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Chicago Woman’s Tragic Death Underscores Need for Regulation and Oversight of Abortion Industry

The tragic death of 24-year old Tonya Reaves from injuries received during an abortion at a Chicago Planned Parenthood clinic underscores the need for federal and state investigations into the abortion giant, but also highlights the urgent need for abortion clinics to be held to the same medical and regulatory standards as other facilities performing outpatient surgeries.

Currently, 28 states license and/or regulate (to varying degrees) facilities performing abortions. However, only three of those states – Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Virginia – require abortion clinics to meet the same patient care and safety standards as surgical centers or hospitals.

For more than a decade, AUL has led the nationwide effort to enact laws mandating the licensing and regulation of abortion clinics across the nation. Specifically, AUL experts have developed the “Abortion Patients’ Enhanced Safety Act,” model legislation that requires facilities performing abortions to be licensed and regulated as ambulatory surgical centers and to meet medically recognized standards for the care and treatment of surgical patients.

As the author of a leading abortion textbook writes, “[T]here are few surgical procedures given so little attention and so underrated in its potential hazard as abortion.” (Warren M. Hern, Abortion Practice 101 (1990)). Nearly 40 years after Roe v. Wade was decided, we are continually and increasingly confronted with evidence of dangerous conditions in abortion clinics, the continued employment of substandard abortionists, and the willingness of abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood to defy and circumvent state and federal laws designed to protect women and children.

Since accelerating the push to legalize abortion in the 1960s, abortion advocates have vociferously argued that legalized abortion is beneficial to the health and well being of women. In support of this dubious assertion, they have put forth a litany of purported “advantages” of legalized abortion. A primary advantage they often cite is increased medical safety for women undergoing abortions.

Increased medical safety was the promise. But has it proven to be the reality? Has nearly 40 years of legalized abortion eradicated the pervasive problems of unsafe clinics, substandard providers, and blatant disregard for both women’s safety and the law? Plainly, it has not. Instead, abortion clinics across the nation have become the true “back-alleys” of abortion mythology.

Tonya Reaves’ death is not a tragic anomaly – as abortion advocates will likely contend; rather, it is part of a growing trend. Notably, within just the past year, at least 15 states have investigated individual abortionists and abortion clinics for compromising the health and safety of their patients.

Without question, states have the authority to intervene and the duty and responsibility to act when a public health problem exists. One woman’s death from substandard abortion care is too many. One woman left infertile because of an infection caused by unsanitary conditions is too many. One woman rushed bleeding to an emergency room with a punctured uterus because her abortionist was in a hurry to complete as many abortions as he or she could in one afternoon is too many.

Sadly, the abortion industry has refused to police itself, placing profit margins and political ideology ahead of investing in women’s health and safety.

Enacting medically-appropriate and comprehensive abortion clinic regulations is a critical and sensible first-step in addressing the growing problem of unsafe, “back-alley” abortions. Such regulations are designed to safeguard against unsanitary conditions, inferior equipment, and the employment of unsuitable and untrained personnel. However, the mere existence of protective laws is not enough. State officials must also prioritize and consistently enforce these laws.

Doing so will save women’s lives and ensure that young women like Tonya Reaves are no longer victimized by an industry more concerned with increased profits than with women’s health and safety.