This story is absolutely disgusting to me, for so many reasons -- and people who support abortion rights should be even more concerned than people who don't, because this kind of appalling clinic makes for the sort of emotional appeal that will be used to revoke those rights.
Dr. Kermit Gosnel, 69, has been charged in the murders of one woman and seven babies. It's a nightmare, the kind of thing anti-abortion forces have claimed goes on in all clinics.
I know the Powelton neighborhood where it happened, a funky, diverse neighborhood on the outer reaches of the University of Penn. (A Thai restaurant popular with students is on the same block, and it's close by the same public school that Penn faculty kids attend. The mayor's daughter used to go there.)
These horrors happened within a mile of one of the country's major teaching hospitals. Of course, these women probably couldn't afford to go there.
I used to be a medical fraud investigator, and you may have heard me say that even killing people isn't enough to get a doctor's license revoked -- because it's too often true. It's almost (but not completely) impossible. Doctors can get away with almost anything, and it sure sounds as if this doctor wasn't also running an Oxycontin mill, he never would have been arrested.
Read the horrifying details: No one wanted to touch this situation because it was a political hot potato. The PA Department of State didn't do their jobs -- hell, nobody did their jobs, except one lone public health worker who tried to shut him down.
I am a strong supporter of abortion rights, including medically necessary third-trimester abortions. But this? It makes me sick. Using untrained, teenaged office workers to deliver living, breathing babies under general anesthesia -- and then having them use scissors to cut their spinal cords? (One worker played with a newborn baby for twenty minutes before killing it.)
How does this happen? Well, one of the reasons is that politicians have made abortion just difficult enough to get that desperate women will go to cut-rate neighborhood clinics like this. Who wouldn't rather have a first-trimester abortion in a nice, clean, well-run and affordable clinic? How desperate do you have to be to walk into a place like this, see cats running around the place, smell their urine - and stay anyway? How long did it take to save up the money to see this butcher?
Why are women still forced to see butchers for a legal procedure?
It's important that any medical facility that provides general anesthesia needs to be regulated like a hospital. (It's estimated that unreported deaths from liposuction centers now exceed the number of people who die in car accidents. Think about that.) And you've probably heard similar horror stories about the virtually unregulated cosmetic surgery clinics in Miami Beach.
This is what happens when you don't have strong regulation (the emphasis on real regulation, not harassment, as is all too often the case with abortion providers), and not enough people to enforce it. (And the lack of political will to do so.) This is what happens when a commodity becomes so inaccessible, and expensive (because if your insurance won't cover it, you have to pay cash), a greed-driven monster can make a fortune doing it.
It happens when competent, caring, ethical doctors are too afraid for their lives to work as abortion providers, This is what the anti-abortion forces have wanted all along -- to drive doctors away from the field.
Everyone should denounce this horror. But let's not ignore the reality that if abortion was as accessible and affordable as it should be, these women could have had abortions in the first trimester and none of this would have happened.