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Closure of Pennsylvania Abortion Clinic Dramatically Underscores Need for Medically-Appropriate Regulation

Combating the True “Back Alley”: Closure of Pennsylvania Abortion Clinic Dramatically Underscores Need for Medically-Appropriate Regulation
By Denise M. Burke

Since the 1960s, abortion proponents have argued that legalized abortion is beneficial to the health and well-being of American women.  In support of this assertion, they have often put forth a litany of purported advantages.  A primary advantage they often cite is increased medical safety for women undergoing abortions.

When their campaign to legalize abortion began, abortion proponents argued that if abortion was legal the procedure would be safer for women because it would become an accepted part of mainstream medical care, proper surgical procedures and standards for pre- and post- surgical care would be followed, and skilled and reputable gynecologists and surgeons would perform the procedure.  Simply, unskilled and incompetent butchers would no longer perform abortions.

These were the promises.  But has it proven to be the reality?  Has 37 years of legalized abortion eliminated these problems from our national consciousness?  No, it has not and a case out of Pennsylvania last week aptly demonstrates that abortion clinics across the nation have become the true “back-alleys” of abortion mythology.

On both February 18 and February 23, 2010, federal agents raided the Women’s Medical Society abortion clinic in Philadelphia and found “deplorable and unsanitary” conditions including blood on the floors, parts of aborted children stored in jars, and post-operative recovery areas that consisted solely of recliners.  During the course of the investigation, it was discovered that the clinic’s director, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, typically did not arrive at the clinic until 6 pm each day and sanctioned the performance of gynecological exams and the administration of controlled substances and prescription medication by non-licensed staff at the clinic.

Gosnell’s license to practice medicine was immediately suspended and the clinic was closed down.  In its order, the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Medical Board specifically cited to a November 20, 2009 case where a woman died after being given two rounds of painkillers and anesthesia prior to an abortion, but did not mention the dozens of medical malpractices suits filed against Gosnell.

Sadly, the Philadelphia clinic is not an aberration.  Substandard and unsafe abortion clinics are currently operating across the nation.

Enacting comprehensive abortion clinic regulations is a critical and sensible solution to the problem of unsafe, “back-alley” abortions in America.  These regulations are designed to safeguard against unsanitary conditions, inferior equipment, and the employment of unsuitable and untrained personnel.  They are also intended to put an end to substandard medical practices that injure and kill untold numbers of women each year.

For the last 10 years, AUL has worked to remedy the epidemic of substandard conditions at the nation’s abortion clinics, advocating for medically-appropriate and comprehensive health and safety regulations at abortion clinics and defending such laws when they are challenged in court by abortion providers more concerned with plying their trade without legitimate oversight and protecting their “bottom-line” than with women’s health and safety.

Specifically, AUL has developed both “The Abortion Patients’ Enhanced Safety Act,” mandating that abortion clinics meet the same exacting standards as ambulatory surgical clinics, and “The Women’s Health Protection Act,” prescribing minimum health and safety regulations (based, in part, on internal — but not mandatory — treatment protocols from Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation).

AUL’s model legislation for regulating abortion clinics is available at http://www.aul.org/Legislative_Guides

And for more information on the need for abortion clinic regulations and more examples of substandard care at abortion clinics, please see http://dl.aul.org/abortion/abortion-clinic-regulations-combating-the-“true-back-alley“