Neglect of West Philly Abortion Victims Was 'By Design'

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 12 | Posted Feb. 2, 2011

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Before leaving for a job in telemarketing, Steven Massof masqueraded as a doctor at Gosnell’s clinic for five years. An online resume claims he attended medical school in Grenada, but he was not licensed and was paid in cash. He testified that approximately 40 percent of abortions performed at the clinic were on fetuses beyond 24 weeks and that he personally severed the spinal cords of about a hundred babies. Massof, 48, is charged with murder, theft by deception, conspiracy and drug violations.

The report describes daily operating procedure: As patients seeking abortions arrived, whoever was manning the front desk fed them unregulated quantities and mixtures of drugs. The chemical cocktails were designed to simultaneously induce labor and sedate the women. In many cases, the women were pumped so full of drugs they were out cold, or as D.A. Seth Williams explained on a recent episode of NPR’s Radio Times, “like zombies.” He added: “[Patients] did not know inducing the labor and severing the spinal cords of live babies was going to happen.”

The report stated that “All afternoon and evening, as patients woke and complained of pain, workers would continue to medicate them with injections of sedatives. Between doses, the staff would leave the patients largely unattended. This would go on until the doctor arrived, some six or more hours after the patient did, or until the woman delivered.”

Sometimes, depending on how far along the woman was in her pregnancy, the “procedure” would last as long as three days.

“If … a baby was about to come out, I would take the woman to the bathroom, they would sit on the toilet and basically the baby would fall out and it would be in the toilet,” testified Latosha Lewis, who worked for Gosnell for more than eight years. “I would be rubbing her back and trying to calm her down for two, three, four hours until Dr. Gosnell comes. She would not move.”

The latter happened so often that James Johnson, the clinic’s janitor—and common-law husband of 51-year-old Elizabeth Hampton, who is herself Gosnell’s wife’s sister—refused to pull any more flesh out of the plumbing.

Hampton, 51, faces charges of hindering prosecution, perjury, false swearing, and obstructing administration of law.

“[Johnson] described how he had to lift the toilet so that someone else—he said it was too disgusting for him—could get the fetuses out of the pipes.”

If the fetus or babies hadn’t “fallen out” (or “precipitated” in the euphemistic language employed by the staff) by the time Gosnell arrived, staff would push and shove on the women’s abdomen.

“By maximizing the pain and danger for his patients, [Gosnell] minimized the work, and cost, for himself and his staff,” states the report. “The policy, in effect, was labor without labor.”

Once delivered, he would cut the spinal cord, then crush the skulls.

Upstairs, there was one clean room with a television. Tina Baldwin is a 45-year-old who worked at the clinic testified that the separate room was reserved for white women only.

“The … black population was … big here. So he didn’t mind you medicating your African-American girls, your Indian girl, but if you had a white girl from the suburbs, oh, you better not medicate her. You better wait until he go in and talk to her first.”

Baldwin is facing charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and corruption of a minor for allowing her teenage daughter to also work at the clinic.

Targeting the poorest women, women of color and immigrants like Mongar who didn’t speak English and could not read the papers they signed, was lucrative for Gosnell. When the grand jury searched the doctor’s home, they found $240,000 in cash—and a gun—in a closet of his 12-year-old daughter’s room.

The cash is a pittance compared to the millions of dollars generated over decades.

“Political Football”

His butcher shop of an abortion factory and prescription-pill mill were operated in the unbridled pursuit of profit. He made little pretense to care for patients. When not fatally neglecting women and killing babies, he regularly hit them and forced abortions on underage girls at their guardians’ request.

The depths of inhumanity that can reside behind a gentle face is one facet of this story. That racism and sexism—both of his own and the institutions that failed to respond to complaints—enabled the atrocity is another.

“Bureaucratic inertia is not exactly news. We understand that,” states the report. “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.”

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Comments 1 - 12 of 12
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1. Anonymous said... on Feb 2, 2011 at 11:35AM

“inspecting clinics is a barrier to women? wow, how did that end up working out”

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2. Allen said... on Feb 2, 2011 at 11:37AM

“I think that public employees investigating or otherwise overseeing professionals of any type and decide to cover-up violations OR "let them slide" should share in the punishment by being sublect to TRIPLE DAMAGES at their sentencing.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Feb 2, 2011 at 11:38AM

“I don't see how not inspecting abortion clinics was supposed to give women better access to abortion. The DoH should be inspecting the cleanliness, file-keeping and quality of care given at every medical facility in the state once a year regardless of whether its an abortion clinic, a pediatricians office or even a bloodbank. The way to make abortions safer in Pennsylvania is to make sure that all insurances, particularly CHIP and AdultBasic, cover abortions. These women who went to Gosnells clinic went there because they had no choice. Because they went to Planned Parenthood and were told "you're more than 15 weeks along, we can't do it here, you have to go the Philadelphia Womens Center." When they get to the womens center they're told that their insurance doesn't cover abortion and that the procedure will cost about $1000. What if they don't have that much money? Well they can have some time to try and get the money together, but they need to be aware that if they wait more.....”

