Privacy for Me, But Not for Thee

We all know that abortion in America is based upon the so-called Constitutional “right to privacy.”

This privacy, between a woman and her doctor, is to be upheld. When compiling abortion statistics, states are required to make sure that a woman’s name is never mentioned nor any other characteristics that might reveal her identity.

But what happens within the abortion clinic?

In this article we are going to look only at the post-abortion “recovery area,” using several Pennsylvania abortion clinics as a test case.

From the end of May to the middle of June 2012, the state of Pennsylvania conducted its first set of licensing inspections of the 18-22 clinics in that state (currently there are 17 that remain open). Of those 17 clinics, 12 were cited for lack of privacy curtains in the recovery area.

Basically, the recovery area consists of several recliners (usually 5 to 9) in a room where the women recuperate after the abortion until they are discharged to go home.

There the women rest, receive discharge instructions, have their blood pressure taken—and many of them cry.

All of these things are quite personal, and the Pennsylvania requirement for privacy curtains (or screens) makes sense.

What were the responses of the clinics? They originally said they would comply or confer with their architects about how to put up privacy curtains. But some stalled, ignored, or argued about whether privacy curtains were really necessary.

After an inspection on April 29 of this year showed that the Berger and Benjamin abortion clinic in Philadelphia had not yet complied, the facility responded that a woman could request a private recovery area, but facility did not provide privacy as a matter of course.

The Planned Parenthood abortion facility in Allentown was first notified of the need for privacy curtains following an inspection on June 16, 2011. They were notified again on May 2, 2012, but in response, they argued that privacy curtains were not needed, because the women were dressed.  State officials didn’t buy it.

The Allentown Planned Parenthood was notified for a third time of the need for privacy curtains on June 8, 2012, at which point they said they were intending to seek alternative licensing from the American Association for Accreditation of Ambulatory Surgery Facilities (AAAASF).  They were notified for a fourth time on February 7, 2013, at which point they argued that privacy curtains were not needed, because of the alternative licensing.

The Planned Parenthood abortion facilities in Reading, Warminster, and West Chester sought alternative licensing, and received it. This “Class A” licensing is a lower standard than full surgical licensing (“Class B”) designed for surgical centers that do not use any anesthesia except for local. Generally this means that these facilities don’t do later abortions because of the lack of anesthesia, but there is no stated limit beyond the 24 weeks for all abortions in Pennsylvania.

A comparison of the standards of the AAAASF and the Pennsylvania standards for abortion clinics explains why seven clinics sought the alternative licensure available through the AAAASF.

Planned Parenthood of Norristown became a registered clinic only, meaning that it does no surgical abortions, only medical abortions (i.e., RU-486, commonly known as “the abortion pill”). Since the abortions do not occur in the clinic itself, privacy curtains truly are not needed.

It appears that the rest of the facilities complied. One has to ask, though, how they operated for years with so little concern for their patients’ privacy at a time when so many women express emotions of regret following their abortions—often immediately following their abortions.

Is this perhaps a way of using “peer pressure” to keep them from voicing any second thoughts? Does it keep the crying down?

But lest you think abortion clinics have no concern for privacy, the Planned Parenthood Far Northeast Surgical Center in Philadelphia was cited in a complaint inspection on May 20, 2013 for not listing employees’ full names on their name badges, as required by law.

Planned Parenthood’s explanation for only listing first names? “Safety reasons”.

When it comes to their own privacy, they were concerned about their own safety and listed employees’ first names only. Now, if only these clinics were as concerned with the safety of their patients…

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