Pro-Choice individuals and organizations claim to be concerned first and foremost with the medical needs of women. Therefore, it is hard to understand why such organizations oppose regulations that would make abortion safer.
In many states, legislation has been introduced that would force clinics to adhere to certain standards. For example, operating room doors would have to be wide enough to admit a stretcher or wheelchair so an injured woman could be easily transported. The clinic would need to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Basic standards of cleanliness would need to be upheld.
Currently, only 23 states have health and safety regulations for abortion clinics. In eight states, laws are on the books but are being blocked by court action from Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice organizations.
PP continually rallies pro-choicers to oppose clinic regulations. For example, an action alert from the organization discussing such legislation (http://www.ppaction.org/campaign/defundPP_clone) says that “an amendment would direct the Board of Health to impose medically unnecessary regulations on clinics…”
According to “Regulating Abortion Clinics” in the Washington Times (Feb 6, 2008), despite the lack of laws requiring abortion clinics to be inspected or licensed, “occasionally, an intrepid government official, acting on a tip by patient or employee, breaks through the stone wall of secrecy and discovers abuses.”
For example, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Kansas is facing 107 criminal counts after officials were able to review only 29 patient records.
In an attempt by Planned Parenthood to manipulate pro-choice individuals into fighting a proposed set of legislation in Virginia (SB 1270) Planned Parenthood released a factsheet saying:
“The real impact of this bill would be to dramatically decrease access to safe abortion services in Virginia.” It called the restrictions “unnecessary and unreasonable” and said they would “make abortions prohibitory expensive” for women.
Here is what the bill actually states:
“….all abortion clinics, defined as any facility other than a hospital or an ambulatory surgery center in which 25 or more first trimester abortions are performed in any 12-month period, [are] to be licensed and to comply with the requirements currently in place for ambulatory surgery centers except the requirement for a certificate of public need. The Board of Health may also waive certain structural requirements.”
So this law would not impose a single regulation on clinics that was not already in place for all other forms of surgery. In fact, it would impose less- structural mandates and a requirement for a certificate would be omitted.
Planned Parenthood, however, fought to prevent their clinics from being made to adhere any standards at all.
The bill was defeated- Planned Parenthood won, and now there are no health guidelines for abortion clinics in Virginia.
PP continues to oppose any and all regulations on abortion’s safety.
Here are some examples as to why such regulations are needed.
“There has been testimony in the House and Senate, where I have heard there is not regulation on the abortion clinics in the state. In the nine clinics, we’ve heard testimony that abortion clinics are not as regulated as veterinary clinics or tattoo parlors. We need to find a balance between good regulations and women’s health. I think it’s important to make sure the nine (abortion) facilities are capable of handling emergencies; to not regulate would be a disservice to protecting women’s health.”
Indiana, Sen. Jeff Drozda, R-Westfield IDS News, Multiple bills address abortion in Indiana Senate, House, 2/22/2005
Abortionist Don Sloan is quoted here from his book Choice: A Doctor’s Experience with the Abortion Dilemma. New York: International Publishers 2002 (with Paula Hartz):
“The polarization of the two sides in the abortion battle has everyone over a barrel. The pro-choice people find themselves fighting good, healthy, correct state regulations because many of those regulations are emanating from anti-abortion pressure groups as a political ploy.”
Reporter Hannah Selinger describes her trip to an abortion clinic this way:
“In all the years I have spent writing and thinking about a woman’s right to choose, I have never set foot in an abortion clinic, because I have never needed to. In my mind, I had always pictured a clean and comfortable place. This was no Westchester clinic. The place was dirty and dark and the women in the room outside were standing, as there were no chairs. A woman beside me was crying. . In the press, the issue of the right to choose will be reduced to the terminology of precedent and privacy. But the visceral reality of abortion–the grimy clinic, the sobbing and hapless young woman — cannot be understood by such desensitized vocabulary.”
“The Raw Story: The Real State of Abortion Rights before Alito” January 12, 2006
Police officer William Howard Jr. said this of the Dr. Krishna Rajanna’s Kansas abortion clinic:
“Trash was everywhere and roaches crawling across the countertops, with a smell of stench in the room. My partner observed the procedure room was filthy, he told me he saw dried blood on the floor and the room looked nasty to him. In a statement to me, one witness related how Rajanna was a filthy man who did not properly sterilize his equipment.” In a notarized affidavit, the detective said
“There was an unfamiliar type stench in the room. Frankly, I was reluctant to sit down… Bear in mind, I am an experienced police officer who has worked in every aspect in law enforcement and had spent my last five years in the homicide unit where I worked countless community deaths. I thought I had heard and seen every vile, disgusting crime scene but was in for a new shock when I started this investigation.”
