One Year Later: Gosnell Case Demonstrated 'Catastrophic System Failure'

By Tatiana Lozano | May 14, 2014 | 5:09 PM EDT

Women's Medical Society abortion clinic in Philadelphia. (AP photo)

( - Urging Americans to remember the sufferings of Kermit Gosnell's victims, Ovide Lamontagne, general counsel of Americans United for Life (AUL), said the the case demonstrated a "catastrophic system failure at all government levels."

Speaking at a Heritage Foundation panel of legal and medical experts who gathered in Washington Monday, exactly one year after the late-term abortionist was convicted of first-degree murder for killing three babies born alive in his Philadelphia clinic and manslaughter for the death of a patient, Lamontagne denounced Pennsylvania officials for refusing to follow recommendations to regulate abortion clinics as surgical facilities, among others, as a prime example of systemic failure at the state level.

“We’re not here to commemorate or recognize an historic moment in time. Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murder, and of manslaughter. We’re here today to reflect on that and to draw lessons from it. That case has to have vitality; otherwise....those deaths will be in vain if we don't learn our lessons," Lamontagne said.

"And the most significant lesson to be learned is there was in this country a catastrophic system failure at all governmental levels. Catastrophic.”

Recounting the grand jury’s discovery that the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DoH) failed to inspect Gosnell's abortion clinic in West Philadelphia for years, Lamontagne quoted the grand jury's report:

"The callous killing of babies outside the womb, the routinely-performed third-trimester abortions, the deaths of at least two patients and the grievous health risks inflicted on countless other women by Gosnell and his unlicensed staff are not the only shocking things that this grand jury investigation uncovered... What surprised the jurors even more is the official neglect that allowed these crimes and conditions to persist for years in a Philadelphia medical facility.

We discovered that Pennsylvania's Dept. of Health has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality healthcare as patients of other medical service providers. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety...

"Most appalling of all, the department's neglect of abortion patients’ safety and of Pennsylvania laws is clearly not inadvertent: It is by design.”

Gosnell was originally charged in 2011 on eight counts of murder after West Philadelphia police raided his clinic in 2010 to gather evidence against his illegal prescription drug business. In 2013, he was convicted of first-degree murder for three counts of infanticide, along with involuntary manslaughter for the overdose and death of a patient named Karnamaya Mongar. He was later sentenced to life in prison without parole.

AUL President Charmaine Yoest said that other abortion facilities like Gosnell’s continue to operate under the willful ignorance of the medical establishment. Recalling the recent death of Lakisha Wilson at a Cleveland abortion clinic on March 21st, Yoest condemned what she called a “conspiracy of silence” in order to protect the power of the abortion industry.

Theresa Collett, a law professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, also placed much of the blame for Gosnell’s “house of horrors” on the Pennsylvania government, observing that while multiple doctors warned about Gosnell, then-Governor Tom Ridge (R) instructed the DoH to stop doing abortion clinic inspections.

Citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s defense of state restrictions on abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, Collett also noted that “very few states” have taken advantage of these precedents to improve existing guidelines.

Pro-life activists are also citing the Gosnell case in an attempt to prevent similar tragedies by enacting stricter laws on abortion providers.

As part of its “Women’s Protection Project,” AUL has drawn up model legal codes that would enable states and individuals to enforce abortion regulations more effectively. These measures include enforcement modules that permit taxpayers to sue local governments for failing to enforce laws against medical negligence, along with proposed statutes protecting parental consent and victims of sexual abuse.

The “Women’s Protection Project” also seeks to reduce the amount of abuses AUL has documented within the industry since 2009. These include the 2011 and 2013 investigations of deaths within Leroy Carhart’s late-term abortion clinics in Maryland,, as well as Texas’ current investigation of abortionist Douglas Karpen, who is being sued for malpractice after inflicting severe wounds on a patient last year.

At the federal level, Congress is considering a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Known as the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” the legislation passed the House last year in June, but it remains to be seen whether Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) can gather enough support to allow a vote on the Senate floor.

Kristan Hawkins, the president of Students for Life of America, demanded that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) authorize a vote on the ban, saying it would prevent more tragedies by increasing “common-sense safety standards” in abortion clinics throughout the nation.