inertia is not exactly news. We understand that. But we think this was something more. We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.
I apologize again for the length of this post, but it could have been so much longer if I wanted to labor you with the details of the incredible inactivity of those responsible for stopping madmen like Gosnell. We expect monsters to act like monsters. We expect those we pay with our taxes to stop them to actually stop them. Gosnell behaved as moral monsters do, and the people empowered to limit his evil failed to act in response. Why? Because it is about abortion, and only a simpleton or a committed pro-abortion zealot would claim anything else.