The Dangers and Implications of Medical Murder

19 Jan

In a shocking article recently published by the Associated Press, it was revealed that a Pennsylvania doctor has been charged with eight counts of murder in a case that screams for the public’s attention for many reasons. I will go ahead and warn you now, this is a horribly graphic and heartbreaking account, so please read with discretion. Now it is also important to note that this story is just coming to light, and so the full scope and validity of all of the allegations put forth in the article have yet to be fully substantiated. However, if true, this does highlight a number of points that need to be examined.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, made millions of dollars over 30 years, performing as many illegal, late-term abortions as he could, prosecutors said. State regulators ignored complaints about him and failed to inspect his clinic since 1993, but no charges were warranted against them given time limits and existing law, District Attorney Seth Williams said. Nine of Gosnell’s employees also were charged.

Gosnell “induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord,” Williams said.

What makes this story ever the more tragic, is that there were complaints lodged to the State that were not investigated for so long. In fact, if it had not been for complaints about drugs that stemmed from the clinic, investigators would seemingly never have looked into the complaints that were filed. How many of these victims could have been prevented had the State not only listened to the complaints being filed, but acknowledged the overwhelming number of women finding themselves in need of services they could not get anywhere else. So there are numerous implications that Pennsylvanian representatives need to address, and now!

This is a prime example of how the stigma attached to abortion, and the attacks on abortion which limit a woman’s access to safe procedures, gives rise to this kind of barbarism. If you thought that the ‘back-alley’ abortions were just a horror story of the past, then think again. Just now there are clinics like this one where women are subjected to opportunistic and conscienceless practitioners who do not have the patient’s care as a priority at all.

Patients were subjected to squalid and barbaric conditions at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society, where Gosnell performed dozens of abortions a day, prosecutors said. He mostly worked overnight hours after his untrained staff administered drugs to induce labor during the day, they said.

The entire story reads like bad fiction, and what makes it all that much worse, is that, as previously mentioned, had the complaints that had been filed been investigated, had one representative from the State looked into the doctor’s background at all, or even looked into the qualifications of the staff so many red flags would have gone off that so much of this could have been stopped. But abortion is such a hot button issue, especially these days with the societal stigma and propaganda machines rolling through community after community, that it seems many politicians want little or nothing to do with it. So getting the oversight right is not always an easy thing to achieve. Just as the threat level from the anti side keeps many qualified and caring professionals from pursuing this line of medical focus, and so the situation gets more desperate.

So many women are unnecessarily put into harms way because of the way abortion has been demonized in public and professional forums. Perhaps we should recognize that the service provided at these clinics is necessary. And when you have stories like this one, where women have nowhere else to turn but to doctors like this, that we recognize that it only demonstrates that need more strongly. Then we could work at removing the stigma. No one is asking anyone to “like” that it is necessary, merely to admit that it is. Then perhaps we can begin getting more safeguards and more qualified, caring professionals in place to prevent horror stories like this from being a reality for some.

19 Responses to “The Dangers and Implications of Medical Murder”

  1. JeninCanada January 19, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    So many women put in harms way, and so many babies. What a horror.

  2. tenya January 19, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    It strikes me as appalling that because these abuses occurred against largely low-income women they were ignored for decades. I have my doubts about some of the validity (the scissors thing reminds me too much of Jill Stanek – doesn’t mean it isn’t true, just coincidental) but I think the main point is true: a physician was providing dangerous care and it took several deaths before it was stopped because of stigma and slow patient protection practices.

    Because this will inevitably bring up the “late-term elective abortion is still wrong!” argument, I wonder how many of these women would have been likely to commit infanticide had they carried to term? My point being that the way to decrease this is to remove the stigma of these pregnancies and better early assistance, rather than hoping that shaming and laws preventing late-term abortions will magically make these women have circumstances where they can happily carry a pregnancy to term. I’m talking about campaigns to make sure women have safe access to contraception, safety from abusive situations, early detection of pregnancy and early abortion if desired (and financial etc. support if they do not – even if they are migrant workers or teenagers or whatever).

  3. Julie January 19, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    Kill the Tillers of the world, and we’re left with the Gosnells.

  4. JivinJ January 20, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    You should read the overview of the Grand Jury report on this case –

    It shows that pro-choice politics ended inspections at Gosnell’s clinic and helped him stay open. It also notes that a National Abortion Federation representative failed to report the horrible conditions at Gosnell’s clinic.

