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BARTKOWIAK: Abortion Industry Attempts to Reverse Safety Regulations, But You Cannot Erase Gosnell and PA’s Past

I remember it as if it was yesterday. Thirteen years ago, I attended a PA Senate hearing in Harrisburg, where appalling details were revealed from the just-released grand jury report on Dr.  Kermit Gosnell and his West Philadelphia abortion facility. One could hear a pin drop as state lawmakers sat in shocked silence as they were told of the barbaric conditions women experienced at Gosnell’s state-licensed abortion facility that, scandalously, went without inspection for years.

I was especially impacted by the stark truth stated by then-Senator John Rafferty at the hearing: “We’ve allowed a man to continue to butcher women, butcher babies and nobody did a damn thing about it.”

Thankfully, the General Assembly did take action to do something about it, passing a law later that year to address the gap left by past governors and their administrations by requiring abortion facilities to follow the same health and safety regulations that every other surgical facility in the state follows, including unannounced annual inspections.

Act 122 passed in 2011 with strong bipartisan support, with more than three-quarters of the State House voting yes, including 45 Democrats and all but one Republican. (Note: Then Rep. Josh Shapiro, and now governor, voted no on this critical bill.)

Gosnell is forever engraved into Pennsylvania’s past. Sadly, some are beginning to forget this part of our state’s history, or worse, people in power are intentionally ignoring this history as if it never happened. This is putting women at risk all over again.

Case in point, Planned Parenthood, the state’s largest abortion business that profits from half of all abortions in Pennsylvania, teamed up with a few state representatives to hold a press conference in Harrisburg this month to introduce a new bill that would repeal the abortion clinic regulations enacted in response to the Gosnell atrocities. They even called for requirements of hospital admitting privileges for abortionists to be revoked. It’s all evidence for how women’s health is not a priority for the abortion industry.

At their press conference, State Rep. Mary Isaacson (D-Philadelphia) went so far as to say in reference to the 2011 bill, “There is no reason to have the standards put forth in that bill.”

A statement like this is simply not based on reality. It reveals how a push for unrestricted abortion makes you untethered from understanding the real needs of your community.

Rep. Isaacson knows exactly why this bill was passed in 2011 because she was a staffer when this was passed overwhelmingly in the PA House. Kermit Gosnell was the catalyst for this necessary change, yet there was not one mention of Gosnell at this recent press event. One can only conclude that the absence was intentional, and it shows Planned Parenthood doubling down in their lobbying to put the profits of the abortion industry over the well-being of Pennsylvanians and their families.

There are several reasons for these safety regulations on abortion facilities. Look no further than the grand jury report on Gosnell; a jury admittedly covering a wide spectrum of beliefs on abortion. They recognized it was “for political reasons” that inspections on abortion facilities stopped and recommended they be treated as ambulatory surgical facilities: “There is no justification for denying abortion patients the protections available to every other patient of an ambulatory surgical facility, and no reason to exempt abortion clinics from meeting these standards.” (pg 249)

Women died after abortions at Gosnell’s clinic. A young girl, Semika Shaw, was five months pregnant when she went to have an abortion and Gosnell perforated her uterus. By the time Shaw’s family took her to the hospital, she had died of sepsis.

Semika’s cousin, Margo Davidson, was a state representative at the time of the vote on this 2011 bill. Davidson, a Delaware County Democrat, honored her cousin’s memory with her yes vote, commenting on the floor that this bill “seeks to safeguard the health of women that is long overdue.”

We also know Gosnell and his horrific clinic was not an outlier. For example, another abortion mill in PA, Hillcrest in Harrisburg, was forced to shut down in 2017 when state inspections found numerous health and safety infractions. Local women were saying they wouldn’t even take their cat there because of the filthy conditions.

Since Gosnell, not only have abortion facilities in Pennsylvania botched abortion procedures on women but have been caught attempting to avoid hospital involvement or covering up the incident. In 2021, Allentown Women’s Center botched an abortion on an 18-year-old girl who was over four months pregnant. She had returned to this abortion facility complaining of “10 out of 10” pain. Instead of immediately involving a hospital, the abortion facility tried another procedure and delayed her eventual need for hospital care. She ended up needing four units of blood and four units of plasma in her recovery from a cervical laceration.

Last year, Planned Parenthood York “failed to report a serious event” – likely a botched abortion. There was an allegation made that this facility failed to report it and the claim was “substantiated” by the Department of Health.

These recent incidents fail to adhere to ambulatory surgical facility standards. Each abortion facility was reprimanded, but no inspection record shows a fine or temporary shut down of an abortion facility for these serious infractions.

How many more of these serious events would there be if Pennsylvania still lived in the Gosnell era when abortion surgery was treated differently than any other surgery?

Mandated inspections matter. If anything, the state could be doing more to hold abortion facilities accountable. Since 2012, abortion facilities in PA have failed 179 state health inspections, including repeat offenses.

Bottom line: We cannot forget what was uncovered thirteen years ago with Gosnell and the laxed regulations on abortion facilities. Women and girls deserve better than abortion. And abortion facilities need more than the Gosnell standards, or lack thereof, we once had.

Especially for Pennsylvania, let’s make sure we never have another Gosnell happen again.

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