Janelle Templeton was a 27 year old mother of two living in West Philadelphia. Hers was a tough neighborhood, overrun with prostitutes, drug dealers and neighbors who, like her, barely survived on assistance from the government. She dropped out of high school in her sophomore year and when she found herself pregnant, she welcomed her babies into the world in the hope that they would ultimately escape the cycle of poverty that had trapped Janelle and her family for many years.
Then, about two years ago, Janelle learned that she was pregnant again. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t sure who the father was. What mattered was that she had been trying to eke out a good life for her two children and she knew – she just knew – that bringing another child into her world would make that dream all the more difficult to obtain. So, she decided to have an abortion.
She did not have a computer, so she opened up the tattered Yellow Page directory that she had stored in the kitchen closet. She opened it up and right at the front of the book she found the category “Abortion Services.” Populating the page were several large ads for the several clinics in the Philadelphia area. They all seemed to have the same picture of a pensive looking woman. Among the items highlighted were the insurance plans they accepted (Janelle was on Medicaid), what kind of anesthesia they offered, and other miscellaneous services that meant nothing to her. Looking at the addresses, she noted that most of them were in the downtown area but there was one that was just three bus stops away: the Women’s Medical Center.
Since Medicaid did not pay for abortions, she knew she would have to pay cash for the abortion. So, despite the proximity of that one clinic, she started calling the other clinics to price shop. She soon learned that the price varied, depending on how many weeks pregnant she was. She guessed that she was about 10 weeks pregnant at that point and was shocked to hear prices in the $400 range. Then she called the Women’s Medical Center and was told the price was about one hundred dollars less than the other clinics. It was a no brainer. She quickly made the appointment without asking any more questions. The clinic staff didn’t ask any either.
She ultimately borrowed the money and a few days later jumped on the bus to go to the clinic. When she walked inside the facility, she didn’t take notice of the ripped carpet, the chairs with broken arms, the receptionist who didn’t make eye contact and just took the cash. She didn’t realize how inexperienced the staff was, that they were working for $12 an hour and had little training in performing an ultrasound, administering anesthesia and handing out prescriptions. Indeed, how was she to know that some of these staffpeople would ultimately plead guilty in court to numerous medical infractions? Janelle basically was oblivious to the unsanitary conditions in this clinic. She just needed that cheap abortion.
After a three hour wait, she was escorted to the back room. Passing one room with an open door, she saw a woman on a table sobbing and noticed bloody gauze tissues tossed onto the floor. She had a queasy feeling in her stomach but she knew it was too late to turn back. The staff person escorted her into a small room with tattered wallpaper and was told to undress, put on a smock that smelled of urine and instructed to sit on the bare table. She then started thinking about when she talked to one of the other clinics in Philadelphia and how nice the receptionist sounded and how it was a shame that her Medicaid would not pay for an abortion. Then, her thoughts were interrupted…
“Hello, I’m Doctor Kermit Gosnell.”