WASHINGTON (BP)--Abortion clinics in Pennsylvania will receive greater scrutiny under regulatory controls announced Feb. 15 by new Gov. Tom Corbett in the wake of the state government's failure to supervise a horror-filled Philadelphia clinic.
Seven employees of the state's Departments of Health and State have been fired or have resigned since a grand jury issued in January a devastating report regarding those agencies' shortcomings in overseeing the Women's Medical Society in west Philadelphia, Corbett told reporters. The Republican governor announced a series of changes in each department, including the requirement that each abortion clinic will be inspected annually and will be subject to random inspections.
Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, the owner of the clinic, was charged with eight counts of murder -- one in the death of a 41-year-old woman and seven in the deaths of viable, fully delivered children who were killed outside the womb. The grand jury reported that a February 2010 raid of the clinic found deplorable conditions, which resulted in its closing and Gosnell's medical license being suspended.
The grand jury report found there had been no state inspection of the clinic since 1993 in spite of complaints.
"This doesn't even rise to the level of government run amok," Corbett said in a statement. "It was government not running at all. To call this unacceptable doesn't say enough. It's despicable.
"It will be up to a jury to decide Dr. Gosnell's guilt or innocence," the governor said. "It is up to me to decide how to stop such horrors from taking place again."
In addition to the new inspection mandates, other changes announced by Corbett include:
-- Fines of as much as $1,000 a day will be levied when abortion clinics fail to report a "serious event," which encompasses injury and death.
-- A doctor will review each "serious event" at a clinic within 48 hours, and an investigation will occur on the site within five business days.
-- Plans to correct a deficiency in a clinic must be filed within 10 days and a suspension will be issued if the facility fails to submit a plan within a second, 10-day period.
-- Inspectors of clinics will be from the same division that inspects the state's hospitals and out-patient surgical centers.
-- A sign providing the phone number of a 24-hour complaint line will be prominently displayed in each clinic.
In its report, the grand jury said the raid on Gosnell's clinic found:
--The remains of 45 babies stored in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons and cat-food containers, with some in a refrigerator and others in a freezer.
-- The severed feet of babies in jars.
-- "Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room...."
-- Conditions in the clinic that were "by far, the worst" the investigators had ever seen, with blood on the floor and on blankets covering dirty recliners, a "stench of urine," cat excrement on the stairs, "filthy and unsanitary" surgery rooms, dirty instruments and broken equipment.
Gosnell, whose abortion practice at the clinic was approved by the Department of Health in 1979, had never been certified as an obstetrician/gynecologist, the grand jury reported. It also found none of his employees were licensed to operate or to provide anesthesia.
Gosnell's wife and eight other employees were indicted for murder and/or other charges.
Hundreds of babies at least six months into gestation allegedly were killed outside the womb after induced delivery at the Women's Medical Society, the grand jury reported. Gosnell, or another staff member in his absence, allegedly would jab scissors into the back of a baby's neck and cut the spinal cord. Gosnell destroyed most of the files, limiting prosecution to only seven cases, the report claimed.
Gosnell also was charged with violating Pennsylvania's ban on most abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Compiled by Tom Strode Washington bureau chief for Baptist
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