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PORTSIDE  January 2011, Week 4

PORTSIDE January 2011, Week 4

Subject:

Why a Gruesome Pennsylvania Abortion Clinic Had Not Been Inspected for 17 Years

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Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

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Date:

Sun, 23 Jan 2011 23:44:09 -0500

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Why a Gruesome Pennsylvania Abortion Clinic Had Not
Been Inspected for 17 Years
by Marian Wang
ProPublica
January. 21, 2011
http://www.propublica.org/blog/item/gruesome-pennsylvania-abortion-clinic-had-not-been-inspected-for-17-years

While this week's indictment involving a grisly abortion
mill in Philadelphia has shocked many, the grand jury's
nearly 300-page report also contains a surprising and
little-noted revelation: In the mid-1990s, the
administration of Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge, a
pro-choice Republican, ended regular inspections of
abortion clinics -- a policy that continued until just last
year.

According to the grand jury report [PDF] released this
week by Philadelphia prosecutors, Pennsylvania health
officials deliberately chose not to enforce laws to
ensure that abortion clinics provide the same level of
care as other medical service providers.

The District Attorney's office this week charged an
abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell, with murder and
infanticide. Nine other workers at the abortion clinic,
the Women's Medical Society, also face charges.
According to the prosecutors, 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.

The grand jury report said that one look at the place
would have detected the problems, but the Pennsylvania
Department of Health hadn't inspected the place since
1993. Here's the grand jury report, in surprisingly
strong language:

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," the report states. "Without
regular inspections, providers like Gosnell continue to
operate; unlawful and dangerous third-trimester
abortions go undetected; and many women, especially poor
women, suffer."

According to the report, the policy change occurred
after 1993 when attorneys under the administration of
then-governor Tom Ridge "interpreted the same
regulations that had permitted annual inspections for
years to no longer authorize those inspections."
Thereafter, only inspections triggered by complaints
were authorized. The report noted that Department of
Public Health officials reinstituted regular inspections
of abortion clinics in February 2010. Ed Rendell, the
Pennsylvania Democrat whose second term as governor
ended last week, released a statement saying he was
"flabbergasted" when he learned of the department's lax
scrutiny of abortion clinics and immediately ordered
increased inspections, the Associated Press reported.

Still, the earlier policy had its defenders. According
to the grand jury report, when the Department of
Health's chief lawyer was asked about it, she responded,
"People die."

Given that between 30,000 to 40,000 abortions are
performed each year Pennsylvania, it's unclear how many
women have been put at risk in the almost two decades
that regulators suspended regular inspections of
abortion clinics in Pennsylvania. The grand jury report
does note that many organizations perform safe abortion
procedures and have high standards of care, but that's
"no thanks to the Pennsylvania Department of Health."

The state's Department of Health did not comment on the
matter but said it would forward our request on to the
governor's press office. We've also left a message with
Tom Ridge's spokeswoman. We'll update if they respond.

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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