Grand jury: Where was the oversight?

The voluminous grand-jury report against West Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit B. Gosnell asks a simple question: “How did this go on so long?” The partial answer: In 1993, the state Department of Health “abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all.”

“With the change of administration from Gov. Casey to Gov. Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions,” the report states. “Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.”

Gov. Tom Corbett’s spokesman Kevin Harley noted: “We will review the allegations in the District Attorney’s grand-jury report and fix any deficiencies.”

Both the pro-life and pro-choice sides of the debate reacted in horror to Gosnell’s alleged crimes Thursday.

Edel Finnegan of the Pro-Life Union of Southeastern Pennsylvania, which held monthly vigils outside Gosnell’s office, said the atrocities should inspire more facility inspections and openness.

Dayle Steinberg, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, says she worries about “dangerous” generalizing rhetoric about abortion providers because Gosnell’s alleged “horrific, isolated” actions could lead to harassment and potential violence.

Damning evidence ignored?

Testimony before the grand jury showed that agencies let the heated abortion issue outweigh the need for action.

Following Pa. Department of Health site reviews in 1989, 1992 and 1993, Gosnell promised (but failed) to fix violations.

Dr. Donald Schwarz — now the city’s Health Commissioner — complained that numerous Gosnell patients contracted the same venereal disease.

City Department of Public Health employees “never noticed, or more likely never bothered to report, that anything was amiss.”

No follow-up came from an inspection into a complaint that “dead fetuses were being stored in paper bags in the employees’ lunch refrigerator.”

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