In Attempt To Restrict Abortion Access, PA Republicans Create House Of Horrors Abortion Clinic

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The pro-life movement has been all a-flutter over the Dr. Kermit Gosnell case in Pennsylvania. They have held up the conditions of his practice, a place where two women died, as an example of the horrific face of abortion.

The problem with that perception arises when you look beyond the surface to examine why women turned to the practice in the first place. They came to Dr. Gosnell after the Republican party, in pandering to the poorly named “pro-life” lobby, passed laws that removed options for lower-income women to get legal access to reproductive healthcare.

Studying the case itself, it is clear that Dr. Gosnell was not part of the nation’s safe, and legal, abortion provider network. In fact, it was found that Dr. Gosnell was able to operate with impunity not because he offered easy access to abortion, but because the Republican party’s efforts to curtail safe and legal abortion access within the state, left him as the only option for women so desperate that he became their only choice. And some of them paid for it with their lives.

A breakdown of Dr. Gosnell’s practice and how it was allowed to evolve into the disaster it became was given in The Nation this month. It came down to a few policy changes, enacted by the state GOP. Then governor, Republican Tom Ridge, discontinued inspections of abortion clinics, thereby ignoring reports on the conditions found in Dr. Gosnell’s clinic.

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In The Nation piece, Carol Tracy of the Women’s Medical Society described the environment in Pennsylvania under the pro-life administration:

The problem here was that Pennsylvania has always focused on eliminating abortion, not on abortion as healthcare.


Since abortion isn’t seen as medical care, they didn’t have the appropriate locus for oversight.

Dr. Gosnell maintained two clinics, one which catered to poor minorities, the other to wealthier white patrons. The crimes he is on trial for now happened in the clinic focusing on minorities: 8 counts of murder.

The accusations stem from the 2009 death of Karnamaya Mongar, which triggered an investigation by the FBI and DEA on suspected illegal drug prescribing at the practice. What they found when they got to the location were the frozen remains of 47 fetuses stored in a freezer at the office. Clearly against public health policy, Dr. Gosnell attests they were there as a result of a billing conflict between his office and the biological waste disposal company. The prosecution is claiming that up to 7 of the fetuses were aborted after the Pennsylvania statute that limits abortions to up to 24 weeks. They claim, additionally, that the fetuses were born alive and then killed by a pair of scissors afterwards. However, the decomposed state of the tissue, along with damage from being stored in a freezer makes it difficult to confirm if this is the case.

This is not the first time Dr. Gosnell has problems with his practice. His wife has already pled guilty to performing abortions after the 24th week. Investigators have found other women who died at Dr. Gosnell’s clinic, and numerous others have suffered from malpractice. The conditions at Dr. Gosnell’s clinic were discovered after he made an application to the National Abortion Federation; when they inspected his offices, what they found was disgusting.

When you get to the root of the issue, Dr. Gosnell’s case is a tragedy. His practice was illegal, which is why he is on trial. But this is not, contrary to the pro-life crowd’s claims, a case of a normal caring and humane abortion provider doing his job. It is, a unique situation with an amoral doctor, a situation able to continue because of a misguided philosophy of the GOP. A philosophy that would remove legal options for women, options that would come with oversight and regulation, and thereby ethical doctors, in an effort to promote a pro-life agenda. If they succeed, more Dr. Gosnell’s will come along and more women will die at their hands. When abortion was illegal prior to Roe v.Wade, these sad stories were far more common, stories like that of Geraldine Santoro.

When someone claims to be pro-life, they are misusing the term. The pro-life crowd is really anti-choice, wanting to control women, to put them in their place. This is why they are also against family planning, a situation that is contributing to an increase in HIV infections in “pro-life” states. Their inability to accept abortion in any circumstance is not saving babies, the common argument, it is killing women, who could have, if safe, legal abortions were available, gone on to have children in the future. The only proven method to avoid such a house of horrors from happening again is to offer contraceptive coverage, and to make abortion legal, safe, offered through family planning services, and… rare.


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Nathaniel Downes is the son of a former state representative of New Hampshire, now living in Seattle Washington.

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