The Court held that a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy (recognized in Griswold v. Connecticut) protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision gave a woman total autonomy over the pregnancy during the first trimester and defined different levels of state interest for the second and third trimesters.
Source: Oyez.org – Roe V. Wade
Now I don’t want to wade into a pro-life/pro-choice debate, but one of the motivations of Roe v. Wade was to allow women that choose to abort a pregnancy are afforded the legal opportunity to access a safe abortion performed by trained and licensed doctors in a proper environment – in other words to put an end to so-called “back-alley abortions” and ensure that all future abortions were performed in rooms like the one depicted above. As recent events in Philadelphia show, at least one “family planning clinic” repeatedly fell through the cracks and turned into a horrific facility that stands in complete opposition to the aims of what “pro life” supporters wanted.
I want to be very, very clear here – I do not hold this facility in Philadelphia out as anything other than the result of a perfect storm of systemic failures that stands in opposition to everything “pro life” supporters want. In other words, I call on no one to defend the indefensible, and I blame the doctor, nurses, aids and the cosmetologist (!) that worked at this house of horrors only for what went on in this “clinic.”
The horrors of this facility are too reprehensible to repeat – take a look at the links below for details if you are so inclined – but suffice to say that I hope, if nothing else, the “pro life” and “pro choice” sides of this debate can come together and demand tougher oversight of these facilities. It is reported that there had not been an inspection of this “medical facility” in the past 16 years, despite numerous malpractice suits against the “doctor,” several deaths of patients, and a long string of women permanently injured as a result of going to this legal clinic.
This clinic has become, under the protection of Roe v. Wade, everything that landmark court case was against – a place where poor women with few choices pay exorbitant fees to untrained practitioners (the doctor was never trained in OB/GYN procedures) to perform life-threatening medical procedures in unsafe environments. We can no longer practice hands-off tolerance of questionable facilities like this one – from a recent New York Times article on this tragedy:
Complaints against Dr. Gosnell date back to 1983, according to the grand jury report, but none moved state regulators to action. Some malpractice suits produced settlements that were paid by Dr. Gosnell’s insurance company, including nearly $1 million paid to the family of Semika Shaw, a 22-year-old mother of two who died from an infection in 2002 after an abortion at the clinic.
The report details a sweeping pattern of negligence, with no inspector stepping foot inside the clinic for more than 16 years. Even the death of Karnamaya Mongar, a Bhutanese refugee who died after a procedure in 2009, was ignored.
Janice Staloski, a Health Department official, declined to investigate the death, saying the department had no authority to do so, the report said. The department’s chief counsel, Christine Dutton, defended the agency’s actions to the grand jury, stating bluntly, “People die.”
This doctor was performing classic “back alley abortions” in a state-sanctioned facility, and despite multiple warnings and complaints against the facility failed to act. Such indifference is inexcusable, indefensible, and must not be allowed to continue.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the organizations and agencies that claim to be committed to the safe practice of medical procedures in general, and abortion procedures specifically:
- The Pennsylvania Department of Health knew of clinic violations dating back decades, but did nothing;
- The Pennsylvania Department of State was “repeatedly confronted with evidence about Gosnell” – including the clinic’s unclean, unsterile conditions, unlicensed workers, unsupervised sedation, underage abortion patients, and over-prescribing of pain pills with high resale value on the street – “and repeatedly chose to do nothing.”
- Philadelphia Department of Public Health officials who regularly visited Gosnell’s human waste-clogged offices did nothing;
- Nearby hospital officials who treated some of the pregnant mothers who suffered grave complications from Gosnell’s butchery did nothing; and
- The National Abortion Federation, the leading association of abortion providers that is supposed to uphold strict health and legal standards, determined that Gosnell’s chamber of horrors was “the worst abortion clinic she had ever inspected” – but did nothing.
The above organizations and agencies have a lot to answer for (along witht he staff at the clinic), and a fear of discussing “abortion issues” is no defense.
Oyez.org: Roe V. Wade
Associated Press: Women: Pa. abortions left us sterile, near death
New York Times: Squalid Abortion Clinic Escaped State Oversight
Michelle Malkin: The Philadelphia Horror: How mass murder gets a pass