Abortion Scandal: Changing a Culture of Death

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PHILADELPHIA - When authorities raided Dr. Kermit Gosnell's abortion clinic in Philadelphia in February of 2010, they were shocked.

According the the grand jury report, Gosnell's clinic contained refrigerators stuffed full of aborted fetuses.

"The grand jury went to the scene wearing hazmat suits. It was filthy," Pa. District Attorney Seth Williams said, describing the condition of the facility.

Dr. Gosnell and eight workers from his clinic, including his wife, now face eight counts of murder. Authorities said it is likely that Gosnell killed more babies but destroyed most of the clinics records.

"Case after case, Dr. Gosnell and his assistants induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy, and then killed those babies," Williams said.

Appalling Neglect

One of Gosnell's patients, Karnamaya Monger, died after being over-medicated. The 41-year-old allegedly overdosed on anesthetics prescribed by Gosnell. Gosnell wasn't at the clinic at the time, but directed his staff to administer the powerful drugs to keep the woman sedated until he arrived.

People who live hear Gosnell's clinic said they are outraged about the allegations.

"For killing them babies, he need to go to hell. For killing them the way he did after they were already full term. He needs to go to hell," a woman named Tinisha told CBN News,

Newly elected Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett had only been in office for one day when the grand jury report was made public. He sad he was appalled at the lack of oversight by state and local regulators. 

Corbett said it's sad that, "it took a raid by drug enforcement agents to do what regulators should have done a decade ago."

"This doesn't even rise to the level of government run amuck. It was government not running at all," he said. "To call this unacceptable doesn't say enough. It's despicable."

The new governor instructed members of his administration to investigate how the Gosnell clinic scandal happened in the first place.

"It happened because people weren't doing their jobs, plain and simple," he said.

Investigating a 'Slaughter House'

Corbett is taking tough action against those who let this happen.

"I've begun the process of removing a number of employees at the Department of Health and the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs at the Dept of State," he said during a press conference announcing the sweeping changes.

"In some cases I've accepted resignations, others have been dismissed outright. Some are suspended while we investigate further and we're not done," he said.

Late term abortions are illegal in Pennysylvania. Williams said Dr.Gosnell tried to get around the law by starting the abortions at a clinic in Delaware. He then completed the procedure at his Philadelphia clinic.

In response, pro-life pastors from across the state of Delaware are pushing for an investigation into the Delaware abortion facility.

"The grand jury has evidence of at least six patients who were treated in Wilmington, then had abortions at Gosnell's clinic," said Pastor Christopher Bullock, Cannan Baptist Church in Wilmington.

"We're looking at slaughter houses. I'm not calling them clinics they're slaughter houses," Bishop Aretha Morton, Tabernacle Full Gospel Baptist Church, added.

Planned Parenthood Referrals

Edele Finnegan, director of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Pro-Life Union, told CBN News about allegations she learned from a client that Planned Parenthood frequently referred women who wanted late-term abortions to Dr. Gosnell.

"She said if you were at Planned Parenthood, they wouldn't do some of the abortions for you but they would tell you about 38th and Lancaster," Finnegan said.

That is the location of Gosnell's Philadelphia clinic.

CBN News contacted Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania about the alleged referrals. They declined the request for an interview but released the following statement from Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania:

"Planned Parenthood strongly condemns the alleged actions of Dr Kermit Gosnell. Planned Parenthood has never referred any patient to Dr. Gosnell's practice," Steinberg said.

Abortion Abuse Widespread

What authorities say happened at Dr. Gosnell's clinic has shocked and saddened the entire country. But many in the pro-life community believe the same types of abuses are happening in other facilities across America.

"This is not the first time. It's one of the worst cases of abuse that you can see, abuse of the medical shingle," Dr. Alveda King, with Priests for Life, said.

"This is what we've been saying for years," Kristan Hawkins, with Students for Life, said.

The grand jury report also said that state regulators had not conducted inspections of Gosnell's clinic in nearly 20 years. It also revealed that officials ignored 46 lawsuits filed against the clinic. 

Sweeping Changes

In response to the investigation, Gov. Corbett recently introduced sweeping changes designed to protect the health and safety of women who use abortion facilities in the future.

