Legislators in North Carolina did the right thing in July 2013 when they voted to raise the quality standards for abortion clinics in the state.
The hand-wringing response from the abortion industry was entirely predictable, with Planned Parenthood’s vice president for public affairs, Melissa Reed, calling it “the most restrictive access to safe and legal abortions this state has ever seen.”
That was then.
Inviting the Fox to Guard the Henhouse
But now, more than a year an a half later, the North Carolina abortion industry is perfectly fine with the proposed regulations, which were submitted by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services December 1. The public comment period on the new rules ends (January 30).
Why such an about-face?
The new legislation authorized the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to propose new regulations governing abortion clinics. Incredibly, the DHHS actually invited employees of Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics to be part of the committee that drafted the proposed new regulations that are now under consideration.
There are enormous problems in the proposed rules. Today, our executive director, Eric Scheidler, submitted a 6-page letter [PDF] to the North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation detailing the Pro-Life Action League’s objections.
Our three major objections are outlined below.
1. We object to the drastic reduction in the retention of medical records by abortion clinics, particularly as concerns minors.
Currently, North Carolina law requires that medical records for women who have abortions must be retained for 20 years. Under the Proposed Rules, that number would be reduced to 10 years.
Even more troubling, though, is the proposed rule change regarding minors’ medical records. According to the proposed rules, a minor’s medical records may be destroyed by an abortion clinic three years after she turns 18, meaning that a minor girl could get an abortion at age 17 and have her medical records destroyed less than four years later.
In our letter, we urge the North Carolina DHSR to require that medical records be retained for 20 years after a minor turns 21. There is no good reason for shortening the period unless the purpose of the rule change is to lessen abortion clinics’ liability.
2. We object to the removal of the rule that medical or nursing staff must accompany a patient transferred from an abortion clinic by ambulance.
Under current North Carolina law, abortion clinics are required to have a medical staff member or nurse accompany a patient by ambulance in the event of an emergency. Under the proposed rules, that requirement is done away with.
Moreover, under the proposed a rules an abortion clinic is not required to obtain a written transfer agreement with a nearby hospital as long as it provides “documentation of its efforts to establish such a transfer agreement with a hospital.”
In other words, an abortion clinic simply has to try to obtain a transfer agreement with a hospital. It doesn’t actually have to succeed.
No wonder the abortion clinics like the proposed regulations.
3. We object to the “grandfathering” of abortion clinics that fail to meet building code requirements.
The proposed rules call for building code requirements to be applied only to “new clinics and to any alteration, repairs, rehabilitation work, or additions which are made to a previously certified facility.” This will not improve safety at all. In fact, it may actually worsen safety because an abortion clinic may put off a needed repair or other work specifically to avoid having to comply with building code requirements.
For example, the requirement for corridor width for clinic facilities was amended to be a minimum of 60 inches in 1994, but this was never enforced because a “new facility” was defined as one that was not certified as an abortion clinic as of that date. As a result, many, perhaps most, abortion clinics have been exempt from meeting this standard for over 20 years. Under the proposed rules, they will be grandfathered in again.
Make Your Voice Heard TODAY
The public comment period on the proposed rules ends January 30, so we are asking you to voice your objections by email to the North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation today—especially if you are a North Carolina resident.
In your message, say the following:
I am writing to object to express serious concerns about the currently proposed rules for abortion clinics.
Chiefly, I object to:
1. The drastic reduction in the retention of medical records by abortion clinics, particularly as concerns minors.
2. The removal of the rule that medical or nursing staff must accompany a patient transferred from an abortion clinic by ambulance.
3. The “grandfathering” of abortion clinics that fail to meet building code requirements.
These objections are explained in more detail in a letter previously submitted by the Pro-Life Action League.
Submit your comments no later than 5:00 p.m. Eastern time, January 30. Email to: [email protected].