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Women sought inexpensive care at West Philly clinic

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Women’s health advocates say they heard for years about problems at the West Philadelphia abortion clinic that was raided by state inspectors last week. WHYY reports that the high cost of abortion may have pushed some women to use the clinic despite warning signs of sub-standard care.

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Last week, Pennsylvania suspended Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s license after investigators found blood on the floor and parts of aborted fetuses in display jars at his clinic. Gosnell is named in nearly four dozen lawsuits, including 10 malpractices cases.

Susan Schewel leads the Women’s Medical Fund, which helps women pay for an abortion. She says she’s been getting about one report a year from women complaining about poor or negligent care at Gosnell’s clinic.

Schewel: What we know is that if a woman wants to end a pregnancy, if she decides that’s what she wants to do, she’ll do whatever it takes, and the reality is that the abortions at Women’s Medical Society were less costly than those in some of the other abortion providers, and that’s what women felt like they could afford.

Dorsche Pinsky is a hotline counselor a CHOICE, which provides referrals for women looking for medical care. CHOICE discouraged women from going to the clinic at 38th and Lancaster, but Pinksy says many went there anyway because the clinic initially quoted them a low price.

Pinsky: They may say that an abortion costs $200, which is less expensive than other locations where it is $350, but then when a woman would arrive for her appointment, there’s an additional cost for anesthesia and there’s an additional cost for etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Pennsylvania’s Medicaid health plan for the poor does not cover the cost of abortion, except in very limited cases such as rape. Susan Schewel says that means poor women pay out of pocket and are more likely to get an abortion later in their pregnancy.

The longer you wait, the more expensive abortion is, and Schewel says that leaves some women desperate for a cheap alternative.

Schewel: So they do, what we call in the field, chasing the fee. So they raise the amount of money for a 12-week abortion, but by then they are 14 weeks and now it’s more expensive and they have to go and find some more money.

Schewel and others urged clients to log their complaints about Gosnell’s clinic with the state, but she says the women were put off by the paperwork and intimidated by the idea that they’d have to travel to testify at a hearing in Harrisburg.

Calls to Gosnell’s clinic and attorney were not returned.


  • Melissa says:

    For a span of time beginning about 20 years ago,I went to this clinic for birth control pills because it was in my neighborhood and the prices were fair; then about 9 years ago, I revisited to obtain an IUD which I have to this day.

    These reports of gruesome conditions and deaths have been very disconcerting to me. The place certainly never looked like it catered to people with much money, but I am hardly a desperately uneducated person, and it seemed like an alright place at the time for someone on a budget. I feel so naive now.

    There were often children, men and women presumably waiting for all kinds of help not necessarily involving abortion, and although I do vaguely remember one odd detail about my interaction with the doctor, he seemed to be serving the neighborhood well, and I never would have imagined him to be capable of anything frightening.

  • Shawn says:

    It is unconscionable that the poorest women are forced to shop for the cheapest provider when they need an abortion. It’s a situation they don’t face with other kinds of healthcare. Abortion is so stigmatized that we cannot expect the consumers to have the collective power to select better providers. Ultimately, we need to change the federal and state policies that force poor women into this situation and create a double standard for the poor versus everyone else.

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