The horrific case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell of Pennsylvania abusing female patients in desperate need of quick and cheap abortions continues with even more gory details: now a young intern recalling the sound of "screeching" babies born from botched late-term abortions. Ashley Baldwin, then only 15 years old and completely unlicensed, claims that she was illegally giving intravenous medicine, as well as assisting in said abortions. And don't forget the details of Dr. Gosnell puncturing cervixes and leaving women to die -- all amidst cat feces.
You know what these hideous images remind me of? The days before Roe vs. Wade.
In Pennsylvania, it's becoming more difficult to even get a legal and safe abortion. The number of abortions clinics has reportedly declined with only 13 "freestanding providers of surgical abortion care." There used to be 22 providers two years ago. Guttmacher reports that in 2008, 82 percent of counties in Pennsylvania had no abortion provider.
Limited access to affordable care immediately equals back alley sketch land. Where care is poor, abortions are cheap, and women die. We've been here before. And thanks to abortion restrictions imposed on the state of Pennsylvania, it looks like some desperate women were there again.
Abortions are illegal in Pennsylvania after 24 weeks. But The Atlantic reports that "most [Pennsylvania] doctors won't perform abortions after the 20th week, many for health reasons, others for moral reasons."
Those time brackets leave many struggling, impoverished women between a rock and a hard place when trying to obtain their constitutionally protected right of procuring an abortion. It was precisely because they weren't able to secure that care that they sought out Dr. Gosnell in the first place:
Until 2009, Gosnell reportedly performed mostly first and second trimester abortions. But his clinic had come to develop a bad reputation, and could attract only women who couldn't get an abortion elsewhere, former employees have said. "Steven Massof estimated that in 40 percent of the second-trimester abortions performed by Gosnell, the fetuses were beyond 24 weeks gestational age," the grand jury states. "Latosha Lewis testified that Gosnell performed procedures over 24 weeks 'too much to count,' and ones up to 26 weeks 'very often.' ...in the last few years, she testified, Gosnell increasingly saw out-of-state referrals, which were all second-trimester, or beyond. By these estimates, Gosnell performed at least four or five illegal abortions every week."
And in addition to Gosnell's monstrosity, the Pennsylvania Department of Health should also be held responsible for gravely dropping the ball on prioritizing the health of patients. Despite penalizing Gosnell with numerous health violations, the department failed to followup with Gosnell and accepted his claims that he would "fix them," according to the grand jury report. Even when an ex-employee of Gosnell's reportedly got the attention of the Pennsylvania Department of State, they ultimately accepted an incomplete investigation of his facilities:
.. a former employee of Gosnell presented the Board of Medicine with a complaint that laid out the whole scope of his operation: the unclean, unsterile conditions; the unlicensed workers; the unsupervised sedation; the underage abortion patients; even the over-prescribing of pain pills with high resale value on the street. The department assigned an investigator, whose investigation consisted primarily of an offsite interview with Gosnell. The investigator never inspected the facility, questioned other employees, or reviewed any records. Department attorneys chose to accept this incomplete investigation, and dismissed the complaint as unconfirmed.
Even when 22-year-old Karnamaya Mongar died after a botched abortion, resulting in a civil suit that Dr. Gosnell settled, department attorneys reportedly dismissed these complaints as "meaningless." The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center took in multiple patients who had suffered illegal procedures from Dr. Gosnell. These hospitals also failed these women, many of whom required emergency surgery, by not consistently filing reports.
National Abortion Federation (NAF), The Atlantic reports, took note of Gosnell's conditions. But nothing substantial ever became of it:
NAF is an association of abortion providers that upholds the strict est health and legal standards for its members. Gosnell, bizarrely, applied for admission shortly after Karnamaya Mongar's death. Despite his various efforts to fool her, the evaluator from NAF readily noted that records were not properly kept, that risks were not explained, that patients were not monitored, that equipment was not available, that anesthesia was misused. It was the worst abortion clinic she had ever inspected. Of course, she rejected Gosnell's application. She just never told anyone in authority about all the horrible, dangerous things she had seen.
Aside from Dr. Gosnell's obvious barbaric practices and foul mistreatment of women, many health organizations, both public and private, greatly failed these women who were already so desperate for care. And yet their state is welcoming new oppositions towards making these procedures safe and accessible.
As of this month, Pennsylvania is enacting several new abortion restrictions, including that absurd 24-hour waiting period where women are subjected to "state-directed counseling" used to talk her out of having an abortion. Back alley clinics don't have waiting periods. You do the math.
Kate Michelman, former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, put it best when she wrote on the Dr. Gosnell case:
History tells us that whether abortion is legal or illegal, women will have abortions - the only difference is whether women live or die.
Especially if they're women of limited means, limited options, and have to be back at work the very next day.
(photo: dip/ Shutterstock)