Eric Scheidler speaks at the celebration of the Rockford, IL clinic closing.
In early 2011, a Pennsylvania grand jury issued a report detailing the nightmarish conditions found in Kermit Gosnell’s infamous “house of horrors” abortion facility in Philadelphia.
After reading the entire 300-page report, a Pro-Life Action League volunteer (who humbly prefers to remain anonymous) found herself wondering if any abortion clinics in Illinois might be as bad as Gosnell’s. So she began filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to obtain the most recent inspection reports from all 22 abortion facilities in the state.
Her findings were stunning. Most of the state’s abortion facilities are classified as either Pregnancy Termination Specialty Centers (PTSCs), specializing in first trimester abortions, or Ambulatory Surgical Treatment Centers (ASTCs), which also do late term abortions and are supposed to be subject to higher standards. But it had been over ten years since most of the PTSC or ASTC abortion facilities had been inspected.
Even more shockingly, she learned that nearly half of all Illinois abortion facilities are not even subject to state inspection, since they are not classified as either a PTSC or an ASTC—including all of Planned Parenthood’s Illinois abortion clinics.
In April 2011, our volunteer contacted her state representative and asked him what could be done about the state’s utter failure to perform regular inspections of abortion facilities. Even though her state representative is pro-choice, his office contacted the IDPH, recognizing that women’s health was at stake.
Within weeks, the department began inspecting the state’s nine PTSCs, with dramatic results. Because of health and building code violations, two Illinois abortion clinics have closed permanently, and another facility’s license to perform surgical abortions was revoked.
Notorious Rockford Abortuary CLOSED
On September 29, 2011, the IDPH indefinitely suspended the license of the Northern Illinois Women’s Center (NIWC) in Rockford, after an inspection conducted June 8 “found conditions . . . directly threatening to the public health, safety and welfare requiring immediate, emergency action.” The last inspection of NIWC had taken place fourteen years prior, in 1997.
Although the facility was permitted to remain open while it received a plan of correction, a follow-up inspection conducted on September 15 found that NIWC had failed to clean up its act.
Among other violations, they did not have any nurses on staff, nor did either of its two physicians have surgical privileges with any hospital licensed in Illinois. What’s more, the facility wasn’t properly sterilizing its instruments—an egregious public health hazard.
The IDPH also assessed a fine of $15,000 against the facility, and NIWC’s doors remained closed for the remainder of 2011. On January 13, we learned that the NIWC management had decided to close permanently and pay a reduced fine.
Abortion Chain Closes Facility
On December 1, 2011 the Pro-Life Action League learned that the Dimensions Medical Center abortion facility in Des Plaines—one of seven Chicago area abortion facilities owned by abortionist Vinod Goyal—was closed. But why?
Dimensions was classified as an ASTC, but so far the state had only been inspecting PTSCs. I called the City of Des Plaines to get more information, and I was told I would have to file a FOIA request to obtain any documentation pertaining to the facility. The League immediately filed that request, and later filed a separate FOIA request with the IDPH, which shed light on why Goyal closed Dimensions.
When state inspectors began showing up at the five PTSCs owned by Goyal in May 2011, he knew it wouldn’t be long before inspections of the abortion facilities classified as ASTCs began, too.
Dimensions hadn’t been inspected since 2001. Goyal knew Dimensions was in such bad shape that it would never pass an inspection. Indeed, according to the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, Dimensions reported “flooding issues at the facility, resulting in unsanitary conditions” and “major sanitation issues.” In other words, Dimensions was a dump.
Far more seriously, however, was the fact that Dimensions had a non-functioning emergency generator. Any medical facility that administers anesthesia is required to have a working generator in the event of a power outage, since anesthesia mishaps can be deadly.
It’s clearly no coincidence that Goyal decided to close Dimensions just a few months after state health inspectors started showing up at his other abortion clinics. It’s also clear that if the IDPH hadn’t started inspecting Illinois’ abortion clinics for the first time in years, the dangerous Dimensions clinic would still be open.
Women’s Aid Loses License
In the summer of 2011, state inspectors visited the Women’s Aid Clinic abortion facility in Lincolnwood for the first time in 15 years. No one was more unhappy to see them show up than Women’s Aid co-owner Larisa Rozansky, who told an Associated Press reporter that she felt “victimized by the surprise inspection,” which she called “unfair.”
Inspectors noted numerous violations, including dusty equipment, lack of a supervising registered nurse, and frozen TV dinners stored in a biohazard lab refrigerator. But the most serious violation uncovered by far was Women’s Aid’s failure to perform CPR on a 17-year old girl who died following an abortion there in 2009.
On October 21, the state issued an order prohibiting Women’s Aid from performing surgical abortions and assessed a fine of $36,000—a fine they have still not paid as of this writing. The League has contacted the IDPH repeatedly about the situation, finally learning that the matter has been turned over to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office.
Keeping the Pressure on Illinois Abortuaries
Women’s Aid Clinic is a microcosm of the abortion industry not only in Illinois, but across the country. When a so-called “women’s health” clinic exists for the primary purpose of killing children, it’s no wonder it also demonstrates gross negligence and utter contempt for the law—as routine inspections of these facilities show.
The League has made it a heightened priority to keep this kind of pressure on the abortion industry of our home state of Illinois. The League has been instrumental in garnering mainstream media coverage of the violations going on at Illinois abortuaries, including stories in both the Chicago Tribune and the Associated Press.
We’ve lobbied for passage of the Women’s Health and Safety Act of 2012, which would close the loopholes that allow nearly half of the state’s abortuaries to escape inspection. We’ve hired extra staff to help with our watchdog efforts as the IDPH begins inspecting the ASTC abortion clinics, slated to be completed by year’s end.
It goes without saying that every abortion clinic is a perilous place for unborn babies, and we’d prefer for every abortion clinic in Illinois and throughout the country to be closed forever on that basis. But if we can also show that these places are unsafe for women, we can shut many of them down now, wreaking havoc on the abortion industry and making abortions harder to get.