The Corner

Re: The Banality (and Bipartisanship) of Evil

Following up on today’s posts about the Gosnell trial: Two years ago, I spent several uncomfortable hours studying the Philadelphia grand-jury report on Dr. Kermit Gosnell et al., for a piece that eventually appeared in the Human Life Review. The report  which is online  chronicled a host of illegal, unconscionable, depraved, and bizarre acts, some of which I have yet to see referred to as the trial proceeds (e.g., one employee’s description of “how he had to lift the toilet so that someone else — he said it was too disgusting for him — could get the fetuses out of the pipes”).

The report is also an unsettling chronicle of what Chuck Donovan calls “the monster of bureaucratic neglect”; indeed, Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society might still be in operation today had the doctor’s lucrative side practice — dispensing “fake prescriptions” for painkillers such as Oxycontin — not brought him to the attention of prosecutors in the first place. Here’s some of what I wrote in “A Philadelphia Story”:

In the years since Roe, as the Philadelphia grand-jury report exhaustively details, a bureaucratic double standard on abortion policy spawned layers of “official neglect,” amounting to “utter disregard both for the safety of women who seek treatment at abortion clinics and for the health of fetuses after they have become viable.” Why was this allowed to happen? “We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion,” the jurors concluded. (The occasional white student or woman from the suburbs who found her way to Gosnell’s clinic, however, got special attention from the doctor himself and “did not have to wait in the same dirty rooms as black and Asian clients.”)

Even [Michelle Goldberg, The Daily Beast] had to admit that the “grand jury report is scathing about the failures of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.” Section VI, titled “How Did This Go On So Long?” and running 80 pages, is indeed a scathing indictment: of the state’s health department, which, it charges, “has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical service providers”; of Pennsylvania’s Department of State, which ignored complaints about Gosnell and “failed to investigate a 22-year-old patient’s death caused by [his] recklessness”; of Philadelphia’s Health Department, whose employees “ignored the serious — and obvious — threat to public health posed by Gosnell’s clinic”; and finally, of “fellow doctors who observed the results of Gosnell’s reckless and criminal practices,” when his injured victims sought treatment at nearby hospitals, and “failed to report him to authorities.”

Curiously, while the grand jury recommended indictments for Gosnell and several of his staff, it did not do so for any public employee, despite adducing that “the [state] Department of Health’s neglect of abortion patients’ safety and Pennsylvania laws is clearly not inadvertent: It is by design” (their emphasis). Even Janice Staloski, who over the years held several important health department jobs but “never ordered even one inspection” of an abortion facility, and “ignored two deaths and other serious injuries at [Gosnell’s] clinic,” was spared judicial action. Meanwhile in Philly, another grand jury working for Seth Williams . . . has issued another scathing report, this one concerning clerical sex abuse. Based on information the DA received from the Archdiocese itself, three priests and a lay teacher were indicted for raping two minor boys. And, for the first time, a priest who was not alleged to have engaged in sexual abuse, Msgr. William Lynn, Secretary for Clergy under Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua (who retired in 2003), was indicted for endangering the welfare of a minor — a charge justified, the report states, by “his lengthy history of failing to investigate allegations of sexual abuse, allowing known abusers unsupervised access to children, and recommending transfers of credibly accused priests to unsuspecting parishes . . . knowing the danger in which he was placing innocent children.” We don’t question the appropriateness of the charge. But why did Ms. Staloski, who had to have known the dangers to which she was submitting countless women, get a pass? Could it be the “political football of abortion”?

— Anne Conlon is managing editor of The Human Life Review.

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