Finnegan, for her part, blames the National Abortion Federation, the professional association of
abortion providers in North America, for not reporting Gosnell to authorities after inspecting his facilities. "The National Abortion Federation knew how bad things were in the Gosnell facility. We did not," she told me. It's a fair point -- though it's also worth noting that Gosnell only reached out to NAF and asked for an inspection after the November 2009 death of Karnamaya Mongar, making the group a pretty late comer on the scene. He was shut down by state authorities less than two months after NAF rejected his application. NAF did its inspection on Dec. 14 and 15, 2009, and rejected Gosnell's application on January 4, 2010. The clinic was raided on Feb. 18 of that year and Gosnell's license was suspended on Feb. 22.
It's self-evident why Gosnell did not apply for NAF membership earlier, during the many years the Pro-Life Union was praying outside his unmonitored, unregulated, and law-breaking clinic, which performed abortions past the point of viability and used a medical procedure for them (and for legal second-trimester abortions) that he appears to have made up himself.
According to the state charges against him, he used these unusual protocols, administered by unlicensed staff, to deliver heavily-drugged premature infants, whose necks he would then snip. He developed this technique after trying and failing to master more commonly used abortion methods. "This particular procedure is nowhere in the medical literature. This
technique that he does is nowhere in the lexicon of practice in abortion
care," noted Tracy Weitz, an associate professor in the
Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences
at the University of California, San Francisco, on the RH Reality Check call.
"Despite Gosnell's best efforts to alter his practices, clean up the facility, and hire licensed personnel for our site visit, his facility was not even close to meeting NAF's quality standards. We therefore rejected his application for membership. We absolutely did not observe the egregious criminal activity that has been alleged," Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of NAF, said in a statement.
Amid the extraordinary cavalcade of system failures that allowed Gosnell to operate as he did, it's an open question whether the anti-abortion movement could have done more to call attention to his abuses if it had been able to forge any kinds of bonds of trust with the abortion-seeking women who were injured by him. Finnegan rejected that premise. "We are not responsible for the abortion industry or what goes on there," she said.
It's a hard argument to make 40 years after Roe, during which the nature of abortion services in the United States have been shaped by the political opposition to them more than any single other factor. In the wake of the Gosnell scandal, renewed anti-abortion activism in Pennsylvania led to legislation requiring abortion-providing facilities to be licensed as ambulatory surgery centers; Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law in December 2011, and it went into effect last summer.