Kermit Gosnell committed horrendous crimes in his abortion facility in West Philadelphia over nearly three decades. Some he got away with. Some he will spend the rest of his life in prison for. When looking at the timeline of events highlighted in the documentary 3801 Lancaster: American Tragedy, and when learning of the numerous instances in which Gosnell was reported, we’re left wondering how his reign of terror lasted so long.
How was Gosnell able to injure and murder so many people in an unsanitary facility before he was finally caught?
The grand jury came to one conclusion: eugenics. They said Gosnell did what he did and got away with it for so long because the women were “poor” and “of color” and the infants were “victims without identities.”
Eugenics first arose in the 1880s with the idea that allowing only the healthiest, most-abled, and most intelligent to live will improve the world. Which people fall into those categories are based on the culture and political environment in which they live. The Nazis used eugenics to attempt a “Master Race.” To do it they murdered millions of people who didn’t fit Hitler’s standards, including Jews, the disabled, the mentally ill, and those who didn’t agree with his plans.
Essentially, Gosnell was doing something similar to the people whom he felt had no potential to lead what he considered a good life: the underprivileged, mostly black members of a high crime rate community. He admits that he ran his facility with a eugenic mentality. In a poem he wrote, which is featured in the documentary, he says:
What chance have those infants? Those without the support of their parents, of their families, of their communities and their societies. So many of those, without sufficient support, stumble into drugs, crime, mental illness, institutions, and languish in their jails.
But even if Gosnell was murdering newborns and providing extremely low care to his patients because he didn’t believe their lives had any value, it’s hard to accept that the Department of Health felt the same way. Yet they continually turned a blind eye to what was happening at Gosnell’s facility.
From 1979 to 1989 there wasn’t a single inspection of Gosnell’s abortion facility, despite the fact that in May of 1972 Gosnell used an experimental device to perform 2nd trimester abortions on 15 underprivileged women who were bussed there from Chicago. The women were kept in the dark about the experimental procedure and device Gosnell used. Nine of these women suffered from injuries including hemorrhaging, punctured uterus, and fetal remains left in the uterus. The experiment became known as The Mother’s Day Massacre, yet Gosnell’s license remained in good standing with the Department of Health.
Three inspections of his clinic took place in 1989, 1992, and 1993, but then not again for 17 years after a 1993 policy stated that inspections of abortion facilities would only occur when a complaint was filed. This policy was created because politicians determined that inspecting abortion facilities regularly would create a barrier for women seeking abortions. What woman would want to go to any health clinic, hospital, or even restaurant if she knew it wouldn’t pass inspection? To the government, it was apparently more important that poor women and women of color have abortion access – no matter how unsafe – than receive adequate care. Philadelphia District Attorney R. Seth Williams even noted that hair salons received more “oversight” than abortion facilities.
Even with this new policy to inspect abortion facilities after a complaint, Gosnell’s facility continued on uninspected. This is disturbing because during those 17 years, there were many complaints filed, allowing several opportunities for inspection.
From 1996-1997 a Philadelphia doctor who had referred several patients to Gosnell for abortions filed a complaint that those patients returned to him with trichomoniasis, an STD that none of the patients had prior to their visit with Gosnell. The Department of Health failed to inspect.
In 2001, a former Gosnell employee filed a complaint with the Department of State informing them that unlicensed employees were giving anesthesia to patients in Gosnell’s facility, that he used unsterile equipment and instruments, that the facility was “filthy,” and that underage patients were forced into abortions. According to the documentary, nothing was done in response to this complaint.
In January 2002, a 22 year old woman died at Gosnell’s facility due to a perforation of the cervix into her uterus which led to sepsis. The Department of State was notified, yet did nothing.
In November 2009, another woman died after an abortion at Gosnell’s facility due to an overdose of anesthesia administered by an untrained, unlicensed office worker. Again, no investigation was performed.
Complaints and even deaths went uninvestigated because the women who were being injured and killed were seen as unimportant, less human, and not worth the time of the Department of Health or State.
Even the National Abortion Federation, a group of hundreds of abortion clinics across the country, didn’t care enough about these women to do anything to stop Gosnell. When he applied to become a member in December of 2009, his application was rejected due to the conditions of his facility. The federation called it “the worst abortion clinic” they had seen. And though abortion providers claim to care about women, the NAF failed to report Gosnell. Again, abortion access trumped the health and lives of women.
It wasn’t until February 2010 that Gosnell’s crimes were discovered, not because the facility was finally inspected, but because police entered his facility with a search warrant in an illegal drug selling investigation of one of Gosnell’s staff members.
Police “could not ignore what they saw with their own eyes, smelled with their own noses, and what they heard from interviews with employees,” said the D.A.
The officers described the facility as smelling like a morgue. Floors were dirty with blood, rooms were cluttered, and there was a chunk of ceiling missing with signs of water damage. A cat roamed around. There were dirty litter boxes. And there were jars of baby feet, along with 47 frozen babies.
Suddenly, everything Gosnell had done was out in the open. He had been inducing labor and killing the newborns by stabbing them in the backs of their necks with scissors and cutting their spinal cords. He had been using unsterilized equipment. He had been forcing women to abort even if they changed their minds and wanted to leave.
No one who allowed this type of “health” center to exist cared about women or their preborn children, simply because they were seen as unworthy. It’s horrible to think about, but it shouldn’t be shocking, because it’s that frame of mind that brought abortion into legal existence in the first place.
When Margaret Sanger – an advocate for birth control and forced sterilization – founded Planned Parenthood, it was because she wanted to prevent the “unfit” from reproducing. In an interview with Mike Wallace, Sanger said:
I think the greatest sin in the world is bringing children into the world – that have disease from their parents, that have no chance in the world to be a human being practically. Delinquents, prisoners, all sorts of things just marked when they’re born. That to me is the greatest sin – that people can – can commit.
After Gosnell’s case, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed bills in 2011, calling for regular inspection of abortion facilities and requiring that they meet the same safety regulations as every other ambulatory surgical facility in the state.
Virginia and Texas passed similar legislation in 2013. But in 2014, the Virginia State Board of Health voted to overturn the legislation, and Planned Parenthood is suing to stop the Texas legislation.
How many other abortionists like Gosnell exist right now, injuring women, killing infants born alive after abortion, and performing medical procedures in rooms full of bacteria and unclean equipment? Pro-abortion groups and politicians have fought to keep abortion facilities from being subject to the same standards as other surgical facilities because they say it will keep women from receiving safe care. In reality, there are likely many more instances of substandard and even horrific abortion facilities left to be uncovered. Pro-abortion groups don’t want anyone to know it because it would unmask the ‘legal abortion equals safe abortion’ lie. It would also hurt the bottom line of large abortion networks like Planned Parenthood.
The Gosnell documentary also references the 2014 temporary closing of a Delaware Planned Parenthood for unsafe and unsanitary practices, which were so egregious that the facility’s own nurses reported them. Gosnell is most certainly not an outlier, as the abortion industry claims.
Gosnell said that his patients were “making a decision that’s best for them as well as for our society” and that he “did the ethically best decision.”
Murdering innocent people and causing harm to others is never good for society and never the ethical thing to do. Unfortunately, it’s how abortion providers make their money, and they’ve managed to convince a lot of people that they do it to help women. But one of Gosnell’s patients, a rape victim who was forced to abort her baby and was left sterile, reveals that this is a lie:
I’ve just never been violated to that extent. But the violation carried on. It just didn’t or wasn’t a violation that stopped. This is going on for the rest of my life.