He Failed to Inspect Kermit Gosnell’s Abortion Clinic, Now He’s Getting a Promotion

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 18, 2015   |   11:33AM   |   Harrisburg, PA

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is igniting controversy for his decision to appoint a long-time Secretary of State to reassume his post. The reason? The Department of State failed during the secretary’s tenure to take action against now-convicted abortionist Kermit Gosnell, years before he was brought to justice.

Gosnell is now in prison following his conviction in the deaths of three full-term infants and one female patient at his West Philadelphia abortion facility. The abortion center has been called a House of Horrors by prosecutors.

The Gosnell grand jury report shows that the Pennsylvania Department of State had several opportunities to put Gosnell out of business, but failed to do so, under former secretary Pedro Cortes. Cortes served as Secretary of State from April 2003 to June of 2010. He was the longest-serving Secretary of State in the history of the Commonwealth.

Now, Governor Wolf has appointed Cortes to the post. The Federalist has more on what’s going on:

Wolf has appointed veteran bureaucrat Pedro Cortés as acting secretary of the commonwealth—a top member of the governor’s cabinet and head of the Department of State—pending permanent approval by the Republican-controlled state Senate. This is Cortés’s second stint in this position; his first, from 2003 to 2010 under Gov. Ed Rendell, coincided with the grossest period of negligence in the department’s history of lax enforcement of state abortion and medical regulations.

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Cortés was a key figure in what one state senator called the “total system failure” that resulted in Gosnell’s decades-long tenure in west Philadelphia. The Gosnell grand jury singled out the Department of State for pointed critique: “The [Department of State] prosecutors…clearly had no interest in investigating Gosnell, much less holding him accountable for the crime spree that he called a medical practice.”

The appointment is just another example of the contempt pro-choice forces in Pennsylvania have demonstrated toward Gosnell’s victims.

Women like Semika Shaw and Karnamaya Mongar, for whose killing Gosnell was ultimately convicted, are inconveniences to Planned Parenthood’s political and business objectives. This is just an extension of how these women—and surely many other women whose names we will never know—were treated by the bureaucracy on Cortés’s watch.

The Department of State first heard of Shaw’s death in late 2002, when it received a report of a $400,000 settlement from Gosnell to her family. No action was taken until more than a year later, with Cortés now at the helm.

In other words, the Department of State not only failed to investigate Shaw’s death, but also obscured the most damning evidence of Gosnell’s malfeasance. Taken together with what we already know—that under governors Ridge and Rendell statutorily-mandated abortion clinic inspections were halted—it’s difficult not to see a pattern of negligence in which the Department of State was complicit.

The Federalist is calling on the Pennsylvania legislature to reject Cortés’ appointed to the post as does Maria Vitale, a lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. Here’s what she has to say on the matter:

Under Cortes, the Department of State closed a complaint without investigation into the death of a 22-year-old woman who died following a botched abortion at Gosnell’s facility. The same day, prosecutors chose to close an investigation brought about by a former Gosnell employee that indicated numerous violations, including using unlicensed workers to administer anesthesia; employing unsterilized instruments; and allowing flea-infested cats to roam the facility.

In 2006, despite the state not having any record of Gosnell being covered by insurance, investigators closed their probe into his insurance situation. And in 2009, another malpractice suit was ignored.

As the grand jury stated, “Pennsylvania’s Department of State neglected its duty to discipline a doctor engaged in unprofessional conduct.”

The grand jury further wrote that the problems with the Department of State went well beyond individual prosecuting attorneys.

“The Grand Jury is convinced – based on the number of state prosecutors who failed to take action against Gosnell, on the fact that the prosecutors’ supervisors uniformly approved recommendations not to take action, and on the testimony of Prosecuting Attorney (Juan) Ruiz – that the problem does not lie just with the individual attorneys. There are clearly problems with procedures, training, management, and motivation” at the Department of State.”

The prospect of Cortes being re-appointed as Secretary of State raises questions about whether Pennsylvania is poised to return to the days of lax regulation and failed enforcement that characterized the years during which Gosnell operated his abortion facility.

Meanwhile, more than 40 lawmakers have signed a letter opposing his nomination.

ACTION: Contact members of the Pennsylvania Senate and urge a no vote on Pedro Cortes’ nomination.