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HARRISBURG, Pa. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A pro-life advocate is suing over Pennsylvania's unlawful protection of the abortion industry that prevents the public from finding information about abortion providers' licenses.
Lawyers for the Thomas More Society have filed suit on behalf of Jean Corocco, an employee of the Pro-Life Action League, against the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) for violating the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law.
Corocco requested the names and license numbers of all the abortionists working in the state to verify they were all in good standing. When she got the information, the DOH had redacted all of the names and license numbers.
By redacting the names and license numbers of the abortionists, the public has no way of knowing which providers are in good standing or have had complaints issued against them.
Church Militant spoke with Thomas Olp, the vice president and senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, who said the DOH had no basis for denying her the information.
"They were speculating with what she was doing with the information," Olp said.
Corocco is a licensed registered nurse who monitors reports abortion mills are required to file ensuring compliance with states' laws. If she finds violations, such as not having the properly qualified people on staff, those violations are reported to the proper authorities to investigate. This type of work prevents unlicensed doctors to work as abortion providers and risk the health of women.
In February, after pro-lifers discovered abortionist Kevin Work working unsupervised in a Louisiana abortion mill against the restrictions on his medical license, the medical board finally revoked his license.
The DOH claimed that the abortionists' provided signed affidavits claiming that they were in fear for their personal safety. Olp said that was a "sham" because every single one of the abortionists' names were already publicly associated with an abortion mill.
"This flies in the face of Freedom of Information Laws, increases secrecy and fosters the kind of environment that led to Kermit Gosnell," Olp said.
Gosnell was a notorious abortionist who was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and is serving three life sentences in prison for the atrocities he committed in his Pennsylvania abortion mill.
In a grand jury report prior to his indictment, it notes that officials for the Pennsylvania DOH admitted that despite numerous complaints against Gosnell dating back to 1983, the Health Department hadn't set foot in his facility for 16 years.
After Corocco's request was denied, Thomas More Society appealed to the Office of Open Records, the Pennsylvania government's agency overseeing the Right to Know requests. They upheld the DOH's redaction of the abortion providers names and license numbers.
Olp was indignant that the Pensylvania government would continue to shield the abortion industry from public scrutiny.
"How dare they screen off abortion providers from public access?" he asked. No other medical profession or industry in the state is afforded this kind of privilege of privacy.
Thomas More Society is appealing this decision with the appellate court.
In the brief filed with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, Thomas More Society advocated that the court argued this policy is an "unlawful, unpromulgated regulation," noting some of the information is required by law to disclose.
"[The] owners of abortion facilities and those receiving public funds are unconditionally disclosable," it says.
They are asking that the court release the unredacted report containing the names and license numbers of the abortion providers, saying, "The Court should not acquiesce to the DOH's apparent collaboration with a regulated industry to protect it at the expense of public access to important public health information."
Olp noted that relying on the abortion industry to self-police does not lead to better health care for women and is part of the reason Kermit Gosnell was able to continue in squalor for years.
In November 2009, Gosnell applied for membership to the National Abortion Federation (NAF), a professional association of abortion providers that would provide him with additional referrals and services. Abortion providers must meet the NAF's quality-assurance standards and conducted a site review in December that same year.
During the two days the inspector was there, she noticed numerous serious and "potentially life-threatening" violations and actually deemed the abortion facility was "beyond redemption." The NAF inspector testified before the grand jury but never reported Gosnell's violations to authorities that could have forced Gosnell's abortion mill to close down two years earlier.
Another pro-life group, the Susan B. Anthony List, compiled a report of some of the negligence committed at abortion mills throughout the United States. From 2010 to 2016, they found at least 51 serious injuries or deaths from 32 facilities with serious health code violations.
A large number of these violations were of unqualified staff performing medical procedures they were not trained to do — violations that would be uncovered if the states' DOHs would comply with Right to Know requests.
Additionally, they found two criminal complaints of failing to report victims of sex trafficking and one arrest for child molestation.
Olp said democracy only works if the government is open and transparent. The Right to Know Law and Freedom of Information Act are designed to help the public keep the government accountable to the public.
Olp said they have argued and won similar cases against the Illinois Department of Health. He is hoping that the court doesn't acquiesce to the abortion industry and continue to shield it from accountability. The ruling could be made within weeks, and he noted providing this information is needed to help keep women safe.
"It's for the public good," Olp said.