Pennsylvania House Cracks Down on Abortion Centers Like Gosnell’s

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 11, 2011   |   7:07PM   |   Harrisburg, PA

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Wednesday passed HB 574, a bill that responds to the horrifying discoveries at the abortion business ran by Kermit Gosnell that had numerous violations and where babies were killed in abortion-infanticides.

The bill, sponsored by State Representative Matt Baker, is a response to the grand jury report in the Kermit Gosnell abortion center case in West Philadelphia. Gosnell and members of his unlicensed staff are charged with the murders of seven newborn babies and one female patient as a result of what has been described as an abortion center “house of horrors.”

“Nail salons receive greater oversight than abortion centers in Pennsylvania,” said Maria Vitale, Education Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. “The women of Pennsylvania deserve better, and that’s why the Pennsylvania House had to act.”

Vitale said the bill was needed because “state regulators ignored complaints and failed to visit the Women’s Medical Society for years.  The Gosnell case is a wake-up call for Pennsylvania, and shows that greater scrutiny of abortion facilities is needed to prevent such tragedies in the future.”

“Gosnell’s abortion center was inspected only after a federal drug raid in 2010.  It was the first time the facility had been inspected in 17 years,” she said.

The ACLU-PA and Planned Parenthood teamed up to oppose the measure with the ACLU mounting

a video campaign through the social networking site Facebook to oppose the legislation. The organization, which supports legal abortion, says that the bill would cost abortion operations hundreds of thousands of dollars in building renovations and staffing increases and would result in the closing of abortion centers.

In an interview with the website PoliticsPA, Rep. Baker responded, “Why do they feel that they should not have to undergo the same patient health safety standards as other facilities, this just defies logic.”

Baker has introduced two other pieces of legislation in response to the Gosnell tragedy. HB 907 would expand the statute of limitations for late-term abortions and infanticide, while HB 908 would increase the penalties for impersonating a physician.

A grand jury concluded that state regulators failed in their duty to provide oversight to Gosnell’s abortion center. Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams told state Senate panels that the grand jury was upset with representatives of the Departments of Health and State who seemed “more interested in protecting the interest of the departments than the interests of women and young girls.”

Still, the grand jury did not charge any state authorities in the probe. Pennsylvania taxpayers paid more than $100,000 in legal fees for attorneys representing state officials who were called before the grand jury.

The prosecutors who testified before the Senate hearing said, since news reports of the criminal case emerged, they have been receiving calls daily from former patients of Gosnell.

There was “more oversight of women’s hair salons and nail salons” than over abortion facilities in Pennsylvania, according to Williams.

Williams said Gosnell’s facility was responsible for “horrific and barbaric treatment of women and young girls.” But, despite dozens of lawsuits being filed against Gosnell, state officials did not take action until after a federal drug raid of his abortion center.

Pennsylvania health department officials stopped conducting yearly inspections of abortion centers under former Governor Tom Ridge, citing concerns that the inspections would create a barrier for women’s access to abortion. As a result, Gosnell’s facility was not inspected for 17 years.

According to prosecutors, Gosnell’s patients paid from $330 to $2500 for each abortion. He reportedly earned $1.8 million a year from his abortion trade.

Prosecutors say Gosnell taught his unlicensed, unqualified staff to take ultrasounds in such a way that the true size and age of the unborn baby were disguised. Under Pennsylvania law, abortions are illegal after 24 weeks unless the mother’s life is seriously threatened or when the pregnancy would result in irreversible impairment of a bodily function.  The fraudulent ultrasounds permitted him to perform abortions well past the cut-off point established under the state’s landmark Abortion Control Act.

But Gosnell went beyond performing abortions, allowing late-term babies to be delivered live, then severing their spinal cords with scissors.

Much of Gosnell’s clientele consisted of low-income minority women and immigrants who were particularly vulnerable to Gosnell’s allegedly criminal practices.

“So many of the women were poor—maybe no one heard their voices,” Williams said.

Gosnell and several staffers at his abortion center, including his wife Pearl, were arrested in January after a grand jury indicted them on multiple charges after officials raided his abortion business following a woman’s death and discovered a “shop of horrors” filled with bags of bodies and body parts of deceased unborn children and babies killed in infanticides.

In the raid, officials found jars containing the remains of pre-born babies dating back 30 years along with filthy and unsafe conditions and evidence that unlicensed workers had been illegally treating patients. The office has no access for a stretcher in the case of an emergency. In previous emergencies, care was delayed because exit doors were padlocked shut or blocked with debris from the clinic.

The abortion industry has been forced to suspend two abortion businesses that employed embattled abortion practitioner Kermit Gosnell, who has been the subject of national controversy over his abortion business in Philadelphia.

Following revelations that Gosnell is associatedwith two other abortion centers in Louisiana and Delaware, the National Abortion Federation made the decision to suspend the memberships of both. Atlantic Women’s Medical Services, the Delaware abortion business that employed Gosnell one day a week to do abortions, and the Delta Clinic abortion center of Baton Rouge, have both had their memberships suspended. Leroy Brinkley owns both abortion businesses. Atlantic operates abortion centers in Wilmington and Dover.

Delaware law does not require inspections of abortion centers but Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said his office will launch a “wide-ranging” investigation of Gosnell and probe his work at the Delaware abortion facility given the vast problems at his Pennsylvania abortion center.

Authorities searching the facility last year found bags and bottles holding aborted babies scattered around the building, jars containing babies’ severed feet lining a shelf, as well as filthy, unsanitary furniture and equipment.

The grand jury investigation also shows state officials did nothingwhen reports came in about problems at Gosnell’s abortion center, which has upset incoming pro-life Governor Tom Corbett who fired several state employees.