At the Department of State:

  • All complaints concerning a person or facility should be assigned to the same attorney. This will ensure proper management of each specific case.
  • All attorneys will cross check all files, opened or closed, with other staff attorneys to ensure that any patterns of misconduct do not go unnoticed.
  • Reports will be more detailed, including history of any prior complaints or violations.
  • Attorneys will receive formal training on investigative procedures and instruction on rules and regulations, including prosecuting complaints.

At the Department of Health:

  • Abortion clinics will now be held to a higher standard. Inspectors will come from the Division of Acute and Ambulatory Care, which is also responsible for inspecting Pennsylvania's hospitals and out-patient surgery facilities.
  • Registered nurses from the Department of Health will be trained to inspect these types of facilities for quality assurance and enforce regulations.
  • All facilities will be inspected annually. Additional random inspections will be done unannounced, including weekends and evenings.
  • Abortion facilities will be added to the same Department of Health computer system used to monitor hospitals and other medical facilities. This will make sure inspections are done in a timely fashion and standards are met. The computerized system will also track complaints, serious events, and investigations.
  • Inspection reports will be posted and searchable on the Department of Health website, just like other healthcare facilities. 
  • If inspectors find a deficiency, plans of correction will be required within 10 days, submitted online and automatically be made available to the public on the department's website. Failure to comply will result in another on-site inspection. Failure to file a second plan of correction within a second 10-day period will result in an immediate suspension for the facility. 
  • Any facility that fails to report a serious incident - either to the state or the patient - will be fined up to $1,000 a day from the time of the serious event until the time the report is made. (A "serious event" is when a patient receives some level of harm, ranging from a minor, temporary injury to death, requiring additional health care treatment.) 
  • All serious events at abortion facilities will be reviewed within 48 hours by a physician and an on-site investigation will be conducted within five business days. 
  • Abortion clinics will be subject to the same complaint process as hospitals and other medical facilities in Pennsylvania.
  • Abortion clinics will prominently display a poster with a 24-hour toll free number to the complaint line. Posters will be in English and Spanish. Any facility that fails to display the complaint information will be subject to possible suspension. 
  • Complaints will be taken from any source, entered into the computer system, and assigned to the field office inspector, as they do for hospitals and surgical facilities. All complainants will receive a letter of acknowledgement and a follow-up letter after the investigation. 
  • All new abortion providers will be required to attend training on the state's rules and regulations. All hospitals will be trained about reporting complications from abortions. 

Together, the two departments will:

  • Establish a set mechanism for sharing monthly data between agencies, including complaints, serious events, complications, deaths and investigations. 
  • Establish a process for joint investigations by agencies, including time frames and responsibilities. 
  • The Governor's Office will continue, along with the departments of Health and State, to monitor the situation to decide whether additional action, either regulatory or legislative, is necessary.

'Hope' Beyond a Culture of Death

Pastor Herb Lusk, Greater Exodus Baptist Church runs a pregnancy care center in the heart of Philadelphia. He told CBN News that his center is the answer to Gosnell's "House of Horrors."

Lusk believes that his "Hope" center counters the culture of death surrounding the issue of abortion in his community.

"I'm just thankful that we have a center here in Philadelphia that will navigate poor mothers, people who are expecting, to a place where they can have safety," he said.

Women like Kenarah Sexton, a single mother who is expecting again.  She said Lusk's "Hope" center is convenient.

"They're wonderful, actually. I like coming over here," she said.

Meanwhile, Gosnell is being held without bail and could face the death penalty. Gov. Corbett said it will be up to a jury to decide Gosnell's guilt or innocence.

"It's up to me to decide how to stop such horrors from taking place again as it pertains to state government," he said. "It's not enough to prosecute the wrong doing, we have to change the culture that starts here, it starts now."

Pro-lifers in Philadelphia and across the country are encouraged by Corbett's stance on this issue, but they are quick to admit that the battle surrounding abortion is far from over.

"The abortion industry is a very powerful economic machine. It's about money," Lusk said. "The only thing that can stop that is people who are willing to do whatever they can in order to stand up. Standup for the children who are unborn who can't speak for themselves."

Originally published Feb. 18, 2011.

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Charlene  Aaron

Charlene Aaron

CBN News Reporter

Charlene Aaron serves as a general assignment reporter and helps anchor for the CBN News Channel.  Follow her on Twitter @CharNews and "like" her at Facebook.com/CharleneIsraelCBNNews.