(CNSNews.com) – The administration (1995-2001) of Pennsylvania’s Republican Gov. Tom Ridge stopped annual inspections of abortion clinics, according to the grand jury report on Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who is currently on trial in Philadelphia charged with the first-degree murder of seven born babies.
Under Democratic Gov. Bob Casey Sr., who preceded Ridge, the state had conducted annual inspections of abortion clinics, the report said.
Casey was pro-life; Ridge was pro-abortion.
“The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro-,” the grand jury report said. “With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.”
After serving as Pennsylvania governor from 1995-2001, Ridge resigned to serve first as President George W. Bush’s homeland security advisor shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then as the first secretary of the new Department of Homeland Security in 2003. Ridge was frequently mentioned in press accounts in 2000 and 2008 as a potential GOP vice presidential pick.
Gosnell’s trial began last month and is expected to stretch until the end of April. The grand jury report was released in January 2011 and provides gruesome details of Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion clinic.
Gosnell is charged with murder in the third degree for the death of Karnamaya Mongar in November 2009. He is also facing seven first-degree murder charges for the deaths of infants who were killed after being born alive during the sixth, seventh and eighth month of pregnancy.
The state has also charged Gosnell with infanticide, conspiracy, abortion at 24 or more weeks, abuse of a corpse, theft, corruption of minors, solicitation and other related offenses, according to the District Attorney’s office in Philadelphia. In addition to the state charges, Gosnell is facing federal drug charges for allegedly writing illegal prescriptions.
There were severe problems with the Gosnell clinic even before Ridge was elected governor in 1994. However, the already scant inspections were eliminated after Ridge took office, according to the grand jury report.
“Numerous violations were already apparent [in 1989], but Gosnell got a pass when he promised to fix them,” the grand jury report said. “Site reviews in 1992 and 1993 also noted various violations, but again failed to ensure they were corrected.”
“But at least the department had been doing something up to that point, however ineffectual,” reads the report. “After 1993, even that pro forma effort came to an end. Not because of administrative ennui, although there had been plenty. Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all.”
CNSNews.com sought to contact Ridge on Friday and Monday by telephone and e-mail for comment through his company Ridge Global. Neither Ridge nor a spokesperson responded.
Referring to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the grand jury report stated, “Senior legal counsel Kenneth Brody insisted that the department had no legal obligation to monitor abortion clinics, even though it exercised such a duty until the Ridge administration, and exercised it again as soon as Gosnell became big news.”
Janice Staloski, the director of home health for the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) during the grand jury investigation, “blamed the decision to abandon supposedly annual inspections of abortion clinics on DOH lawyers, who, she said, changed their legal opinions and advice to suit the policy preferences of different governors,” the report said.
“Under Governor Robert Casey, she said, the department inspected abortion facilities annually. Yet, when Governor Tom Ridge came in, the attorneys interpreted the same regulations that had permitted annual inspections for years to no longer authorize those inspections,” the grand jury report said. “Then, only complaint driven inspections supposedly were authorized. Staloski said that DOH’s policy during Governor Ridge’s administration was motivated by a desire not to be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions.”
The report goes on to say that the department’s senior counsel Brody backed up what Staloski said.
“He described a meeting of high-level government officials in 1999 at which a decision was made not to accept a recommendation to reinstitute regular inspections of abortion clinics,” the grand jury report said. “The reasoning, as Brody recalled, was: ‘there was a concern that if they did routine inspections, that they may find a lot of these facilities didn’t meet [the standards for getting patients out by stretcher or wheelchair in an emergency], and then there would be less abortion facilities, less access to women to have an abortion.”
Before Ridge was elected, during the Casey administration, Staloski actually personally inspected Gosnell’s clinic, according to the grand jury report.
“Worth special mention Janice Staloski of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, who personally participated in the 1992 site visit, but decided to let Gosnell slide on the violations that were already evident then. She eventually rose to become director of the division that was supposed to regulate abortion providers, but never looked at Gosnell despite specific complaints from lawyers, a doctor, and a medical examiner,” the report said.
During Ridge’s last year in office – 2001 – the report found fault with how the state’s Board of Medicine investigated a complaint against Gosnell’s clinic.
“Almost a decade ago, a former employee of Gosnell presented the Board of Medicine with a complaint that laid out the whole scope of his operation: the unclean, unsterile conditions; the unlicensed workers; the unsupervised sedation; the underage abortion patients; even the over-prescribing of pain pills with high resale value on the street,” the grand jury report said. “The department assigned an investigator, whose investigation consisted primarily of an offsite interview with Gosnell. The investigator never inspected the facility, questioned other employees, or reviewed any records. Department attorneys chose to accept this incomplete investigation, and dismissed the complaint as unconfirmed.”
On Nov. 25, 2002, President George W. Bush praised Ridge’s record of public service when he nominated him to be the first Secretary of Homeland Security.
“I’m pleased to announce that I will nominate Governor Tom Ridge as our nation's first secretary of Homeland Security,” Bush said. “America has known Tom as an experienced public servant and as the leader of our homeland security effort since last year. Tom accepted that assignment in urgent circumstances, resigning as the governor of Pennsylvania to organize the White House Office of Homeland Security and to develop a comprehensive strategy to protect the American people. He's done a superb job. He's the right man for this new and great responsibility. We're going to put together a fine team to work with Tom.”