Sunday, January 23, 2011


As investigators continue poring over the long and horror-filled record of Kermit Gosnell's abortion practice, the excuses and obfuscations by state officials are coming out in Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Corbett has called for an investigation into how the Pennsylvania Health Department and State Department failed to investigate and otherwise catch Gosnell for years on end. He's given a one-week deadline to get answers.
"I was flabbergasted to learn that the Department of Health did not think their authority to protect public health extended to clinics offering abortion services," Rendell, a former Philadelphia mayor and district attorney, said in a statement. " ... I immediately directed them to inspect these facilities. It was simply preposterous that the department took this position, ever."

Health inspectors sporadically inspected the Women's Medical Society in West Philadelphia for 13 years after it opened in 1979. The clinic had not been inspected since 1993, according to a grand jury report this week. Authorities allege workers used unsanitary equipment to induce labor in women with late-term pregnancies, snipping babies' spines and keeping body parts in jars.

The report says state officials ignored horrific conditions during the terms of six governors and 10 Health secretaries. It details a gruesome litany of failures and refusals to uphold even basic public health guidelines and lays out a long list of regulatory failures.

A spokeswoman for Corbett said Thursday that all of Pennsylvania's 22 registered abortion providers were inspected in September and November.

The grand jury said the Health Department and other agencies — including the Department of State, which oversees the Board of Medicine — have allowed Gosnell's clinic to operate nearly unimpeded since the late 1970s. It was not closed until authorities raided it as part of a drug bust early last year.

The Health Department "decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all," the grand jury said.

The department has not commented on the report, referring inquiries to Corbett's office.

Health Department lawyers changed their opinions and advice "to suit the policy preferences of different governors," the report stated. The department dropped its policy of annual inspections in the mid-1990s under Gov. Tom Ridge, who supported abortion rights, it said. Ridge has not commented on the report.

A Health Department lawyer testified about a 1999 meeting of high-level state officials "at which a decision was made not to accept a recommendation to reinstitute regular inspections of abortion clinics," citing concern that routine inspections would lead to "less abortion facilities, less access to women to have an abortion."

Rendell said he "had no knowledge" of the policy. He said the department "never reached out to me to discuss what the policy should be."

Corbett said he discussed the grand jury's findings with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, telling him that "there's been a fumble on this since 1979."
Complaints against Gosnell date back to 1983, and yet there was no state action to stop Gosnell from carrying out infanticide (killing babies born alive and later murdered), illegal late-term abortions, and butchering women left and right. The state Health Department's response? People die:
The report details a sweeping pattern of negligence, with no inspector stepping foot inside the clinic for more than 16 years. Even the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Bhutanese refugee who died after a procedure in 2009, was ignored.

Janice Staloski, a Health Department official, declined to investigate the death, saying the department had no authority to do so, the report said. The department’s chief counsel, Christine Dutton, defended the agency’s actions to the grand jury, stating bluntly, “People die.”
Dutton's callous disregard for the state's obligation is astounding and shows an institutional disregard for the lives of those living in Pennsylvania. A thorough housecleaning must be carried out to deal with this crisis - and that's exactly what the Gosnell case has revealed.

Meanwhile, Delaware has "swiftly" suspended Gosnell's record since the Pennsylvania indictment was handed down. Sorry, but where was Delaware in checking to see whether Gosnell was properly accredited and operating in accordance with basic health and sanitary regulations? Gosnell maintained a practice in Delaware - working in an office there once a week.
Until at least 2009, he typically worked one day a week at Wilmington's Atlantic Women's Medical Services Inc. That year, the National Abortion Federation made the rare move to reject Gosnell's Philadelphia clinic as a member because it did not meet their standards and the deficiencies were not correctable, according to the grand jury. The federation did not report whatever it found to be objectionable to state officials, according to the grand jury report.
Yet, Delaware officials have an out that Pennsylvania officials don't. Delaware law apparently doesn't allow the Department of Health and Social Services to inspect abortion providers or any other medical doctors, according to agency spokesman Carl Kanefsky said Saturday, which is itself an amazing situation.

I find that absolutely astounding. These practices involve serious medical procedures that put lives in jeopardy if done incorrectly. It can lead to major complications and deaths, and yet the Delaware law doesn't permit inspections.

That has to change - and soon.

It's inexcusable that states do not have proper oversight of family health practices where abortions are carried out. People should be justifiably outraged over the failure of the state to carry out regular inspections that would have caught Gosnell's malfeasance years ago - before an investigation into an unrelated pill mill operation opened up the house of horrors to the light of day.

States across the country should reexamine their own inspection protocols for all health facilities to make sure that all facilities where medical procedures are carried out are regularly inspected and that procedures are in place to shut down those that are carrying out illegal procedures (such as Gosnell's late term abortions), operating in unsanitary conditions, and otherwise engaging in shoddy practices that put lives at risk.

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