Detective William Howard Jr. Kansas City. Kansas Police Department Eyewitness Testimony of Officer, House Committee on Health and Humices , March 15,2005
The Department of Health noted, “After one of the procedures the nurse was observed preparing the room for the next patient. With gloved hands the nurse removed the visibly soiled paper cover from the procedure table. With the same gloves, the nurse pulled fresh paper to cover the table and prepare it for the next patient. A packet of sterile instruments was then opened and set up for the physician. The gloves had not been changed. Following the procedure, the dirty instruments were taken to the cleaning room. Interview with staff revealed that she did not know how much disinfecting solution to use when doing cleaning. In addition one of the two sinks was being used to discard dirty solutions. After scrubbing the instruments, the staff person placed them into this dirty sink and gave them only a water rinse before wrapping them for the sterilization process. Residue may have been left from the matter that had been dumped into this sink. This residue could adhere to the cleaned instruments.”
Ohio DOH registry # 992272 10-25-99
During a 1989 inspection of Blue Coral Medical Center, health inspectors found:
–The clinic employees unlicensed non-nursing staff to monitor patients in the recovery room.
–Single use disposable equipment such as the suction tube used to remove the contents of the uterus during the abortion and plastic syringes used to give medication into the vein or into the muscle are reused.
–Biohazards waste material is not disposed of properly.
–Abortion suction machines were dirty, stained and the tubing contained residual matter from previously completed abortions.
–The facility failed to properly dispose of blood-covered needles and sharp instruments, which had been used to give medications.
–Dirty, used patient gowns were improperly discarded.
–A plastic shopping bag of these soiled used patient gowns was hanging from an oxygen tank.
–There was no soap found anywhere in the facility to allow staff and clients to wash their hands to prevent the spread of infection and cross contamination.
–Stirrups of procedure tables were padded with underpads and tape that was stained with what appeared to be blood.
–The clinic does not ensure patient confidentiality.
Findings of HRS September 25-26, 1989 Site Visit
At the Ladies First Abortion Clinic, Findings of HRS October 3, 1989:
—The entire physical plant from the entrance, examining rooms, surgical suite, recovery room, bathrooms, lab room, offices, sterilizer room and storage rooms is filthy.
— Old dirty mops were found leaning against walls in the bathroom and sterilizer room.
— A large, dead cockroach was found on the counter in the sterilizing room.
— Men’s old socks were found on shelves in the recovery room.
— After the procedures, patients lie on one of seven old, torn, ripped, and flat examining tables that are lined up next to each other in a back room of the clinic.
—The gloves they reported as sterile were open and not sterile.
—Gauze pads that were stained yellow were found recently sterilized and packaged for use.
—There was no hot water available in the clinic including the surgical suite, recovery room, or the bathrooms.
—None of the three bathrooms nor the sink in the recovery room had any soap.
At Miami International Esthetic Center, Inc:
—The clinic failed to ensure adequate restroom facilities for the patients and staff due to the fact that the clinic had no toilets. Staff and patients were using a portable commode.
—The facility failed to provide basic necessities for infection control such as no hot water.
—Single use disposable items were reused. These items include disposable urinary foley catheters. Reuse of such products is considered unacceptable practice. In addition, putting an unsterile tube into a patient’s urinary bladder may result in serious infection and harm to the patients. Single use plastic suction catheter used in the abortion procedure was reused.
Findings of HRS On Site Visit October 10, 1989
From 20/20 “A Woman’s Right, A Woman’s Risk” March 8, 1999:
“There were jagged edges on some of the instruments that were supposed to be smooth, which literally tore the uterus of this young woman.” said Attorney General John Cornyn says, in the wake of the death of a 15-year-old Jamie Garcia, who died from massive infection, investigators found one nightmare condition after another at the clinic in Houston.
At Women’s Service Center (Findings of HRS Sept 22-23 1989 visit):
—Sterile techniques were routinely compromised.
—Clinic staff indicated that equipment, clearly labeled with instructions to dispose of after a single use, were reused.
