Month: January 2011

Suffer the Children…

Before I start this posting, I’d like to introduce you to the little girl on the right.

This is my niece, Mikesha, or Keisha for short. She’s one of my older brother’s kids. In fact, by the time that you’re done reading this post, you’re going to meet almost all of my nieces and nephews through the pictures of them that I’m going to post on this blog.

All of them are in their 20s or 30s now. I lost one of them, my sister’s son Phelan, last month to a car accident. He was 36 and was the first of all of these kids that I decided I was absolutely nuts about despite the fact that they occasionally drove me up the wall.

But that’s what kids are supposed to do. They’re supposed to make you wonder occasionally why you love them….until they answer that question for you with a hug, a kiss on the cheek, a handmade card, a flower they picked from the front yard or a simple “I love you…”

I have seven nieces and nephews altogether, and nothing made me happier than having them wrap their little arms around my neck as I picked them up and hugged them tightly.

But as I write this post, I want you to keep that number, the number seven, in mind because it’s going to figure prominently.
That’s because seven is the number of kids that Dr. Kermit Gosnell has been charged with killing in the inappropriately named Women’s Medical Center in West Philadelphia. Seven is the number of children whose lives were ended by either having their throats cut or by having their spinal cords snipped by a pair of scissors.

Seven kids that will never know the feeling of birthday cake in their hair.

Seven kids that will never know what it’s like to go out to the park with their mom and dad, to be spoiled rotten by Nana and Pop-Pop or to be taken to the mall by their auntie or uncle.

Seven kids that will never get to wrap their arms around someone’s neck for a hug.

Seven kids whose lives were cut short by someone for whom the word “monster” is far too kind.

This is my nephew Jack

When Dr. Gosnell was arrested last week, and I’m using the term “doctor” only because that’s technically what he is, I saw stories about the Grand Jury report that detailed what went on at the Women’s Medical Center. According to the news reports, when Dr. Gosnell wasn’t exercising, being one of the largest prescribers of Oxycontin in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or using 15-year-olds as anesthesiologists in his practice, he was taking as much as $2,400 a shot from poor women who found themselves pregnant.

But the stories didn’t tell you nearly as much as the Grand Jury report itself. Because I was getting the chance to interview the family of one of the victims, I had to read this 300-page sucker. The text was bad enough. I still see the pictures in my sleep. Thus, I find myself blogging about this at 4 a.m.

After reading it, I came to three conclusions:
1-You should never say “Now I’ve seen everything” when you’re a journalist. That’s because there’s always something lurking around the corner to prove you wrong. And it’s usually something so gruesome that there’s no way you could have seen it coming.

2-Anyone who believes that the worst thing that anyone could have done to anything was what Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick did to the dogs of Bad Newz Kennels should read this report if for nothing else but to get themselves a perspective check.

And 3-There is a hell. And it was located at 38th and Lancaster. Anyone who tells you differently needs to come and talk to me. The pictures of Babies A and B will set them straight.

My nieces Sheree and Sheena

The pictures are what make this report stand out, at least for me.
You never forget seeing bloody gurneys, bags of human body parts, and jars filled with formaldehyde and babies’ feet. (No, I’m not kidding).

But the pictures of Babies A and B did it for me. I was already wincing at different parts of the report when I came across these pictures. Seeing the pictures of dead babies covered in blood in shoe boxes and stuffed into gallon-sized spring water bottles was enough for me to forget that I’m supposed to be an impartial, objective journalist.

At that moment, I went back to being an aunt.

And as an aunt, the only thing I found myself thinking was how much money I could save the Commonwealth if I were left alone for five minutes with this sick fucker and one of Phillies slugger Ryan Howard’s bats.

After I stopped crying that is.

But while the deaths of seven children and the horrible ways in which these children were disposed of is painful enough to take in, it’s important not to forget the forever changed lives of the women Dr. Gosnell worked on in his unclean, understaffed, should have been shut down years ago, house of horrors.

There was the 19-year-old woman who had to get a hysterectomy after her visit to Dr. Gosnell. The young woman who nearly died from sepsis because parts of the fetus were left inside of her uterus. The young woman who tore her cervix and colon because she couldn’t deliver her child despite the number of drugs the doctor, or more accurately the doctors grossly untrained staff, gave her.

And then there’s Karna Maya Mongar. She was a 41-year-old immigrant who had spent 18 years in a refugee camp in Nepal due to the religious persecution she had suffered in her native Bhutan. She had come to this country in search of a better life with her husband and three children. They had moved to Virginia and were starting a new life when Karnamaya discovered she was pregnant. The time wasn’t right for a fourth child, so she sought an abortion.

For some reason, the clinic she visited in Washington referred her to Gosnell.

Karna Maya Mongar lapsed into unconsciousness due to being administered at least five different drugs at once by folks not licensed to administer them and a lack of supervision on the “doctor’s” part. Paramedics were called, but because it took 20 minutes to get her out of the building, she was barely surviving when she reached University of Penn Medical Center, according to the report.

The next day, Mrs. Mongar was taken off of life support and later died.

