First, sit down. If you are sitting down,
take a deep breath. Because all this did not happen in a slum in Phnom Penh, or
Sao Paulo, or Kinshasa. It happened in the United States, in Philadelphia, the
birthplace of the nation. It happened only 100 miles from the guardian of the
nation’s freedoms, the New York Times.
This is about a charnel house which doubled
as an abortion clinic for 30 years while regulators looked the other way.
This is about politicians in one of
America’s largest states who didn’t want to rock the boat. This is about a
cowardly bureaucracy in a city renowned for world-class doctors and hospitals. This
is about doctors who refused to report one of their own.
This is about the betrayal of poor, scared
women, mostly young, mostly black or immigrant. At least two of them are dead.
Many had their wombs and bowels perforated. Many were infected with venereal
disease with unsterilized instruments.
This is about hundreds of infanticides in
which live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy were delivered –
and then murdered by snipping their spinal cords with scissors. One of them was
so developed that the doctor joked, before snipping, “he could walk me to the
bus stop”. It is about thousands of abortions.
“My comprehension of the English
language doesn’t and cannot adequately describe the barbaric nature of Dr
Gosnell and the ghoulish manner in which he ‘trained’ the unlicensed,
uneducated individuals who worked there,” said the Philadelphia District
All this came to light on February 18 last
year when the FBI and agents from the District Attorney’s office raided the
Women’s Medical Society, on the corner of Lancaster and 38th Streets, in West
Philadelphia. What they were seeking was evidence of illegal prescription drug
activity by its director, Dr Kermit Gosnell. They found something far worse.
There was blood on the floor and urine was
splattered on the walls. A flea-infested cat was prowling around, and there
were cat faeces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions
were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty
recliners covered with blood-stained blankets.
The two surgical procedure rooms were
filthy — like “a bad gas station restroom”, said a policeman. Instruments were not sterile. Equipment
was rusty and outdated. Oxygen equipment was covered with dust. Corroded suction tubing for abortion procedures
doubled as a suction source for resuscitation. It stank.
Foetal remains were haphazardly stored
throughout the clinic – in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and
cat-food containers. Some were in a refrigerator, others were frozen.
investigators found a row of jars containing just the severed feet of
like voodoo fetishes. In the basement, they discovered medical waste
Ambulances were summoned to pick up the
waiting patients, but no one had the keys to the padlocked emergency exit.
Finally, after 31 years of abortion, infanticide,
abuse, horror and murder, the doors of Philadephia’s Women’s Medical Society
A Grand Jury investigated the Women’s
Medical Society last year. On January 19, its director, Dr Kermit Gosnell, and nine of his employees
were indicted on various charges. The
Grand Jury’s 281-page report concluded: “Gosnell’s ‘medical practice’ was
not set up to treat or help patients. His aim was not to give women control
over their bodies and their lives. He was not serving his community. Gosnell
ran a criminal enterprise, motivated by greed.”
Dr Gosnell appears to have earned between US$10,000
and $15,000 every night for a few hours of abortion work — on top of illegally
dispensing prescription drugs during the day. He has been charged with
murdering one woman and seven infants, solicitation to commit murder, abuse of
a corpse, corruption of minors, drug offenses, hindering prosecution, and violations
of abortion law. His staff have also been charged with various crimes.
Dr Gosnell is probably on the road to jail.
The district attorney may even ask for the death penalty.
But the Grand Jury report did not stop at
cataloguing the horrors of the Women’s Medical Society. It also pointed the
finger at the supporting cast who chose to be silent while women were being butchered.
Two words sum this up. The Grand Jury cited
a long list of moments stretching over decades when the state bureaucracy could
have investigated complaints, could have intervened, could have inspected. A
Nepalese immigrant, Karnamaya Mongar, even died after receiving too much
anaesthetic at Gosnell’s clinic as late as 2009, but no one acted. Why not? The chief
counsel for the Pennsylvania Department of Health explained: “People die”.
There was, says the Grand Jury report, a
“complete regulatory collapse”.
