Another Gosnell in Delaware?
Was Kermit Gosnell’s abortion clinic an aberration? Three former Planned Parenthood employees don’t think so.
Appearing at a Delaware state Senate hearing earlier this week, the whistleblowers testified about the horrifying conditions they encountered at Planned Parenthood’s Delaware clinic. What they shared struck a decidedly discordant note with the recent Wendy-palooza in which national media credulously embraced and amplified the claims of state Sen. Wendy Davis that abortion clinics don’t need more regulation. We were informed then that the only people who support such things are vicious woman haters.
Yet, two former Planned Parenthood nurses – Joyce Vasikonis and Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich – have been ringing alarm bells since April about the “meat-market-style, assembly-line abortions,”they witnessed at the Delaware clinic. Moreover, they have complained of lax regulation and a lack of government oversight of abortion clinics in Delaware.
This week they were joined by Melody Meanor, a former health-care manager at Planned Parenthood of Delaware. Meanor testified that she felt compelled to come forward because she was “offended when Planned Parenthood of Delaware attempted to discredit the [prior] testimony” of Mitchell-Werbrich and Vasikonis who described what she too had witnessed.
Meanor, who previously had worked for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, described a lack of training of health-care assistants, who she said were not required to have medical credentials or prior health-care work experience. Said Meanor, “Most of the abuses I observed….stemmed from the fact that untrained health care assistants were assigned serious medical responsibilities that they were not trained to perform,” such as assisting with abortions.
She told me in an interview, “I saw the disorganization of the clinic, charts being everywhere, and a large number of sexually transmitted disease (STD) results that were not reported to patients in a timely manner. Some were eventually reported…a year later.” She repeatedly complained to higher-ups but was ignored.
Mitchell-Werbrich’s testimony echoed prior concerns she has raised publicly and privately with government regulators. She said she saw a abortion doctor Timothy Liveright “slapping a patient,” and placing patients on “operating tables still wet with the blood from the previous patient.” He refused to wear sterilized gloves during procedures and would sing “hymns about sin to girls during the painful dilation phase of an abortion” and play “Peek-A-Boo” with patients. She said he “rushed abortions” and allowed “sedated patients to wander down [the street] dazed and confused.” Then there were the unsterilized instruments that were routinely used on patients. If any of this sounds familiar, then you probably read the Gosnell Grand Jury Report.
Mitchell-Werbrich testified that the similarity between Planned Parenthood of Delaware and the Gosnell clinic “is that they both operated extremely hazardous abortion clinics and that their respective states refused to close them despite repeated warnings.”
Vasikonis offered similarly scathing testimony, saying that, “[T]he culture of Planned Parenthood of Delaware was focused on maximizing profits and the bottom line; not quality healthcare for women. [S]peed was the ultimate goal.” She told me that because abortion doctors were contractors and paid per procedure, they pushed the nurses to keep the women coming in and out as fast as possible, which put the women’s safety and health at risk. According to a report by the Philadelphia ABC News affiliate WPVI, “Since January , five patients allegedly have been rushed from the [Delaware] facility to the emergency room.”
I asked Vasikonis what she thought of claims that regulating clinics as Ambulatory Service Centers is too onerous, as abortion-rights activists claim. She said, “The procedure of surgical abortion is similar to woman …going to the hospital or outpatient center and having a D&C. Outpatient centers are strictly regulated. I do not understand why any organization doing a similar procedure wouldn’t be similarly regulated. It’s not like you are taking a mole off someone.”
Vasikonis describes herself as “pro-choice” – as do Mitchell-Werbrich and Meanor – and underlined in her written testimony that, “My testimony is not presented to decrease access to, decrease the number performed or eliminate any abortions but to make abortion a safe procedure at Planned Parenthood of Delaware.”
Planned Parenthood has not responded directly to all the allegations of the ex-employees, except to deny the claims regarding STD notification. They temporarily closed in April and say they have made changes after being cited in May this year by the Delaware Division of Public Health for more than a dozen “unsafe and unsanitary” practices and conditions at the clinic, “including inadequate documentation of narcotics, supplies that had exceeded expiration dates, lax practices to ensure sterility, unlabeled bottles of fluid, overdue or uncertain maintenance records.” A Planned Parenthood spokesman told me via e-mail that “the state has cleared Planned Parenthood Delaware and stated they are meeting all requirements.” If the clinic in fact has cleaned up its act, it’s only as a result of the whistleblowers’ complaints that led to the Public Health department investigation. As for Liveright, he voluntarily suspended his license following two state investigations spurred by the whistleblowers’ complaints. In June, he told a state Senate hearing that Planned Parenthood of Delaware was ”disorganized, in disarray.” When the creep slapping women during abortions accuses you of dysfunction, you are in pretty bad shape.
After Vasikonis and Mitchell-Werbrich aired their complaints at the first state Senate hearing in June, the abortion-rights Web site “RH Reality Check” said that, “The nurses’ allegations have not been substantiated by any other source.” How many sources are needed? What better “source” is there than two abortion-rights nurses who saw it first hand? Vasikonis told me, “I am a liberal, and I have been shocked that liberal Democrats, who I thought had supported women, would turn their backs on women’s health safety just to support abortion rights.”
Yes, it is sad that the people who are always lecturing us about how they are the only ones who care about women ignored the pleas of their own employees. Until they went public, of course. Makes you wonder how many other clinics are operating like this.