The Story: A new report documents how the unsafe conditions and practices at abortion clinics like Planned Parenthood are a public health crisis that endangers women.
The Background: This summer the Supreme Court issued one of the most significant rulings on abortion in decades. In a 5-3 decision the Court ruled in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt to overturn state laws designed to regulate abortion clinics in a way that would protect women’s health.
After the Kermit Gosnell scandal created an awareness of the unsafe, unsanitary, and largely unregulated conditions in abortion clinics in America, the state of Texas passed House Bill 2. According to Alliance Defending Freedom, HB2—which became law in 2013—mandated that abortion facilities adhere to ambulatory surgical center requirements common to most outpatient facilities, and required abortionists to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion facility to be able to handle emergencies when something went wrong.
Despite these reasonable restrictions, the Court’s liberal majority (Justices Breyer, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan) claimed the regulations imposed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions. The ruling did indicate, though, that health and safety standards designed to protect women from abortion industry abuses would be constitutional if there were better evidence of the need for such regulations.
Today, Americans United for Life (AUL) issued a 200-page report documenting that 227 abortion providers in 32 states have been cited for more than 1,400 health and safety deficiencies between 2008 and 2016. The report also details hundreds of other significant violations of state laws regulating abortion clinics.
“The abortion industry willingly sacrifices women’s health and safety in their ‘back alley’ clinics, prioritizing mere access to abortion over women’s health and safety. Convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell provided ‘mere access’ to abortion, and women died in his care,” said Denise Burke, the report’s author and vice president of legal affairs for AUL. “During the investigation of Gosnell and his ‘house of horrors’ abortion clinic, the grand jury found that, while there were laws on the books allowing for inspections, state officials decided not to act because of abortion politics. Women’s health and safety must not be held hostage by an abortion industry willing to put profit over people.”
“This report is the tip of the iceberg as too many state officials are turning a blind eye to this red-light district of medicine,” Burke added .
The top ten violations listed in the report are:
1. Failure to ensure a safe and sanitary environment and to follow infection control policies
130 clinics in 22 states
2. Failure to accurately document patient records and keep patient medical information confidential
100 clinics in 17 states
3. Failure to ensure staff are properly trained for duties
82 clinics in 14 states
4. Unlicensed/unqualified/untrained staff providing patient care
81 clinics in 14 states
5. Expired medications and medical supplies
77 clinics in 17 states
6. Failure to adopt, follow and/or periodically review internal health and safety protocols
77 clinics in 15 states
7. Failure to purchase and maintain the required equipment
74 clinics in 11 states
8. Failure to properly handle medications
62 clinics in 16 states
9. Failure to comply with physical plant standards
41 clinics in 6 states
10. Failure to monitor patient vital signs
30 clinics in 10 states
Why it Matters: In an attempt to create a consistent pro-life approach, AUL is implementing a “mother-child” strategy that seeks to legally protect both a mother and also her unborn child. As the UNSAFE report notes,
This approach recognizes that abortion harms both mother and child and exposes the lie propagated by the abortion industry that a woman’s interests are often at odds with those of her unborn child. It further affirms that to effectively protect women, you must legally protect the unborn. Similarly, to protect the unborn, you must protect their mothers
Unfortunately, while this view was dominant among pro-life Christians prior to Roe, too many pro-lifers today reject the “second victim” reasoning that abortion also harms women.
A consistent pro-life position can maintain, however, that a woman who has an abortion may be morally culpable in the taking of an innocent life, yet still recognize that in the interest of compassion and proximate justice (e.g., ensuring the conviction of abortionists) she should be treated solely as a second victim and not as a first accomplice.
In almost all abortion-related jurisprudence since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has emphasized that states have a legitimate interest in protecting the health of women who are pregnant. By applying the Court’s own reasoning, we can help protect women from harm while also limiting the access and ubiquity of abortion.