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4. Anonymous said... on Feb 2, 2011 at 11:54AM

“....than a few days the fetus will be bigger, which means it will be a more complicated procedure and will cost even more. And if the girl seeking the abortion is a minor who can't involve her parents, she'll have to obtain a judicial bypass, which can take almost a week sometimes, forcing her to be pregnant even longer and driving up the costs and possible dangers of the procedure. Our current laws are forcing the poor to either have a child which they might not be able to support or end up in a clinic like Gosnell's. Also, if there was better funding for sex ed and better access to the simple things like birth control we wouldn't have such a large population of girls who are too young and financially unstable to be thinking about starting a family ending up needing abortions. My question to those who say " I don't want my tax dollars funding abortions through CHIP and AdultBasic" would be what do want then? That these women who simply cannot get the money in time give birth....”

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5. Anonymous said... on Feb 2, 2011 at 12:09PM

“... to these children for whom you will now have to fund WIC, foodstamps, free school lunches, CHIP and a whole host of other things right on up to when they become adults, and if they make it to college you'll be funding their Pell Grants and their PHEAA grants and if they don't you'll be funding their Adultbasic care and foodstamps and on and off unemployment checks. I really hope that this case serves to show the dangers of restricting womens access to safe, affordable and early abortions, and reminds people that with easy access to and information about birth control many of these younger women would not be in this situation to begin with.”

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6. cooke said... on Feb 2, 2011 at 04:10PM

“this is a horrific story and it occurred in Philly and Wilmington. You have done a significant effort in identifying institutional neglect by these agencies. If there is a hell this guy is going and god bless those born/unborn children who were murdered by this satanic f*ck. I really have a hard time reading this and I imagine it was difficult to research and write - kudos to you Tara Murtha!”

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7. pete hoge said... on Feb 2, 2011 at 07:31PM

“We can only pray now. There can't be any blame or
revenge. A situation like this is in God's hands.,
because the secular state failed to protect mother's
and their children. God did not permit this, it is the
will of selfish people that made this happen and now
God will make something beautiful out of all this as
He always does.

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is
the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary mother of
God, pray for us sinners, ( all who are involved in
the abortion clinic tragedy), now and at the hour of
our death.


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8. Amary said... on Feb 4, 2011 at 04:40AM

“Situations like this are a result of the push to have abortion as common and accessible as possible, rather than a result of not having enough abortion providers. In fact, just this week Planned Parenthood was exposed as actively encouraging underage prostitution by advising undercover 'pimps' how to get around federal regulations designed to protect 13-14 year old girls from being exploited.

So a more 'mainstream' clinic that still chooses to place unfettered access to abortions higher than the welfare of the women (and girls) they are supposed to protect still doesn't seem like that great of an option.”

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9. brendancalling said... on Feb 7, 2011 at 11:28AM

“amary is lying about planned parenthood. that was a "sting" set up by pro-life zealots and it failed miserably.
stop lying. You're bearing false witness.”

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10. backwoodsterrorist said... on Feb 15, 2011 at 11:05PM

“im one hundred percent pro-choice, but would never seek one. i really believe that and am not a church goer. there is no god, but there is the act of murdering a child. thats what it is. call a spade a spade already. im only pro choice in the sense that i don't think its my job to tell other people their business. im sure there are instances that make this a complicated topic, but i cant believe how lightly some people take it. all women should have the best access to contraceptives and quality medical care. but once you have a kid in the womb, thats what you have. if a few months is the difference between doing it early or waiting til it comes out and sticking a pillow over its head i think we're splitting hairs”

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11. What is the object of this reporting? said... on Mar 3, 2011 at 11:59PM

“It's disturbing to me that there is so much graphic detail in articles about this case. The descriptions are written as if they were literature. I hope people do not take pleasure in reading these passages. A few sentences that state the offenses matter-of-factly should be enough to make anyone sick.

A taste for violence and a tolerance for horror are things that are developed.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Mar 9, 2011 at 04:06PM

“To commenter #11...

I think the details in this case, though very gruesome, were necessary. I'm sure many people who are against abortion clinics also read the Philly Weekly, and they need to see the horror of what was certainly NOT a REAL abortion clinic! So many people think that all abortions are the same as murdering babies. This was not an abortion clinic--this was a clinic committing infanticide and practicing sickening disregard for the lives of women who thought they were protecting themselves by going in for an abortion.

Abortion is so stigmatized in our culture that some people probably expect to walk into a horror movie if they enter an abortion clinic. This case needs to be made an example to show that abortions themselves are safe, but clinical conditions, as well as the mental conditions of providers need to be monitored.

This case is as back-alley as it gets.”


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