Filing abortion clinic complaint no easy task, journalist finds

Published: Friday, April 19 2013 2:32 p.m. MDT

A patient who had witnessed the criminal or hygenic horrors in the Kermit Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia would have been hard pressed to report them, writes Connor Friedersdorf, the Atlantic reporter who has been closely tracking the trial.

Friedersdorf went to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's website to follow the trail of clicks and links. He captures his experience in a series of increasingly puzzling screen shots, alternately providing too much detail and demanding too much detail, providing no real pathways, forcing guesses, requiring a log of efforts to contact the problem facility to resolve the question.

"So right away," Friedersdorf wrote, "our hypothetical concerned citizen who walked right out the door after seeing the cat feces, bloody blankets and medical waste is told she should only 'feel free to contact our department' after confronting the facility's management. Then there's that list of hyper-linked 'state and federal regulations that are presumably there because it's necessary to understand them? I tried to figure out which of the bullet points pertained to abortion clinics. None seemed to fit."

Friedersdorf was provoked to try the system by an article his colleague wrote at the Atlantic, Garence Frank Ruta, who reported on the Women's Medical Fund, a local women's health organization that to help low-income women navigate abortion.

WMF's director Susan Schewel related to Ruta that she "had experiences at Gosnell's facility, and that she personally tried to work with two women to file complaints to the Pennsylvania of Department of Health about him. In both cases, the women found the complaint process so onerous and the telling of their stories so personally difficult that they failed to complete the paperwork and abandoned the effort."

Ruta's narrative adheres to an alternate narrative surrounding the Gosnell trial, in contrast to the focus on horrors of the live births and the ethical struggles trying to logically distinguish the live birth from the inside-the-womb counterpart.

The alternate narrative, represented by Andrew Rosenthal at the New York Times, that being the alleged need for higher quality affordable abortion services, which would render operation's like Gosnell's irrelevant.

Eric Schulzke writes on national politics for the Deseret News. He can be contacted at eschulzke@desnews.com.

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