PA Department of Health Inspected Gosnell Three Times in 13 Years

Kermit Gosnell was allowed to keep his abortion clinic open for decades because of lax oversight on the part of agencies like the Department of Health (DOH) in Pennsylvania. The grand jury testimony sheds light on his gruesome practice, but it also exposes the DOH as a bystander that did precious little, despite knowing what happened in that clinic.

The DOH first made contact with the Women’s Medical Society in 1979, when they gave approval to make it an abortion clinic. The permit was good for 12 months, but the next inspection did not happen until 1989 and revealed myriad violations. Gosnell was the only doctor at the clinic, even though he was not board-certified as an obstetrician or gynecologist. There were not any nurses, and blood work was not sent to independent labs. Inspectors also found no agreement with a hospital for emergencies and no lab work in several files. Despite the numerous violations, the DOH extended the permit for another 12 months, because Gosnell promised to fix them.

The next inspection occurred in March of 1992, two years after the previous one, and Gosnell had not followed up on his promises to fix the violations. To make it worse, evidence showed the grand jury that the inspectors were unthorough. They did not review patient files, having left blank the section about anesthesia and post-operative care. Gosnell performed 62 second-trimester abortions which would require anesthesia and for women to stay in a recovery room. Despite these discrepancies, Gosnell’s permit was extended.

The state conducted another inspection in 1993, but it was also the last one until the raid in February 2010. The inspectors found drugs past their expiration date and only reviewed 12 patient files. Four were second-trimester abortions, but three did not have pathology reports on the patients' tissue. Again, without a followup inspection, the DOH approved another extension for his permit.

In 1993, the DOH decided to stop inspecting abortion clinics. The grand jury noted that officials thought inspections would put “a barrier up to women” that wanted abortions. The grand jury also noted that the clean and high quality clinics use their own standards, not DOH rules or expectations. When women cannot make it to those clinics, though, they end up at clinics like Gosnell’s and need the DOH to protect them. 

The grand jury concluded the DOH failed these women and viable babies. Without proper oversight, Gosnell was allowed to operate, and he got even worse after the DOH stopped inspecting abortion clinics.


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