Texas state senator Wendy Davis has become the most prominent defender of a right to late-term abortion. So following a speech on Monday, I asked Davis to explain the difference between an abortion 23 weeks into pregnancy and killing a baby born at 23 weeks into pregancy, for which Philadelphia doctor Kermit Gosnell was charged with murder.
Davis dodged the question. "I don't know what happened in the Gosnell case," she said. After (implausibly) claiming not to know basic facts about the Gosnell murders, Davis then said she did know one particular detail: "I do know that it happened in an ambulatory surgical center. And in Texas changing our clinics to that standard obviously isn't going to make a difference."
In fact, according to the Gosnell grand jury report, Gosnell's clinic was not regulated as an ambulatory surgical facility, but it should have been.
"The abhorrent conditions and practices inside Gosnell’s clinic are directly attributable to the Pennsylvania Health Department’s refusal to treat abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities," according to the grand jury report. "We recommend that the Pennsylvania Department of Health plug the hole it has created for abortion clinics. They should be explicitly regulated as ambulatory surgical facilities, so that they are inspected annually and held to the same standards as all other outpatient procedure centers."
Though abortion clinics would seem to meet the definition of an ambulatory surgical facility under Pennsylvania law, the "state Department of Health inexplicably allows abortion clinics, alone, to go unmonitored," the report explained. "The Grand Jury asked several DOH employees, attorneys as well as those charged with overseeing abortion facilities, why the department does not treat abortion clinics as [ambulatory surgical facilities] when the language of the Health Care Facilities Acts is so clear. Their unsatisfactory answers left us bewildered."
As the Philadelphia Inquirer reported, it was not until December 2011, well after Gosnell was behind bars, that the governor "signed a new law requiring abortion facilities to meet the minimum standards of 'ambulatory surgical facilities' and be subject to at least one unannounced inspection each year."