The Grand Jury report [pdf] on Kermit Gosnell’s clinic sheds interesting light into the issue of regulating abortion clinics.
Pro-aborts have a tendency to scream whenever anyone tries to make abortion meet the same standards as other medical practices.
In August, 2010, for example, pro-abortion advocates decried the memo of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, which stated that the “Board of Health, if it chooses, [can] require the clinics to meet hospital-type standards.” They fretted that 17 of the state’s 21 clinics couldn’t meet the new standards that might be required. Board member Anna Jeng feared such regulations would be “burdensome.”
Governor Ridge Fears Inspections Are a “Barrier”
Until the drug raid on Gosnell, abortion clinics in Pennsylvania had not been inspected in 17 years. Why? Because a liberal Governor thought that keeping abortion regulated would be a “barrier.” In 1993,
the Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all. The politics in question were not anti-abortion, but pro. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay. (p. 9, emphasis added)
(*Note: Page numbers throughout refer to the pages as numbered in the print version; add three to get the correct page of the electronic version.)
Later in their report the Grand Jury again referred to these political excuses. They reported that Janice Staloski, Director of the Home Department Division of the Department of Health, which is responsible for watching over abortion clinics,
blamed the decision to abandon supposedly annual inspections of abortion clinics on DOH lawyers, who, she said, changed their legal opinions and advice to suit the policy preferences of different governors. … [W]hen Governor Tom Ridge came in, the attorneys interpreted the same regulations that had permitted annual inspections for years to no longer authorize those inspections. … DOH’s policy during Governor Ridge’s administration was motivated by a desire not to be “putting a barrier up to women” seeking abortions.
… [Senior legal counsel Kenneth] Brody recalled…: “there was a concern that if they did routine inspections, that they may find a lot of these facilities didn’t meet [the standards for getting patients out by stretcher or wheelchair in an emergency], and then there would be less abortion facilities, less access to women to have an abortion.” (p. 147)
After hearing all the testimony, the Grand Jury affirmed, “the decision not to inspect was a policy decision, not one grounded in the law” (p. 161-162).
Regulation Isn’t an Undue Burden, It’s Common Sense
Underlying this pro-abortion manipulation of the law seems to be the standard imposed by the Supreme Court’s 1991 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which prohibited states from placing any “undue burden” on a woman having an abortion.
So, their frightening logic continues, it’s better to have numerous completely unregulated clinics (high access) than to have fewer, safer clinics (less access).
The Grand Jury rejects this logic repeatedly (as would any rational person, I should think!). For example, they write:
There is no justification for denying abortion patients the protections available to every other patient of an ambulatory surgical facility, and no reason to exempt abortion clinics from meeting these standards. (p. 249)
We discovered that Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has deliberately chosen not to enforce laws that should afford patients at abortion clinics the same safeguards and assurances of quality health care as patients of other medical service providers. Even nail salons in Pennsylvania are monitored more closely for client safety. (p. 137)
Treat Abortion Like It’s Legal
Perhaps the strongest argument made by the Grand Jury, though, is that abortion is legal, so we should treat it like it is:
A second reason proffered by DOH attorneys for not licensing abortion clinics – that abortion is “controversial” — is just insulting. Abortion is a legal medical procedure. Any controversy surrounding the issue should not affect how the law is enforced or whether the Department of Health protects the safety of women seeking health care. (p. 163)
Abortion is legal, and political agendas should not influence how DOH carries out its responsibility to ensure the health and safety of medical patients at all facilities. (p. 165-166)
If abortion is unregulated, it might as well be done in the back-alleys. The lack of regulations (more accurately, enforcement of them) meant there was nothing about Gosnell’s practice that was safer or cleaner than the pre-Roe v. Wade “back-alley butchers” pro-aborts always criticize. So let’s regulate them!
Pro-Aborts Wouldn’t Mind Inspections
Surprisingly, given the backlash to Cuccinelli’s memo approving clinic regulation, pro-aborts interviewed by the Grand Jury gave their approval to plans to inspect and regulate clinics:
The Grand Jury heard testimony from legitimate abortion providers and from abortion-rights advocates, and not one indicated that annual inspections would be unduly burdensome. The doctors we heard from, and the organizations that refer women to abortion providers, told us that the reputable providers comply with all of the state regulations and more. Annual inspections are not an issue with them. Many clinics in Pennsylvania are already inspected by NAF, whose standards are, in many ways, more protective of women’s safety than are the state’s regulations. (p. 148, emphasis added)
The “legitimate” abortion providers again told the Grand Jury that regulations would not be “burdensome”:
[T]he legitimate abortion providers who testified before the Grand Jury told us that they already comply with standards as demanding as those for ASFs [ambulatory surgical facilities]. Abortion rights advocates told us the same thing – that licensing abortion clinics as ASFs would not be burdensome because clinics that are members of NAF, or associated with Planned Parenthood, already comply with the highest standards of care. (p. 162, emphasis added)
So what’s holding us back? I hope Pennsylvania keeps up with the inspections they have re-instituted since the Gosnell raid and I hope other states follow the lead of Pennsylvania and Virginia and make the pro-aborts prove that they really do “comply with the highest standard of care.” That’s something I’d like to see with my own eyes.