Abortionist Kermit Gosnell of Philadelphia may be rotting away in a squalid prison cell (where he belongs), but his spirit goes marching on – and it just won a major victory at the U.S. Supreme Court.

What did Gosnell do? Here is a paragraph from the grand jury report that led him to be tried and convicted on three counts of first-degree murder:

“He regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths.”

Sounds like medical oversight was needed, right? Well, as Conor Friedersdorf noted in The Atlantic magazine on April 12, 2013, “Multiple local and state agencies are implicated in an oversight failure that is epic in proportions.”

He quotes the report: “Pennsylvania is not a third-world country. There were several oversight agencies that stumbled upon and should have shut down Kermit Gosnell long ago. But none of them did … .”

The report cites the state Department of Health, which conducted a half-dozen inspections in the early 1990s, but did nothing when Gosnell promised to resolve the deficiencies they identified.

But then this happened: “After 1993, even that pro forma effort came to an end. Not because of administrative ennui, although there had been plenty. Instead, the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all.”

For. Political. Reasons.

This deserves to be quoted, too: “Almost a decade ago, a former employee of Gosnell presented the (state) Board of Medicine with a complaint … . The department assigned an investigator, whose investigation consisted primarily of an off-site interview with Gosnell. The investigator never inspected the facility, questioned other employees, or reviewed any records. Department attorneys chose to accept this incomplete investigation, and dismissed the complaint as unconfirmed.”

City health workers took blood samples at the clinic and never reported conditions there; local hospitals treated several of its clients, some of them near death, and were required to report complications – but the one time on record they ever did so, it went nowhere; and while the National Abortion Federation turned down Gosnell’s membership application after an investigation, its investigator “never told anyone in authority about all the horrible, dangerous things she had seen,” the report said.

So, the grand jury concluded, “We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color, because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion.”

The. Political. Football.

Why do I devote space to an adjudicated case? So such details (and this is only the barest skimming) can show you exactly why Pennsylvania (and later other states, such as Texas and Wisconsin) passed laws requiring that abortion clinics meet basic medical standards and have doctors with admitting powers at local hospitals.

Not to cut down on abortions – but to save women’s lives, and the lives of born-alive babies.

True, as claimed in the stories on the Supreme Court’s decision Monday to void Texas’ law as placing “undue restrictions” on abortion, the law may well have led a substantial number of clinics there to close because they could not meet those medical standards.

But think about that: We already know that in left-wing political circles, abortion is a sacred-cow issue.

(In Maine, our liberal attorney general, Janet Mills, is prosecuting a clinic protester for speaking too loudly at a demonstration. Is she likely to peer too closely at what abortion clinics do?)

So if the number of abortions in Texas declined with the number of clinics, the reason could be that no one wanted to operate those clinics in ways that fully protected women.

And what authority will ascertain that when all those clinics reopen, they will be sanitary and well-run and that their staffs will maintain full medical standards?

Remember, laws to mandate such standards are now officially unconstitutional.

Be that as it may, the pro-life movement can continue working toward this (still perfectly legal) goal: It doesn’t matter how many abortion clinics there are if people can be persuaded not to visit them.

Thus, the Maine Right to Life Committee’s website lists 17 locations where pregnant women can get help keeping their babies – and where women whose souls (and sometimes bodies) have been wounded by abortion can find understanding and aid.

And we can keep proclaiming the simple truth, something more and more people are seeing in ultrasound images every day.

It’s not a lump of tissue. It’s a baby.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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