—Paper used to wrap equipment for sterilization is reused until it is so dirty with blood or ripped that it must be discarded.
—Clinic staff could not report when the Vacuum Suction machine had been last cleaned.
—The clinic had no policies or procedure for protecting patient confidentiality.
—Infection control procedures are so inadequate that patient safety is threatened.
—The clinic does not conduct tests to definitely determine that a patient is pregnant prior to performing an abortion.
“There was actually an abortion suction device in this place that had green mold growing in it, When we got there, there wasn’t any soap in the place, so our inspectors had to go next door to wash their hands. No matter how hard they searched, clinic personnel couldn’t find a single sanitary surgical glove in the entire clinic. Patients recovering from general anesthetic were attended by untrained, unlicensed personnel. And an oxygen mask still had lipstick on it from a patient who had needed it some time before. In addition, the expiration date had passed on nearly 70 different kinds of medication being used in the facility. These are deplorable conditions. The clinic appears to be little more than a satellite operation of the back alley abortion mill we closed early this week. We are powerless to ensure that women will receive safe, adequate health care in abortion clinics.”
Secretary Gregory L. Coler, Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services
PR Newswire, Florida HRS secretary closes second Miami abortion clinic, 9/27/1989
“When I first assumed the position of director of this office, Office of Licensure and Certification, HRS, Tallahassee, Florida, I visited representative facilities of the different types we license. I reviewed the statutes and regulations of each different type of facility. The one facility type where I learned we had extremely limited authority to ensure quality care was abortion clinics. The situation still exists today. I have personally surveyed three abortion clinics over the last two weeks and am profoundly concerned about the practices and care I observed.”
Connie E. Cheren, Director, Office of Licensure and Certification, HRS
St. Petersburg Times, Editorial, Abortion clinics should meet basic health care standards, 10/12/1989
“In addition, the place was filthy — blood stained pads and sheets, filthy surgical equipment, a general lack of infection control. These places cannot be permitted to operate in this way. . . We’ve been into 15 percent of the abortion clinics in this state, and they are unsafe; they are unclean, and they’re not places where women should be going to receive abortions.”
Connie E. Cheren, Director, Office of Licensure and Certification, HRS
St Petersburg Times, Scrutiny of abortion clinic standards will continue, 10/13/1989
PR Newswire, Florida HRS secretary closes second Miami abortion clinic, 9/27/1989
“It is hard to believe that a place like this can exist in the age of modern medicine, There wasn’t even any hot water. Anybody knows that the very first requirement for sanitary conditions is hot soapy water. On top of that, there were no restroom for patients or staff. There was a serious lack of sanitation throughout the clinic.”
Greg Coler, Florida health inspector
PR Newswire Association, Florida Department of HRS closes fourth abortion clinic, 10/13/1989
“There were dead cockroaches in the (abortion) sterilizing room, and men’s old, dirty socks on a shelf in the recovery room. There was no hot water and the hot water taps had been broken for some time. There was no soap at the clinic’s three sinks and there wasn’t a single sterile surgical glove in the place. A filthy mop that a veteran public health doctor said stunk of dried blood was stored with medical supplies. The air vents were covered with filth. Cobwebs draped down from the ceiling sprinkler system. And debris was scattered from one end of the place to the other. What’s incredible about that is we were sitting in the parking lot Monday waiting for the owner to show up so we could do an inspection, when a cleaning lady came out of the clinic and told us she’d been cleaning up in there all day. It makes me wonder what the place looked like before it was cleaned up.”
Greg Coler, Florida health inspector
PR Newswire, Florida HRS closes Broward County abortion clinic, 10/5/1989
The following incidents were cited in Denise Burke’s article “Abortion Clinic Regulations: Combating the True “Back Alley” (Burke is the vice president and legal director of Americans United for Life)
– In 1994 South Carolina several women testified that they saw bloody unwashed sheets, bloody cots in recovery rooms, and dirty bathrooms. These women were testifying about different abortion clinics. Some clinic workers testified to unsafe conditions and improper disposal of fetal remains. This was during a session before the General Assembly of the South Carolina legislature.