    How would less regulations have stopped the egregious violations at this unregulated clinic? That’s doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.

  5. NYCprochoiceMD January 20, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    I wish it weren’t written in such sensationalist language — it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s exaggerated. If it were written in a more straightforward manner, it would help us know fact from fiction.

  6. Rob January 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    @ JivinJ – Can you point out where I say we need less regulation? Because not only did I not, I don’t believe that is the way forward, except with regards to the restrictions making it more difficult on women to get access as Shayna pointed out. I said we need to stop the demonizing and propaganda machines from confusing the issue. In fact I even talk about how we need to get the oversight right. So how is that in any way promoting less regulations?

  7. Shayna January 20, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    JivinJ – Less regulations as in no parental notification or waiting period, which means women could have accessed safe abortions instead of being forced to turn to this man.

  8. JivinJ January 20, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

    Maybe I’m mistaken but “the attacks on abortion which limit a woman’s access to safe procedures” are typically synonymous with prolife laws (like laws which include abortion clinics as ambulatory facilities, 24-hour informed consent, etc.) that regulate abortion facilities at pro-choice blogs.

    You also claimed that “that it seems many politicians want little or nothing to do with it. So getting the oversight right is not always an easy thing to achieve.”

    But that wasn’t the case at all. Pro-choice politicians and government officials decided not to inspect clinics because they didn’t want to create “barriers” to abortion.

    Stigma had nothing to do with this. Women didn’t go to Gosnell because abortion is stigmatized in Philadelphia. Come on. They went there because it was cheap and he would commit post-viability abortions.

  9. JivinJ January 20, 2011 at 12:59 pm #

    No one “forced” anyone to go to Gosnell. Wasn’t it their “choice?” Funny how abortion advocates run away from “choice” language when it suits them.

    It’s an incredibly short-sighted argument to say that we should get rid of regulations because an abortionist decided not to follow them.

    Women also choose to go to Gosnell because he would kill (sometimes after they survived abortion) their viable children. Does that mean we should legalize the killing of children who survive abortions so women won’t be “forced” to go to abortionists like Gosnell to have their post 24-week child aborted or killed.

  10. Steph January 20, 2011 at 1:22 pm #

    JivinJ, please educate yourself. Here are a few things for you to read before making assumptions:

    – Abortion Care Network Director Charlotte Taft comments on the 1/19 arrest of Dr. Gosnell, an abortion provider in PA

    – From the Guttmacher Institute: Claim that Most Abortion Clinics Are Located in Black Neighborhoods Is False (PDF)

    – From RH Realith Check: Doctor Who Performed Illegal Abortions Indicted for Murder

    This is about access to quality services. I’m going to quote now from a press statement from the Women’s Medical Fund, the abortion access fund in Philadelphia:

    “But what happened inside that building is not the real story. The real story is why women sought care there at all. Abortion is a legal common routine medical procedure. Yet for 25 years, the state of PA has banned Medicaid funding for abortion. Abortion is the only routine medical procedure not covered by Medicaid. This prohibition on Medicaid payment for abortion leaves desperate women vulnerable to sub-standard providers.

    At the Women’s Medical Fund, an organization distinct from the Women’s Medical Society, we raise money from individuals and give it to women who have chosen an abortion but can’t afford it. We have never referred women to the Women’s Medical Society. To prepare for today, I reviewed our records of the women whom we have supported in 2010 who live in that same neighborhood.

    I found six women. Their ages range from 21 to 36. Five are mothers. Four are enrolled in Medicaid; two have no health insurance at all. Two receive unemployment checks and one was just laid off a few days ago. One works at McDonald’s and earns $450/month. $200 of that goes to rent. One is obtaining a protection from abuse order against her violent husband. Another is pregnant due to a rape. One is living in a homeless shelter with her young child. She receives $213/mo in welfare. The average monthly income of these six women is $503.

    Thankfully, all of these women sought care at high-quality abortion practices.

    When they got there, they were told that they needed $350 to $450 for an abortion procedure. As you can imagine, this seemed like a fortune to these women. And not one had the insurance coverage to cover the cost. Thankfully again, they turned to my organization, the Women’s Medical Fund, and we were able to help.

