To make matters worse, Gosnell’s bloody business was allowed to persist because of widespread neglect by and silence from public officials and institutions that had the power to stop the evil that allegedly ran rampant at the “Women’s Medical Society” in West Philadelphia.
The grand jury report on the alleged horrors at Gosnell’s office is not for the faint of heart. The first five pages, with descriptions of alleged depraved indifference to life and law, will take your breath away. Even those with the strongest stomachs are bound to be sickened by the disgusting details. The opening paragraph of the case overview sums it up:
This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he 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. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.
Gosnell was approved to provide abortion services after an on-site inspection in 1979. There were other site reviews in 1989, 1992 and 1993. Violations were noted at each of those visits. Nothing was done to ensure they were corrected. Complaints about Gosnell from injured women, a doctor and even a medical examiner went unheeded by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Department of State and the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.
The raid that ended Gosnell’s bloody work was for “illegal prescription drug activity.” That was the day side of his business. But, according to the grand jury report, that raid also immediately revealed the illegal nighttime abortion practice long ignored by city and state officials.
The clinic reeked of animal urine, courtesy of the cats that were allowed to roam (and defecate) freely. Furniture and blankets were stained with blood. Instruments were not properly sterilized. Disposable medical supplies were not disposed of; they were reused, over and over again. Medical equipment – such as the defibrillator, the EKG, the pulse oximeter, the blood pressure cuff – was generally broken; even when it worked, it wasn’t used. The emergency exit was padlocked shut. And scattered throughout, in cabinets, in the basement, in a freezer, in jars and bags and plastic jugs, were fetal remains. It was a baby charnel house.
The grand jury made numerous recommendations to ensure that the “bureaucratic inertia” that allowed Gosnell to stay in operation can never happen again. But the report pointed out another reason Gosnell went unchecked. “We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion,” wrote the grand jury.
Many critics claim that there has been silence on the Gosnell case from the national media because of the abortion issue. I side with The Post’s executive editor Martin Baron on this. “I wish I could be conscious of all stories everywhere,” he told The Post’s Paul Farhi yesterday, “but I can’t be. Nor can any of us.”
Ultimately, the conspiracy of silence on Gosnell lies not with the press. It lies with the workers at the clinic who allegedly participated in barbarous acts or allegedly watched them happen and said nothing. It lies with members of the community who knew about the alleged deplorable activity and conditions at “Women’s Medical Society” and said nothing. And it lies with Philadelphia and Pennsylvania officials who fielded numerous credible complaints about Gosnell and did nothing.
Eight of Gosnell’s workers have pleaded guilty. Gosnell faces the death penalty if he is convicted. No matter how the jury rules, I’m confident that these alleged appalling actions have earned him a special place in hell.
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