Dr.Gosnell’s Final Indictment: Who’s To Blame and What’s to be Done
This will be my final post on the Grand Jury report on mass murderer Dr. Kermit Gosnell. This post will finish up the report’s overview, giving us their indictments and recommendations on what must be done to prevent this from happening again.
Obviously, Kermit Gosnell is the man with the clearest criminal culpability for what happened here. But many of the people who worked for the Women’s Medical Society should also be charged with criminal offenses; and many of the people who worked for the public, while not criminally liable, should be called out.
We group the criminal charges into three categories: charges arising from the baby murders and illegal abortions; charges in connection with the death of Karnamaya Mongar; and charges stemming generally from the ongoing operation of a criminal enterprise. We were able to document seven specific incidents in which Gosnell or one of his employees severed the spine of a viable baby born alive. We charge Gosnell, Lynda Williams, Adrienne Moton, and Steven Massof with murder in the first degree. Along with Sherry West, they are also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the hundreds of unidentifiable instances in which they planned to, and no doubt did, carry out similar killings. We also charge Gosnell with various violations of the Abortion Control Act, including infanticide and performing illegal late-term abortions. Charged as co-conspirators with him in this regard are Williams, West, and Pearl Gosnell, his wife. Two employees were Gosnell’s accomplices in the administration of the drugs that killed Karnamaya Mongar. We charge Gosnell, Lynda Williams, and Sherry West with third-degree murder, drug delivery resulting in death, violations of the controlled substance act and conspiracy. Gosnell, West, and Elizabeth Hampton are charged with hindering apprehension (and Hampton also with perjury) for lying to the police, to the hospital, and to us about how this woman died.
Illegality was so integral to the operation of the Women’s Medical Society that the business itself was a corrupt organization. We charge Gosnell, Lynda Williams, Sherry West, Adrienne Moton, Maddline Joe, Tina Baldwin, Pearl Gosnell, Steven Massof, and Eileen O’Neill with running that organization or conspiring to do so. We charge Massof and O’Neill, in conspiracy with Gosnell, with theft by deception for pretending to be doctors, and billing for their services as if they were licensed physicians. Gosnell should also be charged with obstruction and tampering for altering his patient files to hide illegality, and for destroying or removing other files entirely. As a final note, we charge Gosnell and Tina Baldwin, his employee, with corrupting the morals of a minor. Gosnell hired Tina’s 15-year-old daughter as a staff member. She was required to work 50-hour weeks, starting after school until past midnight, during which she was exposed to the full horrors of Gosnell’s practice. Bad enough that he expected grown-ups to do it.
That leaves the government employees whose job was to make sure that things like this don’t happen. Worth special mention is Janice Staloski of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, who personally participated in the 1992 site visit, but decided to let Gosnell slide on the violations that were already evident then. She eventually rose to become director of the division that was supposed to regulate abortion providers, but never looked at Gosnell despite specific complaints from lawyers, a doctor, and a medical examiner. After she was nonetheless promoted, her successor as division director, Cynthia Boyne, failed to order an investigation of the clinic even when Karnamaya Mongar died there. Senior legal counsel Kenneth Brody insisted that the department had no legal obligation to monitor abortion clinics, even though it exercised such a duty until the Ridge administration, and exercised it again as soon as Gosnell became big news. The agency’s head lawyer, chief counsel Christine Dutton, defended the department’s indifference: “People die,” she said.
Lawyers at the Pennsylvania Department of State behaved in the same fashion. Attorneys Mark Greenwald, Charles Hartwell, David Grubb, Andrew Kramer, William Newport, Juan Ruiz, and Kerry Maloney were confronted with a growing pile of disquieting facts about Gosnell, including a detailed, inside account from a former employee, and a 22-year-old dead woman. Every time, though, they managed to dismiss the evidence as immaterial. Every time, that is, until the facts hit the fan. We want better from our public servants. We trust that their actions will be reviewed, and that they will be held accountable.
What to do
If oversight agencies expect to prevent future Dr. Gosnells, they must find the fortitude to enact and enforce the necessary regulations. Rules must be more than words on paper.
We recommend that the Pennsylvania Department of Health plug the hole it has created for abortion clinics. They should be explicitly regulated as ambulatory surgical facilities, so that they are inspected annually and held to the same standards as all other outpatient procedure centers. Inspectors should review patient files, including ultrasound images, on site. Equipment, and employees’ licenses, should be scrutinized. Second trimester abortions should be performed or supervised by physicians board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology.
The Pennsylvania Department of State must repair its review process. Complaints should be taken by internet and telephone, and patients should be assured of confidentiality and a response when the investigation is completed. No complaint should be dismissed until the subject’s full history of prior complaints has been considered, and malpractice databases have been examined. Reports about individual doctors should be cross-checked against reports about the medical offices where they have worked, and vice versa. The Philadelphia Department of Public Health should do at least as much to control infectious medical waste as it does to inspect swimming pools and beauty parlors.
Statutory changes are necessary as well. Infanticide and third-trimester abortion are serious crimes. The two-year statute of limitations currently applicable for these offenses is inadequate to their severity. The limitations period for late abortion should be extended to five years; infanticide, like homicide, should have none. Impersonating a physician is also a serious, and potentially very dangerous, act. Yet under current law it is not a crime at all. An appropriate criminal provision should be enacted. There may also be other statutory and regulatory revisions that we, as lay people, have not thought to consider. Legislative hearings may be appropriate to further examine these issues.
We recognize that these relatively technical recommendations will be unsatisfying to those fighting the abortion battle. “Pro-choice” advocates will argue that the real solution is government-funded abortion. “Pro-lifers” will see the case as an indictment of all legalized abortion.
We must leave these broader questions to others; our authority as a grand jury is more limited. But we exercise its full extent by recommending the maximum response available under the criminal law: murder charges. If you willfully disregard a deadly risk to the mother’s life, and kill her, you will be charged with murder. If you deliver a viable baby, born alive, and kill it, you will be charged with murder. That prospect may make doctors more careful about performing abortions, especially abortions approaching the legal limit. We hope so.”
So finishes the overview.
I started this series of posts because I wanted people to get the word out, and to shame the media into covering this story. Failing at that, I wanted to provide people with the actual facts of the case. During the past few days many media outlets have started talking about the case, and the lack of initial coverage it received. I can’t take a shred of credit for this: all the credit goes to columnist Kirsten Power’s editorial on the subject. This is the article that first informed me about Dr. Gosnell, and this same article has been leading people everywhere to talk about the trial. She deserves praise from us all for bringing this gross injustice to light.
On Friday things will get back to normal around here.