– In Texas witnesses disclosed that, in one clinic, abortions were being performed by people who had no licenses and no medical training
– In Arizona, “a young mother bled to death from a two-inch laceration in her uterus. As she lay in what medical assistants described as a pool of blood that soaked the bedding and ran down the woman’s legs, she was heard crying for help and asking what was wrong with her. Where was her doctor? He was eating lunch in the break room, refusing requests to check her condition, and later left her bleeding and unconscious to visit his tailor. The woman died after bleeding for two to three hours. Sadly, a hospital emergency room was less than five minutes down the street”
– In Kansas, two inspectors found “discovered fetal remains stored in the same refrigerator as food; a dead rodent in the clinic hallway; overflowing, uncovered disposal bins containing medical waste; unlabeled, pre-drawn syringes with controlled substances in an unlocked refrigerator; improperly labeled and expired medicines; carpeted floor in the surgical procedure room; and visible dirt and general disarray throughout the clinic”
Norma McCorvey, in her book Won by Love, describes one clinic that where she worked that was later closed:
“I started working at the A to Z clinic in January 1995, and it was a health disaster waiting to happen. If the owner had not closed it down, eventually even the government would have been forced to do it. Light fixtures hung out of the ceiling; falling plaster dusted everyone who walked by…We fought an ongoing, and losing, battle with the rat population…Every morning we found rat droppings all over the clinic. Sinks were backed up- in a reputed medical clinic no less- and blood splatters stained the walls. The “parts room” where we kept the aborted babies was particularly heinous. No one liked to be in there to do their business, much less to clean the place, and since no patients were allowed back there, it was pretty much left to ruin. If a baby didn’t make it into a bucket, that was too bad; it was left to lay there. Other babies were stacked like cordwood once every body part had been accounted for…the room smelled awful. We used Pine Sol because of its strong antiseptic smell, but within hours the cleaning mixture was overpowered by the smell of medical waste and rot= which explains why the rats were so eager to visit us every night. The floor of the clinic invited contamination. It was covered by an old, gold and brown shag rug. At least I think it was gold and brown- no one really knew for sure, since the rug had not been cleaned in a long time.”
Norma McCorvey and Gary Thomas Won by Love: Jane Roe of Roe v. Wade Speaks Out for the Unborn as She Shares her New Conviction for Life. (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1997 P 6-7
All of these abortion clinics were operating legally. With the exception of the Arizona clinic, where terrible conditions came to light when a woman died, all these clinics would still be operating if not for the very regulations Planned Parenthood is fighting.
Women continue to be subjected to unsafe conditions in abortion clinics. And thanks to Planned Parenthood, at least in the state of Virginia, clinics may continue to get away with substandard care.
So…why? Why do pro-choice groups like Planned Parenthood oppose clinic regulations? Well, Planned Parenthood makes millions of dollars from abortion every year. Adhering to standards would raise their costs and they would make less money! It is the women who suffer.
As abortion provider Susan Poppema said in her book Why I am an Abortion Doctor- after a tip off from anti-abortion activists, she was forced to stop illegally reusing surgical tools again and again on women:
“some of the other economic steps we’d taken had to be abandoned. We’d always, for example, saved money and passed it along by reusing so-called disposable tissue-waste plastic cannulas (the small plastic tube which is inserted into a woman’s uterus to empty it during her abortion.)”
She goes on to say:
“We can only assume that there was a tip-off from the anti-choice group. We don’t like being told what to do by anti-choice zealots.”
This if from Why I am an Abortion Doctor (New York: Prometheus Books) 1996 pgs 160-161
Personally, I would be grateful to the “anti-choice zealots” if I were a patient at one of her clinics, and I could be spared from having surgical tools put in my body that had been used on other women and not disposed of like they should have been!
Another telling quote from a pro-choice activist appears in The Abortion Controversy by Lucinda Almond (ed) Greenhaven Press, NY 2007 pgs 79-80
An article by Misty Mealey mentions how the Miami Herald ran a story in 1989 about a local abortion clinic where one woman died and another was injured. Abortion advocates admitted that they knew of the poor conditions in the clinic but stayed silent for political reasons.
Mealey cites one pro-choice activist’s public statement:
“In my gut, I am completely aghast at what goes on at that place. But I staunchly oppose anything that would correct this situation in law.”
It is sad that the pro-choice movement has shown itself willing to sacrifice women’s lives in order to avoid any possible regulation of abortion on demand.
This article, which discusses only a handful of incidents in a year when abortion clinics were inspected, only scratches the surface. For more examples, see information abortionists who have run afoul of the law here And women who have died of legal abortions here.
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