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.
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.