Politics, Abortion, and Infanticide: Notes on the State of Pennsylvania

The grand jury report incident to the indictment for murder and infanticide of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell has now been released, and it is telling. Some three-hundred pages in length, it reveals that the abortion mill that Dr. Gosnell ran at the Women’s Medical Society had not been inspected since 1993.

“According to the prosecutors,” Marian Wang at ProPublica reports, “Gosnell and his associates not only broke state law by performing abortions after 24 weeks—they also killed live babies by stabbing them with scissors and cutting their spinal cords.”

Law enforcement officials found blood-stained furniture, unsterilized instruments and fetal remains scattered about the clinic. At least one woman, a refugee from Nepal, had died under Gosnell’s care after being given repeated injections of a dangerous sedative. Prosecutors said Gosnell made millions from treating and sometimes maiming his patients, who were mostly low-income, minority women.

But perhaps most frightening of all? The atrocities were discovered by accident, as the Philadelphia Inquirer points out. Warnings—from patients and their attorneys, a doctor at a Philadelphia hospital, women’s health groups, pro-choice groups, and even an employee of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health—failed to prompt state and local authorities to investigate or take action against the clinic.

Apparently, the failure to inspect the facility was a consequence of deliberate public policy, and the man responsible was Tom Ridge, a pro-abortion Republican who acted soon after he took over the gubernatorial chair from Bob Casey, an anti-abortion Democrat. Here is what the grand jury found:

The Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions. . . .

Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety. Without regular inspections, providers like Gosnell continue to operate; unlawful and dangerous third-trimester abortions go undetected; and many women, especially poor women, suffer.

I would not be at all surprised if something of the sort turned out to be the norm.