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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Which brings us to the facet with a flashpoint so bright it threatens to blind us from all the other lessons: the politics of abortion.

Indeed, immediately on release of the grand jury report—before it was even humanly possible to have read it in its entirety—competing interpretations of the case began to emerge. For the most part, views split over political fault lines.

The legislative legacy of this case can go one of two ways: it can expedite legislation either restricting or promoting access to abortion.

“The timing could not be worse,” says Susan Schewel, executive director of the Women’s Medical Fund, a local nonprofit that grants financial assistance to poor women seeking abortions. “It’s a horrible situation anyway, but with the results of the mid-term elections and all these legislators around the country and especially in Pennsylvania now starting their work, [the Gosnell case] provides them with fodder if they choose to interpret it toward their ends.”

“What we feared as soon as we heard about the horrifying details of what went on in Gosnell’s clinic, we were concerned right away that those opposed to abortion would take this really isolated case and use it as an opportunity to make a case that this is what all abortion providers are like and how ‘unsafe’ it is,” echoes Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania. “We’ve heard that bills are going to be introduced specifically to further restrict as a result of Gosnell.”

They are correct.

“In the wake of Gosnell situation, we’re talking with some allies and legislators about the Abortion Patients’ Enhanced Safety Act,” Daniel McConchie, vice president of government affairs for Americans United for Life.

AUL states that one of the promises of legalized abortion was that “unskilled and incompetent ‘butchers’ would no longer perform abortions.”

The paper states, “Has more than 30 years of legalized abortion eliminated these problems? Sadly, it has not. Instead, abortion clinics across the country have become the true ‘back alleys’ of abortion mythology.”

The article states, “There is abundant evidence to support the contention that abortion clinics are the true “back alleys” that abortion advocates warned us about.”

The Gosnell case was a Hail Mary pass for pro-life advocates. Gosnell’s name is already tethered to the policy paper explaining the proposed legislation on AUL’s website. Indeed, the grand jury report explicitly recommends this policy.

The policy paper states that APESA’s goal is to raise the standard of basic abortion clinic regulation standards and requires that the center function as ambulatory surgical centers.

But critics charge that legislation like APESA is designed to restrict access to abortion by unnecessarily driving up costs, as a sort of covert arm of anti-abortion advocates’ overall defunding strategy—which critics charge is partly what drives women to resort to places like Women’s Medical Society.

“There were already regulations against Gosnell, it’s not like he was operating within the limits,” argues Tracy Weitz, assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco.

“You don’t need more regulations for people operating outside the bounds. It’s a horrendous situation and we are all taking different lessons from the story, but the lesson none of us should take is more regulation, because he was already outside the regulations.”

“We have almost 40 years of data to suggest abortion is a remarkably safe clinical procedure,” she says. “[APESA] is really designed to restrict access.”

Weitz says that in order to reach the status of ambulatory surgical center, facilities providing abortions need expensive upgrades such as construction, additional staff to maintain higher nurse-to-patient ratios, and a host of medications that clinics don’t really need if they’re not performing any medical procedures other than abortions.

Weitz co-wrote a study that analyzed the effect of similar legislation in other states. “Ambulatory surgical center requirements significantly increase abortion costs and reduce the availability of abortion services despite the lack of any evidence that using those facilities positively affects health outcomes,” states the 2009 report.

“For pregnant women, the corresponding effect … has been to hinder (and possibly preclude) timely access to safe and legal abortion services,” states the report, which also notes that ASC regulations go “far beyond” guidelines for abortion issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and National Abortion Federation.

“When you restrict abortions you certainly have some women who can not obtain the abortion, but most common is that the abortions are delayed,” Weitz says. “So you take what is a relatively uncomplicated early abortion and make it a later abortion … We force this these women into these later circumstances and then blame them. Most of the data speaks to what is the most common outcome of these restrictions, which is delays.”

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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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