Are the lessons of Kermit Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” being ignored?

By Maria Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation

Editor’s note. My family and I will be on vacation through August 25. I will occasionally add new items but for the most part we will repost “the best of the best” — the stories our readers have told us they especially liked over the last ten months.

Around the country, people are now asking the question, “Have we learned the lessons from the Gosnell case?” Or, if we ever did, are they now being ignored?

Abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who is now the subject of both books and a ground-breaking movie, is believed to have killed hundreds of full-term babies by severing their spinal cords after they were delivered alive. He also caused the deaths of female patients in a facility the Philadelphia District Attorney dubbed a “House of Horrors.”

Gosnell is now serving three consecutive life sentences for the murders of three babies. (Prosecutors could not bring charges in the rest of the infanticide cases because Gosnell destroyed so much evidence.) He was also convicted of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the heartbreaking death of an immigrant patient, Karnamaya Mongar.

The massive Gosnell tragedy led to the enactment of Pennsylvania’s Act 122, which requires abortion facilities to meet basic health and safety standards and to be subjected to yearly announced inspections and telling unannounced ones.

But a Harrisburg abortion facility called Hillcrest Women’s Medical Services has repeatedly flunked inspection, yet continues to operate.

National news organizations have picked up the story of Hillcrest’s many failures, and so people throughout the nation are rightly asking why the troubled abortion center is still open for business.

Add to that chorus the voices of some Pennsylvania lawmakers, who this week sent a letter to the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), Karen Murphy, demanding answers.

“These health and safety violations are obviously deeply troubling,” state Senators Joe Scarnati, Bob Mensch, and John DiSanto, wrote. “However, even more problematic appears to be DOH’s response, which was to allow the abortion clinic to continue operating while granting Hillcrest a six month grace period to correct the citied ‘deficiencies.’ To make matters worse, this was Hillcrest’s fourth finding of deficiencies in just the past six years.”

The Senators further note that the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed Act 122 in 2011 to direct DOH to license and inspect abortion facilities in the same way as other ambulatory surgical facilities. “This was done with the intent of ensuring that abortion clinics were meeting basic requirements in order to keep their patients safe. Hillcrest is clearly failing to live up to this standard.”

Something else could be at work here: politics. It is no secret that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is a strident supporter of abortion on demand. He even went so far as to volunteer as a clinic escort at a Planned Parenthood facility. (Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion operation in the country, performing more than 320,000 abortions annually.)

As the grand jury in the Gosnell case wisely noted [www.phila.gov/districtattorney/pdfs/grandjurywomensmedical.pdf], pro-abortion politics prevented Pennsylvania abortion facilities from being inspected for more than 15 years. Pro-abortion Governors Tom Ridge (a Republican) and Ed Rendell (a Democrat) put forth policies which meant that hair and nail salons were more closely scrutinized than abortion centers.

The laxness with which abortion regulations are being enforced at Hillcrest leads one to wonder whether the Wolf Administration is adequately enforcing Pennsylvania law.

As the Pennsylvania Senators stated, “…We would like an explanation as to why DOH did not immediately move to suspend or revoke Hillcrest Women’s Medical Center’s license upon finding such numerous egregious violations.”

Now, people throughout the country are asking the same question. It is not too much to ask that abortion centers demonstrate that they have adequate staff…that medications are kept secure…that medical supplies are not 13 years out of date. It is not too much to ask abortion facilities to follow the law.

It is not too much to ask a Governor to have his Administration enforce the law. The public is demanding answers from the Wolf Administration, to ensure that future Kermit Gosnells do not operate in Pennsylvania.

But how do we know that they aren’t already doing business in the Keystone State, with state regulators turning a blind eye to their crimes?