Even now, exactly a year after the trial of “house of horrors” abortionist Kermit Gosnell, it is little known outside of Pennsylvania political circles that one of the women he killed was the cousin of a state legislator. In 2002, Semika Shaw suffered violently until her death after an appointment at Gosnell’s Women’s Medical Society at 3801 Lancaster Avenue in West Philadelphia. This was one of the family tragedies that drove Margo Davidson, a Democrat who grew up in the neighborhood where Gosnell lurked, to seek state office in 2010.
In that race, Davidson was endorsed by Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, the state political arm of the national abortion business. And then Kermit Gosnell was found out and arrested. And then state lawmakers moved to close the regulatory loophole that allowed abortion clinics to operate largely uninspected across Pennsylvania. And then, in December of 2011, Rep. Davidson spoke out on the floor of the House:
Today I honor [Semika’s] memory by voting for this legislation that seeks to safeguard the health of women that is long overdue, so that never again will a woman walk into a licensed healthcare facility in the state of Pennsylvania and be butchered, as she was, with her uterus perforated and her death of sepsis and infection permeating in her body till she writhed in pain on the floor of her home to her ultimate death. And today I thank the members of this house that supported this legislation for the safety of women.
Now, in 2014, almost one year to the day of Gosnell’s perverse not-guilty plea, Planned Parenthood announced it is actively working to remove Margo Davidson from office. They have endorsed one of her primary opponents—opponents who have emerged because Rep. Davidson’s witness to the suffering of her family has unsettled certain factions in the Democratic Party.
It is hard to imagine a political maneuver that more clearly lays bare the chilling motivations at the heart of America’s abortion industry.
Planned Parenthood’s tendentious tagline is: “Care. No Matter What.” But we know, of course, that Planned Parenthood doesn’t care about the nascent lives its employees destroy by the hundreds of thousands. What has become clear as the Gosnell tragedy continues to unfold, though, is just how little Planned Parenthood cares about women.
Planned Parenthood doesn’t care about women like Semika Shaw. They are political inconveniences whose memory must be blotted out. And public figures who speak out for those victims—even their own family—are enemies who must be suppressed. Make no mistake about it: The campaign against Margo Davidson is a campaign to erase the memory of Kermit Gosnell from Pennsylvania politics.
If Planned Parenthood cared about women like Semika Shaw, then it wouldn’t oppose laws like the one Rep. Davidson supported. The clinic regulation bills that have swept the country in the wake of Gosnell’s atrocities merely ask that abortion clinics are run like what they claim to be: legitimate medical facilities. If Planned Parenthood were running itself like a legitimate medical provider, then there would be nothing to which to object. The fact that it is often ruinously expensive for Planned Parenthood to conform its surgical abortion facilities to the standards of other ambulatory surgical facilities shows just how shoddy they were to begin with.
If Planned Parenthood really cared about women like Semika Shaw, it would have examined and reformed itself in the wake of the Gosnell revelations. But two years later Planned Parenthood of Wilmington, Delaware—only 30 miles from Philadelphia—was shut down by the state after nurses reported “meat market-style assembly line abortions.” Patients were moved through the facility at such a pace that bloody discharge would remain on the exam table as woman after woman after woman was herded into the office. Kermit Gosnell would’ve been right at home.
If Planned Parenthood really cared about women like Semika Shaw, it would have stopped Kermit Gosnell before police stumbled into his dungeon. How could Planned Parenthood have stopped Gosnell? Because they knew.
It was one of the most under-reported revelations in an under-reported story: Planned Parenthood of Southeast Pennsylvania received repeated complaints about Gosnell’s putrid office. The Philadelphia Inquirer dropped this tidbit in a story about Gloria Steinem’s appearance at PPSP’s 2013 “Spring Gathering”:
[PPSP president and CEO Dayle] Steinberg said that when Gosnell was in practice, women would sometimes come to Planned Parenthood for services after first visiting Gosnell’s West Philadelphia clinic, and would complain to staff about the conditions there.
“We would always encourage them to report it to the Department of Health,” Steinberg said as she sat with Steinem before Tuesday’s events.
Planned Parenthood defenders argue that they didn’t know anything illegal was going on—just that the conditions were substandard. This is a grotesque abandonment of responsibility. First of all, if the conditions described to Planned Parenthood staff were even a whisper of the gruesome reality, then illegal conditions were certainly reported. But worse, in passing the buck back to the patient, Planned Parenthood made sure no light would shine on 3801 Lancaster Avenue.
The grand jury report in the Gosnell case concluded that, in 1993, Republican Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge halted all regular inspections of abortion clinics in the commonwealth. (Ridge should be a primary villain in this tale, though he’s never been brought to account by the media.) More than that, every complaint that was sent to the Pennsylvania Department of Health was ignored. Other officials from the state and city visited the clinic and noted abnormalities, but nothing was done.
Surely Planned Parenthood, as the leading abortion provider in Pennsylvania and a powerful political force, understood that abortion clinics were being ignored, if not protected by state officials. And surely PPSP executives (who were apparently aware of Gosnell’s reputation) knew, or at least suspected, that the Department of Health was a black hole for individual complaints. All it would have taken—and this is really the bare minimum commanded by human decency—was one well-placed phone call from Steinberg to grease the wheels of the bureaucracy and to drag the ghoul Gosnell into the daylight. But no such communication ever occurred, and Gosnell continued to thrive, and women died.
It doesn’t take too much imagination to think that Planned Parenthood would essentially permit Kermit Gosnell to operate on the margins of the abortion community—because that’s exactly what the National Abortion Federation did. According to the grand jury, “it was the worst abortion clinic [the NAF official] had ever inspected.” The humane, caring thing to do would have been to report the disgustingly unsanitary conditions to city or state authorities. But the NAF told no one—content, like Planned Parenthood, to let Gosnell operate in the shadows.
No, Planned Parenthood doesn’t care about women like Semika Shaw. But why not? It can’t be some kind of mass psychopathy—though it wouldn’t be surprising if the hardness of heart that must accompany the killing of the unborn metastasized to other areas of life. Perhaps it’s a commitment to the ideology of abortion that sees the procedure and its proliferation as a positive good in society. This is surely part of it, and it helps us to understand why Big Abortion never took action to squelch Gosnell—he was to them a necessary evil, someone willing to take the hard cases and get his hands a little bloody.
But there’s also a more straightforward answer: money. One of the Wilmington Planned Parenthood nurses testified that “the culture at Planned Parenthood of Delaware was focused on maximizing profits and the bottom line, not quality healthcare for women.” This isn’t isolated to Delaware: Former Texas Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson was directed to double the number of abortions her facility performed in order to pad profits. Abortion is Planned Parenthood’s cash cow: at least 37 percent of clinic income comes from killing unborn children.
Women like Semika Shaw and Margo Davidson frustrate Planned Parenthood’s business model. They place a human face on an inhumane business. They force us all to grapple with the reality of what happens in our cities and our suburbs and our countrysides, where children are destroyed and women along with them—psychologically if not physically. They bring to light what certain forces would prefer be kept shrouded in darkness.
In callously targeting the family of one of Kermit Gosnell’s victims, Planned Parenthood is again trying to shove him back into the shadows.
Brandon McGinley lives in Pittsburgh where he serves as Field Director for the Pennsylvania Family Institute. He and his wife welcomed their first child in July.