Reaction to the arrest of a Philadelphia abortion doctor last week was swift and furious from both sides of the debate over late-term abortions and government oversight of providers.
Catholic Bishop Joseph P. McFadden of Harrisburg issued a statement Friday calling the governor and state legislature to investigate the practices of abortion clinics.
“The details of the alleged crimes show that abortion is an intrinsically evil act that results in the death and suffering of innocents,” said McFadden, who previously served in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Dr. Kermit Barron Gosnell, 69, was arraigned Thursday on eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven infants, who prosecutors say were delivered, alive, in the final months of pregnancy. The Inqy and NYT both have a stories today about the deterioration of Gosnell’s practice and how it escaped state oversight.
Philly District Attorney Seth Williams said at a news conference Wednesday that the case is not about the morality of abortion. Still, the indictment was handed up the week of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade (it was Saturday) and, thus, shortly before some of the largest anti-abortion demonstrations (and counter demonstrations) around the country.
“I am aware that abortion is a hot-button topic,” Williams told reporters. “But as district attorney, my job is to carry out the law. A doctor who knowingly and systematically mistreats female patients, to the point that one of them dies in his so-called care, commits murder under the law.”
According to prosecutors, many of Gosnell’s patients sought abortions at 24 weeks or more into their pregnancies. Under Pennsylvania law, abortions are illegal after 24 weeks.
The grand jury report accompanying Gosnell’s indictment Wednesday has some disturbing photos and gruesome details. A good chunk of the report denounces health investigators who failed to act despite warnings about dangerous conditions at the clinic, reports that women had died there and inspections that found no nurses in the recovery room, missing lab work, no obstetrician-gynecologist on staff and out-of-date medication, among other deficiencies.
Republican state Sen. Pat Vance, who chairs the Public Health and Welfare Committee, is drafting a bill that would require the Department of Health to respond quickly to any complaints about abortion clinics and to perform more timely inspections, according to WITF. Gov. Tom Corbett has ordered investigations into why state agencies failed to act on the tips they received about Gosnell – including complaints from doctors who treated women Gosnell had allegedly injured.
Many anti-abortion advocates argue that state regulation of abortions are insufficient, arguing for tighter controls.
The AP reported that Operation Rescue, a Wichita, Kan.-based anti-abortion group, hailed the prosecution of Gosnell but said his case is “in no way an anomaly,” president Troy Newman said. “Shoddy and illegal practices characterize the abortion industry in America.”
Dr. David Grimes, a North Carolina obstetrician/gynecologist who formerly headed the abortion surveillance branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heatedly disputed that premise, contending that abortion was among the safest of medical procedures.
The Gosnell case “is newsworthy because legal abortion has been such a success,” Grimes said. “Decades ago, this wouldn’t have been a story at all–every city had one of these seedy operations.”
Regarding the push for tougher laws, Grimes said, “We don’t need more regulations for a non-problem.”