WASHINGTON — When the horrors of Kermit Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion facility finally made headlines this year, abortion providers rallied to present Gosnell’s grisly practice as both an anomaly and an argument for safe and legal abortion.
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, issued a statement condemning Gosnell’s “appalling crimes” almost as soon as the guilty verdict was handed down. Gosnell was convicted of three first-degree murder charges for killing children who were born alive in late-term abortions in his facility.
“[The Gosnell] case,” said Eric Ferrero, spokesman for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “has made clear that we must have and enforce laws that protect access to safe and legal abortion, and we must reject misguided laws that would limit women’s options and force them to seek treatment from criminals like Kermit Gosnell.”
But are Planned Parenthood facilities really as clean and safe — at least for female patients — as supporters routinely maintain?
Evidence to the contrary is mounting.
A Planned Parenthood facility in Wilmington, Del., in fact, has been compared to the Gosnell “house of horrors."
“Another Gosnell in Delaware?” was the headline of a Washington Post report on the Wilmington operation. The article was written by Kirsten Powers, the liberal pro-life journalist, whose earlier groundbreaking column in USA Today addressed the lack of media coverage of the Gosnell trial and shamed some news organizations into covering the trial.
In The Washington Post article, Powers quoted testimony before the Delaware Senate by three former employees of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Wilmington.
“Most of the abuses I observed … stemmed from the fact that untrained health-care assistants were assigned serious medical responsibilities that they were not trained to perform,” including abortions, said Melody Meanor, a former health-care manager at Planned Parenthood’s Wilmington clinic in testimony.
Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich, a former nurse at the facility, testified about what she called the “meat-market-style, assembly-line abortions,” with patients “rushed in and out the door.”
Mitchell-Werbrich, who described herself as “pro-choice,” worked at the business 27 days. She testified she resigned because she feared that a patient would be injured and that she would lose her nursing license.
According to the former nurse’s testimony, she saw a doctor slap a female patient. The same doctor, she said, was known to sing “hymns about sin to girls during the painful dilation phase of an abortion.” He also reportedly refused to wear sterilized gloves when working on patients and would place women on “operating tables still wet with the blood from the previous patient.”
Speaking of the developments in Delaware, Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, said in a press release, “This is outrageous. Yet again, Big Abortion is caught putting women at risk in order to quickly shuffle patients in and out of the abortion room to pad their wallets. The conditions found in this clinic show the complete disregard an unregulated Planned Parenthood has for the safety of women seeking care.”
More Abortions Botched
Lila Rose of Live Action, which has conducted undercover investigations of abortion businesses and exposed abuses, claims that deaths and medical emergencies caused by Planned Parenthood abortion facilities have increased in recent years.
“Take 24-year-old Tonya Reaves, killed by a Planned Parenthood clinic in Chicago last summer,” Rose said. “Or Ayanna Byer in Colorado — she changed her mind about having an abortion, but Planned Parenthood staff forced her to undergo the procedure anyway, only to botch it by leaving fetal parts inside her and causing an infection. Or just this week, the 20th medical emergency was documented by a pro-life group at a Planned Parenthood abortion center in St. Louis.”
The Chicago CBS affiliate reported that Reaves was rushed, bleeding, to Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital after an abortion at a Planned Parenthood facility at 18 S. Michigan Ave. in July 2012. A second abortion was done, and then an ultrasound revealed a perforation. Reaves died in the operating room as surgeons attempted to repair the damage.
“It happened so fast. She was just fine one day, and then the next day she was gone. We’re just trying to figure out what happened,” her twin sister, Toni Reaves, told the CBS affiliate.
Ayanna Byer earlier this year filed suit against Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and her abortionist in El Paso County District Court.
As for the “medical emergency” in St. Louis, pro-lifers say they witnessed an ambulance arrive to take away a woman at a St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility. Pro-lifer James Capps, who was present, is quoted on the Operation Rescue website saying that two Planned Parenthood staffers “were holding a large gray screen in an attempt to shield viewers from seeing the girl.” A call to St. Louis Planned Parenthood requesting details was not returned.
Similarly, pro-life activists say that they have seen ambulances called to the Planned Parenthood facility in Houston. The latest apparent sighting was earlier this month, but pro-lifers say it was the eighth time this has happened since the facility opened in 2010. A call to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, which is the umbrella organization for the Houston facility, requesting information was not returned.
