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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Inside the freezer, investigators found the fully intact 19-week fetus “delivered” by Mongar the night of her death three months earlier.

Zero Oversight

Many people had gotten a glimpse into Gosnell’s grisly operation. But multi-level, panoramic, institutional negligence, a culture of passing the buck and flagrant disregard for patient’s welfare prevented any meaningful investigation.

“Most appalling of all,” states the grand jury report, “the Department of Health’s neglect of abortion patients’ safety and of Pennsylvania laws is clearly not inadvertent: It is by design.”

After 1993, “the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all … With the change of administration from Governor [Bob] Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions,” the report says.

That fatal decision was enacted by Gov. Tom Ridge, a pro-choice Republican, in response to the legacy inherited by Gov. Casey, a pro-life Democrat who passed landmark legislation in Pennsylvania that enabled states to restrict women’s access to abortion.

Not only did inspections systematically stop in 1993, red flags were ignored. They include a former employee’s complaint that “laid out the whole scope of [Gosnell’s] operation,” and a malpractice lawsuit over the death of 22-year-old Semika Shaw, a mother of two children who died of sepsis at University of Pennsylvania hospital after Gosnell punctured her uterus.

The lawsuit was settled for almost a million dollars.

Local negligence added additional layers to the complex matrix of oversight failure. For example, “Penn could not find a single case in which it complied with its legal duty to alert authorities” in cases where emergency room physicians had to treat ramifications of Gosnell’s botched procedures, as required under the Abortion Control Act.

As a private physician treating teenage girls in West Philadelphia, Dr. Donald Schwarz—currently Philadelphia’s health commissioner—noticed a pattern of his patients becoming infected with Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted parasite, after appointments at Gosnell’s clinic. Schwarz testified to the grand jury that about six years ago, he “hand-delivered” a complaint about Gosnell’s clinic to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Yet in his two years as the city’s health commissioner, he did not check into Gosnell’s practice. In addition to his personal knowledge of problems, the Philadelphia Department of Health was aware that Gosnell never submitted a infectious medical waste removal plan—the reason fetuses and body parts littered on the premises.

Schwarz testified that medical waste regulations were established with the sole goal of making money for the city. “The department was told, apparently, to collect the money, make sure the plan came in, get the fee, and not enforce, that is don’t take action against people … This is a revenue-generating activity.”

The hand-delivered complaint did not exist among the records subpoenaed by the grand jury.

Though the report documents up-the-chain failures, the aerial-view conclusion regarding oversight is that even if all the proper protocols were followed and complaints filed, the state Department of Health would have continued ignoring warning signs, no matter what.

“If Dr. Schwarz’s complaint did not trigger an inspection, we are convinced that none would,” the jury stated.

“Pennsylvania is not a third-world country,” asserts the report. “There were several oversight agencies that … should have shut down Kermit Gosnell long ago. But none of them did.”

And so, with the eyes of the state averted, Gosnell and his staff—the clinic was run by a tight-knit group of relatives and friends—were able to get away with regularly scheduled murders.

A Typical Day at the Office

Amidst the filth and chaos, the clinic ran a predictable program: Every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning around 10 a.m., a motley, cult-like group of unqualified employees—including Gosnell’s 49-year-old wife, Pearl, failed wannabe doctors and a high school student—opened up shop. Gosnell spent his days swimming, jogging or relaxing at home and only came to work at night and Sunday afternoons.

During the week, according to the grand jury, “Gosnell routinely aborted and killed babies in the sixth and seventh month of pregnancy.” On Sundays, Gosnell and his wife (charged with performing illegal abortions and conspiracy, among other crimes) performed the most blatantly illegal third-trimester abortions. “The Sunday babies must have been bigger still,” the report says. “We may never know the details of these cases.”

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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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