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State Senator Vincent Hughes: On the Issues
Senator Hughes An informational update for you! February 10, 2011

This publication is your opportunity to receive regular updates on the work and the issues that I have been involved with, both in Harrisburg and throughout our community.

Please visit my website, where you will find a comprehensive overview of our work, various phone numbers and contact information to assist you in solving problems, opportunities to volunteer and assist us in our programs and opportunities to give your feedback.

Update on Dr. Gosnell Proceedings

On Tuesday, Feb. 8, I, along with my Senate colleagues from the Consumer Protection/Professional Licensure and Public Health and Welfare Committees, heard testimony from Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and members of his staff who are charging Dr. Kermit Gosnell with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven newborns at a clinic in my senatorial district of West Philadelphia.

As someone who champions efforts to provide quality, health care services for individuals, I continue to be appalled, disgusted and saddened when I hear the details of this case. All citizens have the right to receive high quality, medical care in a safe, sanitary environment performed by qualified professionals. From the information in the grand jury report, it is clear that Dr. Gosnell's practice did not meet those standards. The reprehensible activities in Dr. Gosnell's office are the exception to what is provided in similar medical facilities, but the law must allow for the appropriate oversight in any and every health care environment. It is clear that there were extensive breakdowns in the oversight systems, in this case.

As legislators, my colleagues and I have a responsibility to make sure that the previous mistakes are not repeated, that we greatly improve oversight and information sharing and that women are guaranteed high quality, health care services, provided by fully licensed professionals, in clean and safe facilities, no matter what their income may be.

D.A. Williams and his senior investigators laid out in very specific and often times, in very graphic detail, the time line and facts of the case against Dr. Gosnell and the additional people who have been charged. They also discussed the grand jury’s concerns and the lack of inspections and administrative oversight. While his office pursues the prosecution of all persons charged in this case, individuals from the Pennsylvania Departments of Health and State will be appearing before several Senate Committees to respond to the statements made in the grand jury report. It is our expectation those hearings will convene in the near future.

Furthermore, as a result of the grand jury investigation, I have introduced a package of legislation based upon a comprehensive review of the grand jury report and implements a number of recommendations made as a result of the grand jury’s investigation. Specifically, my legislation would:

  • Increase the statute of limitations for infanticide and abortions performed after 24 weeks gestational age;

  • Require annual inspections of medical facilities that provide abortion services and simplify the process for filing a complaint against these facilities with the Department of Health and the Department of State;

  • Ensure that investigations and inspections are conducted after a medical facility reports a "serious event" and clarify that the Department of Health is authorized to share the results of such an investigation with Department of State or law enforcement; and

  • Increase penalties for unauthorized practice of medicine.

We must fix the holes in the system that allowed this type of activity to occur, and we must ensure this never happens again. This proposed legislation is the first step.

Watch Full Hearing
Read Grand Jury Report

Offices of State Senator Vincent Hughes