Who’s Keeping an Eye on Abortion Clinics?

Ambulance at Planned Parenthood 

A woman is carried into an ambulance behind a sheet at Planned Parenthood in Aurora, Illinois [Photo by Eric Scheidler, 4/1/11]

Reading yesterday’s Chicago Tribune article about the lack of oversight of abortion clinics in Illinois, a couple things in particular stuck out in my mind:

Also unknown to officials are the types of abortion-related problems experienced by women. Nearly 4,000 reports of abortion complications involving Illinois residents in 2009 were missing the required description.

That’s nearly 4,000 complications in one state, in one year.

Even worse, the article highlighted the deaths of six (6) women, and in at least four of these cases, the abortion facilities “could not confirm” whether they had reported these deaths to the state, as required by law.

Unbelievably — or not, I suppose — Planned Parenthood “said it had no reason to believe the 2002 death [of Maurice Stevenson’s wife] was not reported but that the records were in storage” [emphasis added].

The records were in storage? Seriously?

Would it have been too much trouble for Planned Parenthood to go and get them? (Unless, of course, they knew they didn’t actually report her death…)

Former Public Health Director “Knew There Was Underreporting Going on”

This section of the article is also interesting:

The problem of underreporting isn’t limited to abortion, said John Lumpkin, who left the Department of Public Health in 2003 after serving as director for 12 years. But the agency lacks the funds to address it, he said.

“Whether it’s flu, food poisoning or pregnancy termination, we knew there was underreporting going on,” said Lumpkin, who now directs the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Care Group. “The health department doesn’t have the resources to follow up with every doctor’s office that is reporting food poisoning or flu, nor did it have resources to follow up with every provider of pregnancy termination.”

So after years of epic levels of financial mismanagement in our state, there’s no money available to check up on places where otherwise perfectly healthy women are actually dying, or experiencing thousands of God knows what sorts of “complications”.

This might sound cliché, but where’s the outrage?

Lack of Abortion Oversight: A Nationwide Problem

Of course, lack of abortion oversight is hardly unique to Illinois. In fact, just this week, Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life, and Dr. Donna Harrison, an Ob/Gyn in Michigan, wrote a must-read article, “How Safe Is This Elective Surgery?”, that highlights this very problem.

Forsythe and Harrison begin:

In Kansas earlier this year, legislators trying to look into the deaths of five women got quite a shock: They were told in a March 9 hearing that five women had died after the same elective procedure but, astonishingly, the Kansas Public Health Department could neither confirm nor deny the figures.

They explain that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Guttmacher Institute are the two sources of data on abortion deaths and complications — both of which they call “equally unreliable,” for they both depend on voluntary, not mandatory, reporting.

Note this paragraph in particular:

Most state abortion-data collection is haphazard and relies on the willingness of abortion providers to share their records voluntarily. Some states, like California — which has a quarter of all abortions annually (300,000) — don’t report at all. California, New Hampshire, and Alaska haven’t reported their abortion data to the CDC since 1998. So the CDC data is not much better than “garbage in, garbage out.”

Garbage In, Garbage Out: An Apt Metaphor for Abortion Mortality Data

Former Life Dynamics researcher Christina Dunigan uses this same metaphor in “Abortion Mortality and the GIGO Principle”, in which she explains in layman’s terms how the CDC comes up with its figures:

What they do is very much akin to sticking a bushel basket under an apple tree, checking to see how many apples landed in it, and concluding that this is equal to the total number of apples that fell in the entire orchard. Note that it is NOT akin to counting those apples and then extrapolating the number of apples that fell in the entire orchard based on the size of the basket and the size of the orchard. No. They count what happens to land in their basket, then publish the numbers as if they really represent the total. And they defend the total on the grounds that sometimes people pick up apples off the ground and toss them into the basket, so they’re not counting just the ones that fall straight down.

Forsythe and Harrison go on to observe that due to this wholly inadequate system of record keeping, there is much that we don’t know:

Given the currently available data, even the most basic questions about abortions cannot be reliably answered, including:

How many abortions are done annually in the United States? What are the immediate and long-term risks from abortion? How many women die from surgical and Mifeprex abortions? How many women suffer damage to their reproductive organs after abortion? How many women are hospitalized after botched abortions? How many women commit suicide after abortion? How many women suffer major depression after abortion? How many women experience preterm birth in their next pregnancy because of damage done during the abortion of their last child?

The only people in a position to be able to collect the information needed to answer these questions are, of course, those in the abortion industry and their allies. But for obvious reasons, they’re not telling.

And since no one’s checking up on them, why would they?


UPDATE, 6/27/11: Check out other popular pro-life blog posts from June 2011 at Life Report’s Pro-Life Link Party here.

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