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Supreme Court of the United States

Is Access to Abortion More Important than Women’s Health and Safety?

By Denise Burke posted on:
May 31, 2018

“A meat-market style of assembly-line abortions.”That’s how a former nurse at a Delaware Planned Parenthood center described the reality of abortion facility operations in America today.

Abortionists rush procedures at a speed that makes attaining and ensuring patient safety impossible. They routinely and illegally assign patient care responsibilities to unlicensed and untrained staff, while performing abortions in procedure rooms that have not been cleaned and with instruments that have not been properly sterilized.

In significant numbers, America’s abortionists fail to comply with state and federal laws intended to ensure the health, safety, and privacy of the women the abortion industry claims to champion.

This already stark reality will only worsen if the recently proposed facility guidelines from the pro-abortion American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) are applied to the nearly 800 abortion facilities operating in the United States. On May 11, Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) submitted public comments to the proposed guidelines. We argued that, while they may be appropriate for traditional OB/GYN and primary care offices, the guidelines are wholly inadequate for abortion facilities.

Not surprisingly, a working group of abortion advocates put these draft guidelines together: Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), former abortion industry lawyers, and academics who routinely testify against the need for state-mandated health and safety standards for abortion providers.

The ACOG standards provide no meaningful guidance. Instead, they simply reiterate what should be self-evident to highly-educated medical providers. For example, the guidelines state “[f]acilities should perform procedures in exam rooms or procedure rooms.” Well, of course they should! After several pages of similarly hollow standards, ACOG states that facilities that comply with its proposed standards “do not require facility accreditation or facility licensing.”

Essentially, these guidelines claim that state medical officials have no role to play in ensuring the health and safety of abortion-minded women.

But if we learned anything from Kermit Gosnell – the notorious, “house of horrors” abortionist convicted of killing infants who survived late-term abortions – it’s that abortion facilities need more oversight, not less. If adopted, the proposed ACOG guidelines will undoubtedly become the “centerpiece” in a pro-abortion strategy to ensure that abortion providers are able to set up shop anywhere in the country and ply their grisly trade without oversight from state medical officials and without accountability to the women they harm. Abortion advocates will insist that additional state regulation and licensing of abortion facilities are unnecessary, and that ACOG’s empty guidelines should be viewed as the “gold standard” of care by legislators and courts alike.

The likely result of adopting these guidelines will be more abortion facilities, more access to the dangerous procedure, and more women injured by substandard abortion practices.

That the abortion industry prioritizes mere access to abortion over women’s health and safety is apparent in their constant complaints that every city, town, and county in the country does not include multiple abortion providers.

But what does this quest for expanded abortion access mean for American women? Current abortion practice is indisputably at odds with abortion advocates’ repeated assurances that legalized abortion guarantees maternal health. For example, Unsafe: How The Public Health Crisis in America’s Abortion Clinics Endangers Women documents that 227 abortion providers in 32 states were cited for more than 1,400 health and safety deficiencies between 2008 and 2016, including hundreds of significant violations of state laws regulating abortion facilities.

Greater regulation and oversight of abortion facilities and individual abortionists is clearly needed. American women deserve better.

Denise Burke

Denise Burke

Senior Counsel

Denise Burke serves as senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, where she is a member of the Center for Legislative Advocacy.

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