The Women’s Medical Society was reviewed by
state authorities when it opened in 1979. Ten years later it was reviewed again
and numerous violations were found. Nothing was done. Reviews in 1992 and 1993
noted violations. Nothing was done. Then all reviews stopped. After the
election of pro-choice Governor Tom Ridge (a Catholic, Republican, Harvard grad),
“the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons,
to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all”.
Despite complaints from women injured by Dr
Gosnell, despite complaints from a doctor about venereal disease transmission,
despite a notification of an abortion of a 30-week-old baby carried by a
14-year-old girl, despite the death of Karnamaya Mongar, the Department did
Until the police raid and the publicity.
Then they did something, all right. They hired lawyers to cover their butts in
the coming investigation.
That was just the Department of Health. The
agency which registers doctors and the agency which regulates public health also
ignored complaints about the Women’s Medical Society.
Then there were Dr Gosnell’s colleagues.
The world-renowned Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania is 20 minutes’
walk away from the Women’s Medical Society. A patient died at HUP after a
botched abortion in 2000 and the hospital filed a report. But many of Gosnell’s
other victims were treated for abortion complications like perforated bowels and foetal parts in the uterus. Yet, says the Grand Jury
report, “other than the one initial report, Penn could find not a single case
in which it complied with its legal duty to alert authorities to the danger.
Not even when a second woman turned up virtually dead.”
Did “legitimate” abortion providers ring
alarm bells? No. Dr Gosnell tried to join the National Abortion
Federation in 2009. The evaluator rejected his application as the worst
abortion clinic she had ever seen. But she told no one in authority.
The Grand Jury has summed up this
conspiracy of silence in a single damning paragraph. “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.”
There was “a blatant refusal to enforce the
law” by the Department of Health. Why? The Department mentioned two reasons: the
abortion providers might object and that abortion (which is legal in
Pennsylvania up until 24 weeks) was “controversial”. Such justifications, says
the Grand Jury report, “are barely worth comment”.
Are there other abortion mills like this in
Pennsylvania? Its answer is dismaying: “We have no idea how many facilities
like Gosnell’s have remained out of sight, out of mind of DOH for decades – since
they were first ‘approved’.” How many are there in other big American
cities where bureaucracies which regulate abortion clinics are asleep at the
wheel? In Boston, in Chicago, in Washington, in Houston, in Los Angeles, in San
Diego? In New York?
Murders, abuse, bureaucratic cover-ups and negligence, a
code of omertà among professional colleagues:
isn’t this red meat for crusading journalists? Apparently not. The New York Times – which
crusaded so tenaciously last year about sex abuse — yawned. A similar story in
Bangkok received about the same amount of coverage last November: just a couple
of stories buried in the back of the paper. What was displayed prominently was
a revealing feature which appeared on January 21, the day after the abortion clinic
story broke. It began:
“Congratulations, New York City, did you hear the news? … This is officially
the abortion capital of America.”
And two days after the story broke,
President Obama re-affirmed his unconditional support for abortion: “today marks
the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects
women’s health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle:
that government should not intrude on private family matters.”
Isn’t this evidence of the same wilful
blindness as the bureaucrats in Philadelphia? No matter how appalling the news,
abortion rights must not be questioned. No matter how many poor and ignorant
girls and women are abused, abortion rights must continue.
What this case shows is that supporters of
abortion rights are far, far, more interested in defending an ideology than
protecting women. If Pennsylvania bureaucrats had done their job and intruded
on “private family matters”, a poor Nepalese refugee would be alive today.
As the Grand Jury Report put it, “We
discovered that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health 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.”
Abortion advocates contend that what women
need is better regulation, not more restrictions. But what this horror
demonstrates is that some regulators disdain their regulations. By shielding abortionists from the law, they have made
the notion of safe and legal abortion a farce. In a just world, they should be charged with criminal irresponsibility.
In a final irony, America’s leading center
for bioethics is located 10 minutes’ walk from the Women’s Medical Society at
the University of Pennsylvania. Has the scandal on its doorstep rattled its bioethicists?
Apparently not. The main article on its webpage advertises a new
project on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI)
When will Americans wake up?
Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet. The
Grand Jury’s report is available on the
District Attorney’s blog.