Kermit Gosnell and the state’s failure to stop him

Posted on Apr 15 2013 - 10:40am by Brittany Sharkey

If someone had asked me last week who Kermit Gosnell was, I would have thought a distant, off-brand cousin of the frog Muppet.

But now I know that Kermit Gosnell is accused of committing monstrous crimes, and the most terrifying part of his crimes is that the state did nothing to stop him.
In a trial that began last month in Philadelphia, details began emerging about crimes that seemed too horrific to be real.

In a West Philadelphia abortion clinic, patients were operated on with old and unsterile equipment, women were covered with bloodstained blankets, cats roamed the operating offices and worst of all, Gosnell was accused of performing late-term abortions by delivering the babies alive and then killing them in the most barbaric of ways.
Gosnell, a doctor, ran two Philadelphia-area abortion clinics and is charged with eight counts of murder.

Seven first-degree-murder counts are for infants, and one third-degree count is for a woman who died when she stopped breathing following copious amounts of unrecorded and unmeasured sedation drugs administered by untrained staff.
However, the part of the story that is most unbelievable is the countless regulatory failures that led to Gosnell’s continued mutilation of women and infants for more than 30 years. Gosnell, a licensed doctor, first opened his West Philadelphia clinic in 1972.

The Department of Health permit allowing abortions at the facility was given in 1979 and expired in 1980.
Gosnell continued operating without a permit and wasn’t inspected again by Department of Health officials until 1989, at which time numerous health code violations were reported but were never followed up on.

After 1993, the Pennsylvania Department of Health made the decision to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all, for political reasons.

The PDOH would only investigate a matter if it was directly confronted with a complaint.
After 1993, numerous patients from Gosnell’s clinic were treated for complications in local hospitals, and some died.

By state law, hospitals are required to report treatment given due to complications from abortions. Yet there’s only one record of any hospital filing the requisite paperwork.
Even the State Board of Medicine, tasked with accrediting physicians and facilities had reports of the atrocities occurring in Gosnell’s clinic.

Instead of conducting an actual investigation, the board sent an investigator to meet with Gosnell at a location other than the clinic.
Gosnell was only arrested in 2010 when an FBI raid came to the clinic on suspicions that he was illegally selling prescription drugs.

Instead of finding stores of prescription drugs and fake scripts, investigators found fetal remains stashed away in refrigerators, freezers and stray food containers.
Opponents of gun control argue that stricter gun control laws doesn’t stop guns from being bought and sold; they just push them further underground and allow for easier criminal access to guns. The same could be said of abortion.

Banning the procedure doesn’t take away the need and instead forces desperate women to resort to measures like a visit to Dr. Gosnell’s clinic of horrors.
We don’t all agree on abortion.

But what we should agree on is that there is a fundamental duty of our state regulatory bodies to ensure that all medical procedures are carried out in safe ways.

That didn’t happen here, and today multiple woman and infants are dead.

Abortion before 24 weeks is a legal medical procedure in the state of Pennsylvania and should be regulated as such.

Gosnell is undeniably a monster, but the state agencies that knew what was going on and did nothing to stop him were the Dr. Frankenstein that created him.

Brittany Sharkey is a third-year law student from Oceanside, Calif. She graduated from NYU in 2010 with a degree in politics. Follow her on Twitter @brittanysharkey.