|May. 13th, 2013 @ 05:08 pm Possible trigger for violence, abortions|
Current Location: piles of papers
In 1974, when I was between my sophomore and junior years in college, I found myself needing a gynecologist. Student health at the university was closed; I was working a full-time job, so by a process I don't quite remember, I ended up at the Women's Medical Center on Walnut or Chestnut Street, I think it was. As much as anyone could fall in love with a gynecologist--and a man, too, not my first choice even in those days, when I was a milder feminist than I am now--I fell in love with this one, a tall, light-skinned black man with freckles and a beautiful, deep voice. He warmed the speculum in his hands. He had art work placed on the ceiling so you had something to look at while objects wiggled around your insides, a process I hate. He told jokes.
"Strange Fruit," Nina Simone
I kept going back. When I got medical assistance I started seeing him for everything, as he moved in an associate for non-gynecological problems. I developed pain in my arms and knees; they introduced me to acupuncture. With the many gynecological issues that can come up with someone on the Pill, with migraines, and an active sexual life, I saw my doctors a lot. I even introduced my other female housemate to the practice. Then I finished school, said my goodbyes, and moved away. Whenever I had a good gynecological experience, or a not-so-good one, I thought of my old Penn doctor.
His name is Kermit Barron Gosnell.
Do any of you recognize the name? Have you been following the case? I saw the name, thrown at this LJ during a discussion of abortion clinics last year by some conservative who said they were all like those run by Gosnell in Philadelphia. The name just isn't that common. I searched it. And there was my old friend's face. The charges and the information were sickening. The discovery that none of his staff were qualified to carry out their duties was horrifying. The scale--two clinics and years of operations--makes my head spin.
I thought we--the clinic, my feminist friend and I--were all on one side. I knew the clinic performed abortions; it's one of the reasons I chose it. (Hey--you never know.) I believe, I thought Gosnell believed, that women had a right to safe abortions performed by trained professionals in a clean setting. What I read made me sick. It should have made me sick. And now that the verdict is in, I know that it's true. A woman died of bad care. Viable babies were killed. Instruments and the setting were not clean; disposal was not respectful or sanitary; workers were not trained. It is our nightmare of pre-Roe v. Wade abortions, except this was supposed to have been legal. Gosnell had made enough from his operations, and his dealings in painkillers, to run two such clinics. This whole rats' nest was exposed by Feds tracking down the drug selling operation. They get their whack at him this fall--his time on trial isn't over.
I kept wanting to post about this here, but I couldn't think of what to say. I keep wondering if I ought to reach out to my old friends from that time and ask if they know and what they think, but I can't. That place, those people, were so good. I thought something positive was beginning there, not so much for university girls deprived of student health, but for the population of West Philadelphia. I had never had a comfortable relationship with doctors before. They were always hostile authority figures who despised my family because we were on welfare, even us kids. Gosnell and his people made medical care something relaxed.
Why didn't I see any potential for this? Why did I not guess or suspect anything? It could have begun long after the 70s. Maybe Gosnell scrambled one too many times for funds, when he knew there were easier ways to make serious money. I've run into real sociopaths before, and they can be so plausible. Gosnell's differences are scale and indifference to life, and the other sociopaths I've known never got the opportunity to gain by allowing a life to pass through their gloved and slippery hands. And there is one more thing, the thing I hate to think more than any other.
Gosnell's victims were all women of color. My roommate, and I? We're white. Is it possible Gosnell, a man of mixed race, felt less attention would be paid to the travails of women of color? Did he have issues there? I don't suppose we'll ever know. Probably it was just that we knew him before he thought of ways to get rich, and didn't really think all those wombs matters.
Others are culpable. The state and city inspectors have a lot to answer for, because they went for years, rubber-stamping their OK's on this outfit and its facilities without really inspecting. They owe something to the dead woman's family and to the other women who were damaged by Gosnell and the people who worked for him. I hope there is a big shakeup going on in those organizations, because they allowed this to continue. It doesn't take blame away from any of the people who worked for Gosnell or from Gosnell himself. It just means there's more blame that has to be cleaned up with the rest of the stinking, rotting mess.
edited to add:
I should have said, please don't feel sorry for me. My hurt is psychic only, and I can bear this one and work through it--I've had and will have worse. Our pity and heartbreak belongs to the women Gosnell and his cohorts abused for so many years. None of them sucked up the knowledge that they would go to jail and reported this. None of them. They let it go on for years. The victims are the ones who deserve our better feelings, and those who took part deserve whatever they get.