She wasn’t the first. Another woman had died at Gosnell’s hand when his unsafe procedures led to her dying of sepsis. A civil suit filed on her behalf was settled by Gosnell’s insurance company, according to the Grand Jury report.

My niece Solicia

I met two members of Mrs. Mongar’s family at the law offices of Anapol Schwartz in Center City yesterday. They’ve filed a wrongful death civil suit against the doctor and are asking for punitive damages. While they realize that no amount of money will bring their loved one back, they want to realize some justice in the country that to them epitomizes the term.

This isn’t the first time that Bernard Smalley, the family’s attorney, has taken Gosnell to court. He won a civil judgement on behalf of another woman that the “doctor” had maimed. He didn’t understand why and how he had managed to stay in business despite the number of legal actions and complaints leveled against him, one taken by hand to the Pennsylvania Department of Health by a doctor who has since become the City of Philadelphia’s Health Commissioner.

That’s a good question, and it’s one that the Grand Jury Report asks. How in the hell was this person able to keep his doors open, especially since most of the city’s doctors had stopped referring patients to him?

That’s simple. Out of state referrals.

Poor women with no other options.

People who were, in the words of Gil Scott Heron, “too far gone with their problem”.

The price for Gosnell’s special brand of help started at $1,600. If the mother was further along, it went up to $2,400.
And if a woman came in and decided that she didn’t want to have the abortion after all, Gosnell and company would grab her, hold her down, and force her to terminate the pregnancy. He didn’t want to have to give back the money, you see.

According to the Grand Jury Report, Gosnell made about $1.8 million between his oxycontin and illegal abortion businesses. When the clinic was raided in February 2010, $240,000 and a gun were found in a filing cabinet in is 12-year-old daughter’s closet. The Commonwealth Health Department finally started shutting this place down in March 2010. They found the remains of 45 fetuses, many of them in freezers.

One of the fetuses was Karna Maya Mongar’s.

Oddly enough, it was still intact.

Despite the ends he was collecting, Gosnell hasn’t yet made bail. Since he’s got “criminal enterprise” charges, his cash is probably frozen.

Anyway, he’s probably safer in jail. If the folks in Kensington are any indication, doing stuff to kids is gonna get you beat down in the Illadelph these days.

My nephew Phelan

The fallout from this case is going to be pretty far reaching I think.

For one thing, it’s going to be used to gin up both sides of the abortion debate.

Despite the fact that what this so-called abortion doctor is alleged to have done is pretty gruesome, I don’t think that abortion should automatically be outlawed. In fact, the fact that this was allowed to continue for as long as it did and was as profitable as it was for Gosnell is an argument for abortion remaining safe and legal. It should also be a call to all of us to think a lot more seriously about what we teach our children, both boys and girls, about birth control.

But to me, the part of all of this that has me shaking my head the hardest is that this was done by (a) a doctor and (b) a parent.

Last year, I wrote a post about a little girl named Danieal Kelly who was the subject of another Grand Jury report. In this report, a report that led to a whole lot of folks in Philadelphia’s Department of Human Services being added to the nation’s unemployment rolls Danieal was allowed to starve to death at the hands of her mother because she didn’t feel like dealing with the possibility of cleaning her daughter up afterward, due to Danieal’s cerebral palsy. Danieal was 14 when she died. Her mother was, I understand, headed to trial. Hopefully, the wrongful death suit that Andrea and Daniel Kelly, Danieal’s parents (and I use that term loosely) filed against DHS has been thrown out of court for the joke it is.

I said in that post that if what I wrote didn’t piss you the fuck off by the time you were done reading, you needed to go out and get a kid to love so that you’d understand. If you didn’t understand after that, in the words of Flava Flav, “I can’t do nuttin’ for ya man!”

This man has a 12-year-old daughter. That he allegedly ended the lives of little people who barely got the chance to take a first breath, much less anything else, stuns me. Especially when I look at some of the parents I know. They’d never even let you get close enough to their kids to do some dumb mess like that.

And I wouldn’t either.

You’ve been introduced to some of the kids that I love through this post. These are kids that despite my predisposition to gun control, I’d shoot you in the head and call the police, and tell ’em I did it and why over.

So this bothered me a lot. Especially since the little boy on the Big Wheel is no longer here for me to protect. I’m glad that I got the 36 years that I got with him. I can only imagine how horrible it would have been if his life had ended before he got to take his first breath. What I’d have missed is incalculable.

I end this with something for my former students, just in case they’re reading this post.

I’ve talked to you a lot about getting into the journalism business, how important it is, and how much I’ve gotten out of it.

Now I’m going to tell you one way that you can tell that it might be time for you to get out.

If you can read a Grand Jury report in which seven children are murdered, people are maimed, and women die from a medical procedure that was done by everyone but a doctor and look at it as just another day at the office, it’s time for you to do something else. No one is asking you to take a side on something like this, but if it doesn’t make you run home and hug the first kid you come across after you get all of the facts out, you’re tougher than anyone I know.

And I’d hate to break it to you, but no one is that tough.

Not even your former professor.

Here is a link to the Grand Jury report. Don’t read it over breakfast. Trust me.