Public health authorities did little or nothing to stop Philadelphia abortion Dr. Kermit Gosnell. The result was babies born alive, then killed in the operating room, along with at least one woman whose life was claimed by gross malpractice. Finally, law enforcement agencies raided Gosnell's clinic and he was tried on various charges. He will spend the rest of his life in prison.
After learning a similar lack of oversight exists in West Virginia, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is investigating the state's two legal abortion clinics, both in Charleston. He is being criticized severely for the action by abortion-rights activists.
By no means can Morrisey's inquiry be considered harassment of anyone. For now, he is merely asking officials at the clinics to answer a few questions. Among them are how late in pregnancy they will perform elective abortions and how they handle women who may revoke consent before or during abortions.
An investigation was launched after Morrisey was told no state agency inspects or regulates abortion clinics. A Department of Health and Human Resources spokeswoman said the state does not have a licensing category for abortion providers. In a published statement, however, she insisted abortions in West Virginia "are conducted in accordance with the existing medical standard of care for such procedures."
Obviously, state legislators need to address that. It certainly appears more oversight of abortion clinics, at the very least extending to inspections, is needed.
It is important to note there is a big difference between West Virginia and Pennsylvania. There, health care professionals worried about Gosnell had complained repeatedly to regulatory agencies, to no avail. Here, the situation seems to be one in which government safeguards simply are not in place.
Also factoring into Morrisey's decision was a lawsuit filed against one of the Charleston clinics, in which a woman contends a partial abortion was performed on her, proceeding even after she asked the doctor to stop - and leaving the baby's head inside her body.
What happened in that situation will have to be determined in court, of course.Still, as the case makes its way through the court system and legislators consider new regulations for abortion clinics, Morrisey should pursue his investigation.
Gosnell was allowed to get away with murder for years in Philadelphia, because state officials who should have stopped him did nothing. Morrisey is right to look into whether West Virginia has adequate protection for women and their babies.