    Closing this one abortion practice, the Women’s Medical Society, will not solve the problem that its story brought to light. Singling out abortion providers for new regulations will not solve the problem. What will solve the problem is lifting the Medicaid ban on abortion and providing equitable health coverage for all.”

  11. Rob January 20, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Oh, okay, JivinJ, you see I was under the impression that you were actually going to read the post, not just read into the post whatever you wanted, but I will indulge this one last time.

    First: You’re incorrect in your assumptive assessment. I and others have explained why already.

    Second: The quote you pulled about the politicians and your follow-up only demonstrate the point. With radicals arguing, and in some cases violently making their points, the stigma attached makes politicos on either side leery of actually actively partaking in the discussion or regulatory processes because they are afraid of becoming a target. Remove the stigma, and the violent rhetoric attached, and politicos are more willing to approach the issues.

    You keep harping on they were Pro-Choice politicians that ignored the reports because they didn’t want to further limit access. Access that the other side had already severely restricted. Had there been other providers in the area, pro-choice politicians might have given validity to the claims. We don’t know. But if there already weren’t so many limits imposed on women, then perhaps politicians would not have seen this as just another attack to further the reach of those limits. There would be no comparable rhetoric for them to align the complaints with so that they could have been so easily dismissed. This is really hard to see…if you are not trying, so perhaps you might give that a go.

    I love that knowing way with which you box in all of Gosnell’s patients irregardless of circumstances or situation. Kind of a tired tactic, but whatever works for ya I suppose. It’s a classist statement at the very least, and rings with hints of other -isms as well, but I am going to leave it there and hope that you will perhaps reconsider this crass, baseless supposition…though I won’t be holding my breath.

  12. Steph L. January 20, 2011 at 7:33 pm #


    Hey, your name seems familiar. Did you used to post on the I’mNotSorry blog?

  13. Ro January 21, 2011 at 12:49 am #

    pretty sure jivin j is jill stanek, no?

  14. Ro January 21, 2011 at 12:51 am #

    my bad, jivin j occasionally writes posts (mostly link roundups) for jill stanek’s blog. but it’s a dude i think.

  15. Alyson January 23, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    Jivin J, if you had really read the Grand Jury report, you’d be aware that the women who went to Gosnell’s “clinic” were so heavily medicated that they had no idea what happened to their babies or fetuses after they were expelled. There are multiple cases of women who had fetal parts left inside of them but had no idea until they were in severe pain for days afterward. They might have gone there because it was cheap, and because they knew Gosnell didn’t care about limits, but they certainly didn’t know about his habit of cutting viable babies’ spinal cords, and Gosnell wanted to keep it that way.

    You’d also be aware that, unlike at reputable abortion clinics, there were indeed women who were literally forced to go to Gosnell’s clinic: re-read the part about the “recommended” doses of medications. The (extremely dangerous) “custom” dose (the one which killed Karnamaya Mongar) is recommended for people who are being forced into having an abortion. There’s also another case mentioned in which a woman changed her mind after the insertion of laminaria; Gosnell didn’t want to allow her to do so, though eventually she was able to stop. A similar case is reported on in an Associated Press article, although in that case the woman didn’t get her way. Gosnell didn’t care about coercion or consent, all he cared about was money.

    Please don’t lecture other people that they should be reading things you haven’t even read yourself.


  1. Tweets that mention The Dangers and Implications of Medical Murder | Abortion Gang -- - January 20, 2011

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by smash. and Janlynne, Abortion Rights. Abortion Rights said: Comment @abortiongang: "Kill the TIller's of the world, and you're left with the Gosnells" Sadly true. #prochoice […]

  2. Arrest of Pa. abortion doctor gives pro-choice activism a bad name | Americas Society - January 21, 2011

    […] are not), and that abortion is murder (it is not). It means that activists like me will have to redouble our efforts to combat these lies, as one alleged murderer’s crimes seem to provide proof to the lies that the anti-choice […]

  3. All I have to say is ugh « Sedatus Aequora - March 23, 2011

    […] before coming to that awful place.  And don’t forget this comment, left by Julie at Abortion Gang: “Kill the Tillers of the World, and we’re left with the Gosnells.”  Yeah.  […]

  4. “And so it is/just like you said it would be” « Sedatus Aequora - December 31, 2011

    […] in January, The Abortion Gang wrote a post about Gosnell.  Commenter Julie said: “Kill the Tillers of the world, and we’re left with […]

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