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The Gosnell Case Surfaces Again in Pennsylvania Politics

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is escorted to a waiting police van upon leaving the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, Monday, May 13, 2013, after being convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies who were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his clinic. Credit: AP

The state official who was tasked with the licensing and inspections that overlooked Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s "House of Horrors" abortion clinic is back in the same job as Pennsylvania’s secretary of state.

The Pennsylvania state Senate voted 31–18 Tuesday on the nomination of Pedro Cortes to again assume the job he held from 2003 through 2010. The grand jury report in the Gosnell case singled out the Pennsylvania Department of State for missing numerous chances to investigate and shutdown Gosnell’s abortion clinic in west Philadelphia.

“This shows a gross lack of accountability,” Maria Gallagher, the legislative director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation told TheBlaze. “It was a national scandal and a national nightmare. We have put the department on notice. We will not tolerate this in the future.”

Dr. Kermit Gosnell is escorted to a waiting police van upon leaving the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, Monday, May 13, 2013, after being convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies who were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his clinic. Credit: AP Dr. Kermit Gosnell is escorted to a waiting police van upon leaving the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, May 13, 2013, after being convicted of first-degree murder in the deaths of three babies who were delivered alive and then killed with scissors at his clinic. (AP)

The Pennsylvania Department of State’s press office provided a written statement from Cortes in response to questions from TheBlaze question about the Gosnell case, but the statement did not mention Gosnell.

"I would like to thank the members of the Senate for giving me the opportunity to serve once again as Secretary of the Commonwealth," Cortes said. "It is an honor to return to public service and to do so at the Department of State, an agency that I love."

Cortes has insisted he had no knowledge of Gosnell's criminal activities during his time at the helm of the department that oversees the medical board that licenses doctors, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. He has said he believed a court ruling prohibited the secretary from knowing about pending medical board investigations.

Cortes initially served under Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, and was nominated for the job again by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

“It's very rare I don't vote to confirm a nominee of any party,” Republican state Sen. John Eichelberger told the Tribune-Review. “I am very concerned about his ability to lead and his ability to manage.”

A 2010 drug raid first found that Gosnell’s abortion clinic was unsanitary, filled with untrained staff, and that he wrote prescriptions for painkillers. After the full scope of what prosecutors called a "house of horrors" was revealed, Gosnell was convicted in the deaths of three full-term infants and one female patient.

The Pennsylvania state Senate's State Government committee voted “no recommendation” on Cortes' nomination in May, but didn’t seek to block him before the full Senate.

“We're obviously very pleased he was confirmed,” Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan told the Tribune-Review. “He is very qualified and experienced, and fully able to run the department.”

Gallagher said that 18 votes against the confirmation is a strong statement.

“We have sent a clear message to Gov. Tom Wolf that we owe it to Gosnell’s victims to remain vigilant to ensure that clinics operate safely for women and children,” Gallagher told TheBlaze.

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