Philly DA: State agencies responsible for Gosnell’s atrocities

posted at 10:55 am on February 9, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Had two state agencies in Pennsylvania bothered to do their jobs and investigate any of the complaints they received about Kermit Gosnell’s abbatoir of an abortion clinic over the years, Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams told the state legislature, they could have saved hundreds of lives and the health of an uncountable number of women.  Instead, they turned a blind eye to it all — and Williams told legislators that Gosnell’s preying on the poor had a lot to do with it:

Testifying before a Senate joint committee meeting, Williams laid out a case of a massive “system failure” by the Departments of State and Health which he said ignored years of complaints and allowed the abortion clinic run by a doctor now charged with murder to operate for unchecked for almost two decades.

Williams and his top deputies told a joint Senate hearing that had any state official followed up on a single piece of the voluminous amount of evidence suggesting wrongdoing, or set foot in the filthy clinic, it would have immediately been shut down. …

esponding to a question from Sen. Bob Mensch (R., Montgomery) about whether he thought culture played a role in the absence of enforcement, Williams nodded in agreement.

“It would not have gone on so long,” said Williams. “If the clinic had been located five miles away in Montgomery County, in the nice suburbs of Philadelphia, someone would have heeded the calls.

That isn’t the real cultural question, however.  The reason why the state of Pennsylvania didn’t bother to inspect Gosnell’s clinic is because of the political pressure on agencies to protect the operation of abortion clinics.  It’s politically incorrect to portray abortions as outpatient surgery, which is exactly what it is, and to apply the same standards on abortion clinics as any other outpatient surgery center.  Abortion supporters want to portray the procedure as so routine and inconsequential that it doesn’t require oversight — and that leaves women at the mercy of predators like Gosnell.  In Pennsylvania, abortion clinics aren’t required to register as outpatient surgical centers, and the state didn’t even bother to enforce the regulations that did apply to Gosnell’s clinic, even after women turned up in emergencies rooms and morgues after Gosnell’s treatments.

In another development, the same bureaucrats that acted with “total incompetence” have now begun to stonewall investigators:

Ann Ponterio, chief of the homicide unit in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office, said state officials who appeared before the grand jury last year were “dismissive” of the allegations against Gosnell and are no longer cooperating in what she described as an ongoing investigation into the clinic’s operations.

She said outside attorneys have been hired to represent several officials with the Department of State and Health at a cost to taxpayers of $116,000 so far.

Sounds like an opportunity for Governor Tom Corbett to clean house at both agencies, starting with anyone who shrugged off a complaint about Gosnell or failed to follow up on a death or incident of malpractice.

Meanwhile, as the state pays for expensive private representation for those bureaucrats, a judge has refused Gosnell’s attempt to get the state to pay for his attorneys:

Rejecting the claim that he was “close to destitute,” a Philadelphia judge ordered abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell to get a lawyer by Wednesday and warned that the physician could face the death penalty on charges of killing a patient and seven newborn infants at his West Philadelphia clinic.

The stark warning from Common Pleas Court Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes at a hearing Friday did not appear to surprise Gosnell or dampen his amiable, courtly demeanor …

“You’re not eligible,” Hughes told Gosnell after Assistant District Attorneys Joanne Pescatore and Christine Wechsler said public records showed the Gosnells jointly or individually own a total of 17 properties in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Texas, as well as a boat.

Gosnell appears completely unconcerned about his fate, or resigned to it.  The judge scolded him for waving and saying hello to a local reporter during the hearing, telling Gosnell, “This is not a social event.  You need to focus.”

Prosecutors will decide by March 2nd whether to seek the death penalty for Gosnell and his co-defendants.


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