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Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Abortion Doc Vs. Eddie Savitz (from my STAR column)

Philadelphia hit the news big time last week with the still-evolving story of West Philly abortion doc, Kermit P. Gosnell. Gosnell’s “house of horrors” abortion factory is like something out of a gothic novel.
While most people and government officials expressed shock at the stories of poor, immigrant and minority women at Gosnell’s abortion mill, many were even more shocked to learn that during the 1990s the unsanitary death factory—with litter pans, animals, and unsanitary instruments in the clinical extraction rooms—operated freely and openly without so much as suspicious glance from then DA Lynne Abraham.
The early 1990s, if you recall, was a time when DA Abraham was busy prosecuting the notorious “Uncle Eddie,” or Alec Schwartz Edward Savitz, a University of Pennsylvania alum (Savitz was a social services honor student Penn), for allegedly molesting several hundred teenage boys in his Center City apartment house. (Many of these boys, by the way, were from Riverward neighborhoods). The date was March 1992, the time that historians refer to as the “AIDS hysteria” years when medical myth and misinformation often masqueraded as fact. DA Abraham, acting on leads and tips, had Uncle Eddie arrested for possible sex with minors and for (potentially) spreading the AIDS virus to his numerous contacts.
Uncle Eddie’s exploits, while scoring a place of honor in the Hall of Shame, did not—as the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania later ruled at the time—involve sex acts. Furthermore, the Project stated that the vast majority of Uncle Eddie’s contacts were above the age of consent. Uncle Eddie’s “crime,” then, was a rather peculiar and decidedly disgusting fetish for storing unspeakable things in pizza boxes.
So as the DA’s office and the Philly press fixated on Uncle Eddie, in West Philly Dr. Gosnell was busy performing second and third trimester abortions, operating with the blessing of the law as if he was running an ice cream parlor. This was happening despite the fact that a former Gosnell employee had already gone before the state’s Board of Medicine and described the horrors she witnessed inside the West Philly clinic.
The former employee’s report was ignored, however.
In the 1990s, Uncle Eddies’ stuffed pizza boxes ignited more curiosity and outrage than the possibility of fetuses being stuffed into toilets. It helped, of course, that in the 1990s Gosnell had the law on his side. At that time the murder of 7 (and possibly hundreds more babies that Gosnell is accused of killing) was probably legal.
The Partial Birth Abortion Law, which bars abortions in which the baby is delivered, wasn’t signed into law until 2002 by then President Bush. But until that time abortion was rather a free-for-all activity, when a woman’s right to choose was tantamount to “Anything Goes.”
This is why, when questioned by the press about the charges leveled against him, Gosnell said he didn’t understand the murder charges related to the babies (or ‘fetuses’ in Gosnell’s mind). Gosnell, obviously, is still living in the 1990s, and no doubt had come to believe that if you can kill a baby in the womb, why can’t you kill it outside the womb, especially when the original intent was the former?
The Gosnell case has given me new respect for young girls in the neighborhood who opt to keep their babies rather than have an abortion. While kids having kids is still a sad thing in my book (who wants to be saddled with a baby in the prime of youth?), at least these girls (and their boyfriends in some cases) have chosen not to end a life just because the timing of a pregnancy was inconvenient for them.
DA Seth Williams, whom I did not support when he ran for office, is to be commended for not avoiding the sensitive political football called abortion. He could just as easily have turned the other cheek like his predecessors and ignored Dr. Gosnell. But his decisive action has lead to a lot of embarrassment in City Hall and in the corridors of Harrisburg.
“How could this have happened? Who knew? We are shocked,” politicians are saying.

The evidence, however, was there all along but everyone opted to view Gosnell’s chamber of horrors as just another clinic in a land where abortion has become a casual, “get it over with” affair, like going to the dermatologist to get a blemish or a wart removed.
Strange but true, stuffed pizza boxes is child’s play by comparison…

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