One of the best articles to read about the Gosnell trial is Conor Friedersdorf’s April 12 piece in the Atlantic. JD Mullane of the Bucks County Courier – and his Twitter account – has been exceptional with his live tweeting of the trial. He’s been covering the Gosnell trial from the beginning. Yet, during my interview on the Conservative Commandos Radio Show with Rick Trader last Tuesday to discuss my Planned Parenthood piece, I was asked why did PA stop abortion clinic inspections after 1993? I honestly didn’t know. Then again, the news media – in general – has dropped the ball on covering Gosnell, and I’m somewhat embarrassed that I let this slip through the cracks. Nevertheless, it seems that former PA Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, has some explaining to do.
In Friedersdorf’s piece, he mentioned the grand jury report indicating that:
[N]umerous violations were already apparent, but Gosnell got a pass when he promised to fix them. Site reviews in 1992 and 1993 also noted various violations, but again failed to ensure they were corrected.
But at least the department had been doing something up to that point, however ineffectual. After 1993, even that pro form a effort came to an end. Not because of administrative ennui, although there had been plenty. Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all… The only exception to this live-and-let-die policy was supposed to be for complaints dumped directly on the department’s doorstep. Those, at least, would be investigated. Except that there were complaints about Gosnell, repeatedly.
So,why did the inspections stop? Only Tom Ridge knows the answer to that. Elected in the 1994, Ridge suspended all abortion clinic inspections, and “tacitly allowed late term abortions to be performed in violation of Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act,” according to Strieff of RedState reading from the report.
Under Governor Robert Casey, she said, the department inspected abortion facilities annually. Yet, when Governor Tom Ridge came in, the attorneys interpreted the same regulations that had permitted annual inspections for years to no longer authorize those inspections. Then, only complaint driven inspections supposedly were authorized. [Janice] Staloski [the Dir. of Home Health for the PA DOH] said that DOH’s policy during Governor Ridge’s administration was motivated by a desire not to be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions.
Indeed, in many ways State had more damning information than anyone else. Almost a decade ago, a former employee of Gosnell presented the Board of Medicine with a complaint that laid out the whole scope of his operation: the unclean, unsterile conditions; the unlicensed workers; the unsupervised sedation; the underage abortion patients; even the over-prescribing of pain pills with high resale value on the street. The department assigned an investigator, whose investigation consisted primarily of an offsite interview with Gosnell. The investigator never inspected the facility, questioned other employees, or reviewed any records. Department attorneys chose to accept this incomplete investigation, and dismissed the complaint as unconfirmed.
Fred Lucas of CNS News reported last month that:
Janice Staloski… “blamed the decision to abandon supposedly annual inspections of abortion clinics on DOH lawyers, who, she said, changed their legal opinions and advice to suit the policy preferences of different governors.”
The report goes on to say that the department’s senior counsel Brody backed up what Staloski said.
“He described a meeting of high-level government officials in 1999 at which a decision was made not to accept a recommendation to reinstitute regular inspections of abortion clinics,” the grand jury report said. “The reasoning, as Brody recalled, was: ‘there was a concern that if they did routine inspections, that they may find a lot of these facilities didn’t meet [the standards for getting patients out by stretcher or wheelchair in an emergency], and then there would be less abortion facilities, less access to women to have an abortion.”
Before Ridge was elected, during the Casey administration, Staloski actually personally inspected Gosnell’s clinic.
But Staloski isn’t holier than thou in this case. According to Lucas, the grand jury report noted that she gave Gosnell a pass on his violations, rose through the ranks of the PA DOH, and became the director of the division that regulates abortion providers. After that, she never looked into Gosnell, despite additional complaints. Ridge would go on to be the nation’s first Secretary for the newly-created Department of Homeland Security after the 9/11 Attacks.
Mullane noted that Ridge has been silent on the Gosnell trial, as is Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rep. Allyson Schwartz.