NICK EICHER, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It:
Protecting the vulnerable.
Now a quick word to parents. This story touches on some of the worst details of the case of abortionist Kermit Gosnell. He was a specialist in late-term abortions and was ultimately convicted on three counts of first-degree murder. He’s serving a life sentence for his crimes, and with good reason.
You may want to think about whether this story is appropriate for your family.
REICHARD: Back in January, Democrats in Pennsylvania marked the 51st anniversary of the now overruled Roe v. Wade decision. They made a promise. Sound here from a press conference at the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
KHAN: We know that by getting rid of this law, we will ensure safe access to anyone who requires or needs abortion care.
EICHER: The law in question lays out health and safety standards for abortion centers, and opponents say it puts an undue burden on access to abortion, a legal term of art that no longer has any constitutional meaning. But missing from the conversation is any mention of the man whose crimes inspired those regulations.
GOSNELL: That wasn’t my fault that they didn’t inspect me, I felt that I was on the cutting edge of technology.
REICHARD: So to speak. That’s audio from journalist Ann McElhinney’s interview with Dr. Gosnell for the podcast Serial Killer.
At the time of his arrest, nail salons had more regulations than abortion centers, so in 2011 Pennsylvania passed measures to prevent the crimes Gosnell committed from happening again.
EICHER: So what’s at stake if Pennsylvania turns back the clock?
WORLD’s Lillian Hamman has the story.
WOOD: In patrol, you see a lot of ugly things.
In 2010, Pennsylvania drug detective Jim Wood was one of the first investigators to witness the inside of Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s abortion facility in West Philadelphia.
WOOD: When we got to Gosnell’s and we got those babies out of the freezer, yeah. The dirt, the bloodstains on the floor, cats running around with litter boxes all over the place, with fleas, and like the smell of death. That's what it actually smelled like and you couldn’t get that smell out of your nose for a while. That's definitely the worst that I've ever seen.
That “smell of death,” was a formaldehyde-like smell from baby body parts clogging drains, or stored around the facility in used water and bleach jugs.
The original charge to arrest Gosnell was for illegally dispensing oxycodone prescriptions to drug dealers. But Gosnell would soon be investigated for using illegal and gruesome methods to abort thousands of babies well past Pennsylvania's 24-week limit, even murdering those born alive, and killing women in the process.
Gosnell’s facility operated uninspected and unregulated for nearly two decades before his arrest in 2011.
Just a few months later, Pennsylvania lawmakers across the aisle created and passed legislation to try to prevent another Gosnell, and now those protections are under attack.
On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade last month, 12 Pennsylvania Democrats sponsored by Planned Parenthood proposed a bill to remove the protections for unborn babies and their mothers. Those protections include mandatory inspections, as well as structural requirements like updated HVAC systems, and hallways wide enough for wheelchairs and stretchers to fit.
Speakers at the new bill’s press conference called the protections “burdensome” and “unnecessary.” But former Republican Representative Matt Baker, who wrote the original bill with the protections, says preventing another Gosnell takes more than just wishful thinking.
BAKER: You know, doctors have an oath and a slogan, do no harm. Well, legislation should have that too. This is going to be a recurring horror and problem if these regulations do not remain in effect.
Pennsylvania abortion facilities already fall short of health standards. A recent report from the Pennsylvania Department of Health revealed that half of the state’s abortion facilities failed health inspections in 2023. The list of failures includes improperly sterilizing medical instruments, not certifying abortionist credentials, and wrongly disposing of dead baby body parts.
Detective Wood says a lack of regulation was how Gosnell happened in the first place.
WOOD: It's only a matter of time before something else crazy happens where a woman gets mutilated. And an investigation comes up If they lower these restrictions, they're only going to hurt themselves.
Pennsylvania Family Institute President Michael Geer blames both Democrats and Republicans for turning a blind eye and perpetuating the issue.
GEER: There were failures across the board that started with governors who basically told the administration's hands off on the abortion industry. Of course every unborn child that goes into an abortion clinic is always at risk. And when two people go into an abortion clinic, a woman and the baby, typically only one comes out alive and, unfortunately, in Pennsylvania, we've had both end up dead.
Former Representative Baker is cautiously optimistic that Pennsylvania’s Republican-majority senate will not support the bill. But if it does, the bill will be in the hands of current pro-choice Governor Josh Shapiro, who voted in the House against the original 2011 protections. Governor Shapiro also announced last month that all tax-payer dollars traditionally allocated for pregnancy resource centers and alternatives to abortion would be used to fund grants for pro-abortion organizations instead. Even still, detective Jim Wood doesn’t believe the fight to protect women and babies is over.
WOOD: David and Goliath. That's what I always believe in. We're gonna win. In the end, God always wins in the end. We did what we needed to do for Gosnell. And that's what we do, you take a chop out of the tree until the tree falls down. That's what we're gonna do.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Lillian Hamman.
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