Pennsylvania Cracks Down on Abortion Clinics After MD Murder Charges

Governor Announces Strict New Monitoring Policies

February 16, 2011

February 16, 2011 — Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett yesterday unveiled strict new policies for monitoring licensed abortion clinics in the wake of regulatory negligence that allowed abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, MD, to allegedly cut the spinal cords of newborn infants with scissors in his filthy, blood-stained clinic.

"This doesn't even rise to the level of government run amok," Corbett said in a press release about the performance of state regulatory agencies. "It was government not running at all.

"It will be up to a jury to decide Dr. Gosnell's guilt or innocence. It is up to me to decide how to stop such horrors from taking place again."

Dr. Kermit Gosnell. Source: Courtesy Philadelphia District Attorney's office.

Last month, a grand jury accused both the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Department of State — which includes the state medical board — of failing to crack down on Dr. Gosnell's practice despite several decades' worth of complaints and warning signs.

His clinic went without state health department inspections from April 8, 1993, until February 18, 2010, when state and federal law enforcement agents conducted a drug raid there. The facility was shuttered a short time later.

Annual Inspections

The newly elected Corbett, who took office the day before the grand jury released its scathing report, announced Tuesday that all licensed abortion clinics will now be inspected annually and will be subject to unannounced random visits as well.

Inspection reports, complaints, investigations, and other information on these clinics will be entered into the same health department computer system used to monitor hospitals and other medical facilities. In addition, abortion clinics will be held to the same standards as outpatient surgery facilities.

Dr. Gosnell, 70, was charged last month with the murder of 7 newborn infants and a Bhutanese immigrant named Karnamaya Mongar, who died following a meperidine (Demerol) overdose dispensed by unlicensed, untrained, and unsupervised clinic employees.

Dr. Gosnell faces a host of other charges, including performing abortions past the state's legal limit of 24 weeks and violating the state's controlled substance law. Nine former employees were indicted on many of the same charges. None of the defendants have yet to enter a plea.

A grand jury report described Dr. Gosnell's abortion clinic as a "baby charnel house" that specialized in illegal, late-term abortions. He and his staff regularly induced labor, the report stated, and then snipped the spinal cords of viable newborns to "ensure fetal demise," as the physician put it.

Patients came away from abortion procedures with perforated uteruses and venereal disease caught from unsterilized surgical instruments. Further darkening the nightmarish tableau were the remains of fetuses stored in bloody freezers and jars of fetal feet lining a shelf, according to the report.

Suspension, Heavy Fines

The new policies announced by Corbett yesterday have regulatory teeth to make abortion clinics — licensed by the state health department — toe the line. If state inspectors find an infraction, the clinic must submit a plan of correction within 10 days. Failure to comply triggers another inspection, and failing to file a correction plan a second time will result in the automatic suspension of the clinic.

Likewise, abortion clinics that do not report adverse events requiring follow-up medical care to either the state or the patient will be fined $1000 each day the incident goes undisclosed.

Corbett also put forward new rules for how the Pennsylvania Department of State and the state medical board would monitor individual abortion providers and make sure that problematic ones do not fall through the cracks.

  • All complaints concerning a clinician or facility should be assigned to the same departmental attorney.

  • All attorneys will cross check both unopened and unopened files on abortion providers "to ensure that any patterns of misconduct do not go unnoticed."

  • Reports on these providers will include the history of any prior complaints or violations.

  • Attorneys will receive formal training on how to investigate and prosecute complaints.

"Official Neglect"

The grand jury investigating the Gosnell case faulted the Pennsylvania departments of health and state for not sharing what they each knew about the grisly abortion clinic or working together to protect the public.

Accordingly, Corbett instructed the departments to develop a monthly routine for sharing data on abortion clinics and to establish a process for joint investigations.

Corbett also announced yesterday that 7 state employees who were a party to what the grand jury called "official neglect" have either resigned or been terminated since the Gosnell case came to light. Four other state employees named in the grand jury report had resigned previously.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: