“The medical practice by which [Gosnell] carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths.”
So begins the graphic and stomach-turning January 2011 grand jury report into notorious Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, convicted one year ago of murdering born-alive infants, killing a patient, performing illegal late-term abortions, and violating Pennsylvania’s informed consent law more than 200 times.
Sadly, Kermit Gosnell and the Women’s Medical Society, his “house of horrors” West Philadelphia abortion clinic, are not aberrations. Over the last five years, abortion providers in at least 29 states have faced investigations, criminal charges, administrative complaints, and/or civil lawsuits related to the provision of abortion, or have been cited for violating state laws governing the operation of abortion clinics.
In response, there have been efforts across the country to combat the reality of “back-alley” abortions by enacting meaningful and comprehensive regulations and effective oversight of abortion clinics. Since 2009, at least 13 states have enacted new comprehensive abortion clinic regulations or made significant improvements to existing regulations.
These regulations are designed to safeguard against unsanitary conditions, inferior equipment, and the employment of unsuitable and untrained personnel. They are also intended to put an end to substandard medical practices that injure and kill untold numbers of women each year.
Clearly, states have the authority to intervene and the duty and responsibility to act when a public health problem exists. One woman’s death is too many. One woman left infertile because of any infection caused by unsanitary conditions is too many. One woman rushed bleeding to an emergency room with a punctured uterus because her abortion provider was rushing to complete as many abortions as he could in one afternoon is, likewise, too many.
However, equally critical to enacting laws is enforcing them, for a law unenforced is a law that exists in name only – it punishes no one and it deters no one. Nonetheless, in many states the enforcement provisions of abortion-related laws are either inadequate, non-existent or ignored, as was the situation regarding Gosnell’s clinic.
For this reason, AUL has developed model legislation that strengthens the enforcement options available to state regulators and law enforcement officials. Specifically, AUL’s model legislation provides law enforcement authorities with criminal, civil and administrative options for enforcing health and safety standards, informed consent requirements, and other abortion-related requirements.
AUL’s model legislation creates a private right of action permitting a third-party with direct knowledge of a violation, including a woman harmed, to bring a lawsuit to enforce an abortion-related law. It allows the third-party to bring the action when there has been a violation of an abortion-related law and a failure on the part of state officials to take appropriate action for the violation(s).
Only by ensuring the proper enforcement of abortion-related laws can we adequately protect women against another Gosnell tragedy.
LifeNews Note: Ovide Lamontagne is General Counsel and William Saunders is Senior Vice President for Legal Affairs for Americans United for Life.