|Action||Regulations for Licensure of Abortion Facilities|
|Comment Period||Ends 3/29/2013|
The Family Foundation supports regulations on abortion centers that promote the health and safety of women. From the death of a woman in 2002 to the multiple accusations of negligence and malpractice against an abortion doctor in Virginia Beach to the well over 100 deficiencies found during recent inspections by the Department of Health to Dr. Steven Brigham, an abortion center owner in Virginia Beach and Fairfax who has had his medical license suspended or revoked in multiple states and doesn’t even have a license to practice in Virginia, there is significant reason to be concerned about what is happening inside Virginia’s abortion centers.
Whenever anyone goes to a doctor's office, walk-in clinic, or outpatient surgery facility, they expect the facility to be an environment that meets basic standards of health and safety, that the staff is well-trained, the examining room is clean, and that the equipment is sterilized - that is what we want to provide for the women of Virginia who make the unfortunate decision to have an abortion.
Before the emergency regulations promulgated last year, abortion centers were treated as doctors’ offices in Virginia. There were no written standards for clinical safety at doctors’ offices, which means there were no standards for reporting, surveillance, or sanitation. Without these regulations, the Department of Health didn’t monitor abortion center equipment, disciplinary problems, abortion complications, or the efficacy or expiration of drugs. The Board didn’t check credentials, require emergency equipment, verify cleanliness, nor required emergency procedures or training.
But now, thanks to the emergency regulations, inspections of these abortion centers took place – the first time in nearly 25 years. And according to these inspection reports, the previously unregulated centers were found to have well over 100 health and safety violations. Unfortunately, while focusing on the construction standards included in the health and safety standards, the abortion industry and the media have almost completely ignored the blood stained and unsterilized equipment, untrained staff and host of other health and safety failures.
However, the construction standards cannot be left out – they are critical to the health and safety these regulations provide. As just one example, an abortion center in Virginia Beach (Virginia Women’s Wellness) is currently located on the second floor of a building that does not have elevator access. If a life-threatening emergency were to occur at this facility, a gurney would not be able to access the procedure room. Instead, picture EMS personnel carrying the critical patient down the flight of stairs either by hand, in a stretcher chair, or something similar. Women choosing to have procedures in abortion facilities should at least have the assurance that if an emergency occurs, EMS will be able to readily access them where they are located.
The $1 billion abortion industry has argued that it does not need public health oversight, that abortion is safe, and that the proposed standards are “politically and religiously motivated.” All of this, however, ignores or attempts to cover up the very real and very revealing violations of even the basic health standards found in every abortion center in Virginia.
The abortion industry continues to claim that it is safe, but inspection reports are indisputable evidence that their idea of safe is far different than any reasonable person could claim. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of the inspection reports isn’t the blatant disregard for basic health standards, but the fact that even with notice of inspection and the discovery of violations in other centers the operators of the rest of the facilities thought they were safe for women. If it wasn’t for the abortion center health and safety standards adopted by the Board of Health, these abortion centers would be continuing to operate with blood splattered equipment and unsterilized facilities.
Some industry representatives claim they support regulations but that the proposed Virginia standards “go too far.” In fact, for several years they adamantly opposed legislation before the Virginia General Assembly that would have required only licensing, inspections and emergency equipment. Now we know why. The discovery of widespread violations of health and safety in the inspections, inspections the industry fought so hard to stop, reveals that the abortion industry cannot and should not self-regulate.
And these violations are not isolated. Indeed, there is a pattern of disregard for health and safety by the abortion industry across the nation. Recently, three abortion centers in Maryland, a state with lax standards, were closed by public health officials because of continuing violations. The clinics are operated by Dr. Steven Brigham, a notorious abortion operator who owns two abortion centers in Virginia, including one in Fairfax that had multiple violations of health and safety standards.
The owner of one abortion center in Richmond found to have multiple violations has had several abortion centers she owns in other states closed because of health violations. The pattern of a complete lack of care for basic health care by these owners of Virginia abortion centers is more evidence that these standards are needed and that public health officials must protect the women of Virginia.
Despite the claims of some, nothing in the proposed health and safety standards forces an abortion center to stop providing other health care services should they refuse to meet the standards for performing abortions. Such rhetoric exposes the reality that they are in the business of abortion and not health care. Clearly, they have not been in the business of clean facilities and trained staff. For that, we need the proposed health and safety standards now before the Board of Health.
Providing for regular inspections, standards regarding medical personnel, sanitary conditions, basic standards for medical facilities, and emergency equipment are wholly reasonable to promote the health and safety of women who make the unfortunate decision to have an abortion. The Family Foundation supports the Board of Health making permanent regulations for these centers that are strong and focused on protecting women.