Substandard Medical Care
“People believe that because Roe v. Wade made abortion legal that these clinics are medicinal,” said Dana Cody, president and executive director of Life Legal Defense Foundation. Cody said that this is simply not true.
Dana Cody cited a civil lawsuit in which Roberta Clark, who had an abortion at a Birmingham, Ala., Planned Parenthood, says that she went to the hospital in pain two months later. Clark claims in the suit that parts of the child remained lodged in a fallopian tube. A call to the Birmingham Planned Parenthood center was not returned.
The abortion facility in question was one that had been contacted by phone by Lila Rose, posing as a 14-year-old who was pregnant by a 31-year-old man. Parental consent is required for an abortion for a minor in Alabama. According to a transcript of the audio of the sting by Live Action, which is included verbatim in a report by the Alabama Department of Health, a facility employee seemed willing to bend the rules, including exploring the possibility of having the supposed 14-year-old girl’s half-brother sign the form — but Rose said that the fictional sibling didn’t have the same last name, and so that plan was dropped.
Still, as a result of the Live Action operation, the Alabama Department of Public Health conducted an investigation and found that the facility did not have proper procedures to prevent minors from obtaining abortions without parental consent. The business briefly suspended performing abortions.
Cheryl Sullenger, a senior policy adviser at Operation Rescue, sat in the Philadelphia courtroom throughout the Gosnell trial. She met reporters and other observers who believed that the conditions in Gosnell’s facility could not be found in what they considered respectable abortion facilities. She strongly disagrees.
“We already have the same kinds of abortions that were done in back alleys being done on Main Street today,” charged Sullenger.
Claims of Fraud
Yet Sullenger and others claim the problems with Planned Parenthood go beyond substandard medical care.
“It’s well-documented that Planned Parenthood has had a series of issues not only related to medical care but also to financial malfeasance,” she alleged.
Planned Parenthood settled a $4.3 million Medicaid fraud federal suit in Texas in August. The civil suit alleged that Planned Parenthood had fraudulently billed the government in Medicaid cases between 2003 and 2009. The abortion giant claimed that it had settled the suit to avoid the legal expenses of a trial. A call and email to Planned Parenthood headquarters in New York to discuss this and other matters were not returned.
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) alleged in a civil federal lawsuit filed in 2011 that Planned Parenthood in Iowa made “false, fraudulent and/or ineligible claims for reimbursements” that amount to $28 million in profits. The alliance is representing whistle-blower Sue Thayer, a 17-year veteran of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, Inc. The case is currently pending in the Eighth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.
The allegations about Iowa are also included in “Planned Parenthood’s Waste, Abuse and Potential Fraud: Alliance Defending Freedom’s 2013 Report on Federal and State Audits of Planned Parenthood Affiliates and State Family-Planning Programs.”
“Americans deserve to know if their hard-earned tax money is being funneled to groups that are misusing it. That is why we are appealing this case,” said ADF senior counsel Michael Norton, a former U.S. attorney, Lifesite News reported. “No matter what views people have about abortion, everyone can agree that Planned Parenthood should play by the same rules as everyone else.”
“My experience from fighting Planned Parenthood for over 25 years and being on the sidewalk outside its clinics and talking with hundreds of customers is that there are significant problems with many Planned Parenthood facilities, said Jim Sedlak, vice president of the American Life League. “The recent problems of Planned Parenthood in Delaware, Alabama and other places should be a warning sign to health departments in every state that Planned Parenthood needs to be visited and evaluated.”
‘Legal But Not Safe’
Whenever legislators try to impose regulations in the interest of safety for the women seeking abortions, Sullenger charged, the abortion facilities and abortion-rights advocates fight back. Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis became an overnight pro-abortion celebrity, appearing in the fashion magazine Vogue, after she filibustered in the Texas Legislature against a late-term abortion ban and other practices aimed at making abortion facilities safer for female patients. Despite Davis’ filibuster, the legislature later passed the bill.
“They say that if they have to make sure that those performing abortions have hospital privileges, that will be a financial burden,” Sullenger said. “None of us want abortion to be legal, but, if it is, these clinics should be held to the same standards as other clinics.”
“I hope the exposure Planned Parenthood is receiving will make women stop and think before they seek an abortion,” Sullenger said. “The myth that these places are safe and legal is just that — they are legal but not safe.”
Charlotte Hays writes from Washington.