Photo: Dr. Kermit Gosnell is shown in a courtroom artist sketch during his sentencing at Philadelphia Common Pleas Court in Philadelphia May 15. Gosnell was sent to prison to serve three life terms without parole for murdering babies during late-term abortions and for other crimes at his squalid clinic. In a deal that spared him from the death penalty. (CNS/Reuters)

by Kathleen M. Gallagher

It was more than two years ago that I read the Philadelphia grand jury report on Dr. Kermit Gosnell. I remember it made me sick to my stomach. The report begins, “This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women.”

It goes on to describe unspeakable conditions and atrocious crimes which continued for decades at a licensed women’s health facility: unsterilized instruments, blood and urine-splattered furniture and floors, unlicensed staff, drug overdoses, punctured uteruses, and illegal third trimester abortions.

Today, finally, Dr. Gosnell stands a convicted murderer for severing the spines of helpless infants who were delivered alive and then methodically killed during late-term abortions.

It’s about time.

It is deeply troubling that state authorities in Pennsylvania knew about Dr. Gosnell’s clinic and took no steps to resolve the problems there. Complaints had been filed, but the inspecting state agency simply never inspected. Why? The grand jury says the reasons were purely political:

“…[t]he Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey (pro-life) to Governor Ridge (pro-choice), officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions.”

It makes me wonder what’s happening in New York’s abortion clinics. Our state laws and regulations require that certain standards be met by abortion facilities, including those governing licensing, staffing, anesthesia, emergency back-up, etc. But is anyone enforcing these regulations? Are clinics routinely monitored or inspected to protect public health and safety? How would we know?

We do know they do it for nail salons and fast-food restaurants. Shouldn’t women’s health facilities have even greater oversight and accountability? Without meaningful safety controls and routine inspections, how can New Yorkers be sure they are not stepping into another Gosnell-like house of horrors?

Here’s the other extremely disturbing thing about the Gosnell case and its connection to New York. In Pennsylvania, abortion is illegal after 24 weeks of pregnancy, unless a woman suffers from “a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function.” That’s a very specific and grave physical health exception. Kermit Gosnell repeatedly violated that law by agreeing to perform late-term abortions on any woman who was seven or eight months pregnant, as long as she gave him enough cash up front.

In New York, abortion advocacy groups are pushing a proposal to add a very broad “anything goes” health exception to our law. In other words, the law would allow abortion for any emotional, economic, or social reason in the final months of pregnancy. The message that would send to gruesome, grisly, money-grabbing late-term abortionists like Kermit Gosnell is this: “C’mon in! New York is open for business. Set up your clinic here. They may prosecute you in other states, but not here. We are the abortion-friendly state, and proud of it. ”

New York should not become a “safe haven” for monsters like Gosnell who inflicted enormous pain and suffering on innocent women and children in Philadelphia. Please contact your elected state Senator and Assembly representative today to protest the so-called “Reproductive Health Act” and any “Women’s Equality Agenda” which includes abortion expansion. An easy way to do that is through the website of the New York State Catholic Conference at

The criminal grand jury report in Pennsylvania sums up what abortion is all about. It’s not about choice. It’s not about reproductive health. It’s not about women’s equality. It’s about doctors who kill babies and endanger women. Please pray that New York State will not expand its laws to make abortion even more available and hazardous than it is right now.

Kathleen Gallagher is  the director of Pro-Life Activities for the New York State Catholic Conference and the director of  the Catholic Action Network