A Texas abortion clinic chain whose centers have been cited by state health inspectors is behind the challenge to a state law which requires abortion doctors to have hospital privileges and is set to be heard by the United States Supreme Court. Despite the spin from the abortion lobby, amicus briefs filed by several pro-life groups in the case, document the dangerous conditions of abortion facilities in the state.
Whole Woman’s Health v. John Hellerstedt, MD Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services was filed as a challenge to Texas law HB2, a strict pro-life law passed by the Texas state legislature in July 2013. One provision requires a physician performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the location where the abortion
is performed. A second provision requires all abortion clinics to comply with standards set for ambulatory surgical centers. Pro-lifers point out that HB2 simply requires abortion clinics to come under the same regulations as other surgical centers in the state. Since HB2’s passage, several abortion facilities have closed due to their inability to comply with the law.
In June of 2015, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld both provisions but made a narrow exception for the Whole Woman’s abortion clinic in McAllen, after they were unable to secure required hospital privileges for its abortion doctors.
The issues under review in the case include:
(1) Whether, when applying the “undue burden” standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a court errs by refusing to consider whether and to what extent laws that restrict abortion for the stated purpose of promoting health actually serve the government’s interest in promoting health; and
(2) whether the Fifth Circuit erred in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health – or any other valid interest.
According to their website, Whole Woman’s Health (WWH) currently operates abortion facilities in Baltimore, Fort Worth, McAllen, San Antonio, Twin Cities, New Mexico, and Peoria. Prior to 2013, WWH operated abortion facilities in five different communities in Texas: McAllen, Beaumont, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin. But, since the passage of HB2, WWH reports that they had to stop abortions in Austin and Beaumont. Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Women’s Health, would like to deceive the public that her abortion clinics do not need any more scrutiny. Yet, the State of Texas has found some very concerning issues with WWH abortion facilities.
In 2014, a news report filed by KFDM listed disturbing problems found at WWH’s Beaumont abortion clinic. According to the report, Whole Woman’s Health failed to have some of the same life-saving tools on site that convicted abortionist Kermit Gosnell was cited for in Pennsylvania. (Watch the report below)
The information comes from a 2013 inspection by the Texas Department of State Health Services of Whole Woman’s Health of Beaumont, citing the Beaumont abortion clinic for 13 health and safety code violations.
But, WWH’s failure to have protocols for emergencies was not new.
In 2007, the state of Texas took disciplinary action against Whole Woman’s Health of Beaumont for, “failure to have a written protocol for emergency evacuation for disasters tailored to the Facility’s geographic location,” among other violations.
In 2011, the pro-life group, Operation Rescue released information documenting widespread abuses at a dozen Texas abortion clinics. Among the worst offenders was Whole Women’s Health’s McAllen facility, they stated at the time. Among the disturbing finds were bloody medical waste along with the names of patientsm patient logs and other private information thrown in the trash. (View photo documentation of the evidence with the name Whole Women’s Health clearly evident.) The documentation, which was originally thrown in a trash dumpster near the abortion clinic was turned over to the the attorney general and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. As a result, Operation Rescue was notified that 2 Whole Woman’s Health abortion centers were fined:
Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen was fined at total of $17,430.
Whole Woman’s Health of Austin was ordered to pay a total of $22,980.
According to an article published by National Right to Life News, in 2012 the Texas Medical Board disciplined two WWH abortionists for violating standards of patient care. They were both fined $3,000 and required to take a medical education course. Many other WWH abortionists have previous disciplinary histories, NRTL states citing a case from Minnesota.
A report published in 2013 by Texas Right to Life after they obtained inspection reports of all abortion centers in Texas from July 2011-2012, revealed that 14 Texas abortion centers were cited as having infractions that violated inspections. Included among those infractions was a 17 page list of violations from Whole Woman’s Health in Beaumont.
“Four of five Whole Woman’s Health Clinics have incurred violations against safety laws during the last three years; some of these clinics fell short dozens of times,” TXRTL pointed out later.
Another review of Texas abortion clinics conducted by the pro-life group Texas Alliance for Life also listed several disturbing violations cited by state health inspectors at Whole Woman’s Health in Beaumont. An inspection of WWH dated November 17, 2011 found a long list of violations including (among other things):
“[I]n procedure room #2 there was numerous rusty spots on the on the suction machine used on the patient” for an abortion.
Health inspectors which visited WWH in Beaumont on December 19, 2012 found (among other things) that:
“…the staff was still not knowledgeable in the proper procedure of sterilizing instruments and the facility had an infection control issues.”
“staff members…failed to perform the correct procedure for the sterilization of the surgical instruments.”
But, while the Beaumont abortion facility was one of the worst, violations were also found at Whole Woman’s Fort Worth facility as well as McAllen. In addition, state health inspectors who visited Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio, found that, “Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio failed to implement and enforce acceptable environmental controls in cleaning and preparing instruments for sterilization,” among other violations.
Pro-life briefs filed in the case include ones from the ACLJ, Liberty Counsel, Operation Rescue as well as Live Action. The brief filed by Live Action details Live Action’s investigations as well as published articles that document how abortion is unsafe for women.
Despite the recent passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, oral arguments in the case on are scheduled to begin March 2.