Last week, a young woman and her child both died allegedly at the hands of notorious late-term abortionist, Leroy Carhart, in Germantown, Maryland. Texas Right to Life is saddened by these untimely, preventable deaths. We are even more determined to hold negligent abortionists accountable to the law.
What happened to 29-year-old Jennifer Morbelli can happen again, right here in Texas, because of the lax standards to which abortionists and abortion centers are held.
Just like Carhart, abortionists in Texas may operate out of one of many abortion facilities. When abortionists skip from town to town and do not acquire admitting privileges at local hospitals, fatal problems arise. When Carhart’s victim began to suffer complications, the local emergency room was unable to obtain information from either Carhart or the abortion facility. Had Carhart been required to contract with a hospital, Morbelli’s life could have been saved when her symptoms were first realized.
Furthermore, abortion facilities in Texas put the women who visit them at risk of infection, abortion complications, and even death. Currently, abortion centers are required to be inspected just once a year by the Department of State Health Services. Per a freedom of information request, Texas Right to Life obtained inspection reports of all abortion centers in Texas from July 2011-2012, and the results are shocking.
Fourteen abortion centers were cited as having infractions that violated inspections, yet due to the weakness of the current law, only one was fined by the state. Although many of the violations were recorded, much of the reports was blacked out. Below is a summary of the little that is actually legible:
The Reproductive Services Abortion Facility of El Paso was fined for performing two abortions where the unborn child was over the age of 16 weeks, but the center is only licensed to perform abortions up to 16 weeks. The original fine of $1,300 was administered, but was later reduced to only $200.
Another facility, Whole Woman’s Health in Beaumont was the worst violator and had a 17 page report. Several of the pages and plans for corrective actions were blacked out and remain unknown. From the pages that were not blacked out, the inspectors noted that staff was not trained in sterilizing surgical instruments and many sterile instrument packages were found with holes in them. No full-time nurse was on staff as required by state law, and the part-time nurse, who lives in Houston, had never been oriented to the facility. Staff at the center had never been properly trained, educated, and oriented for their job description, facility personnel policies, philosophy, and emergency procedures.
The state found that the center failed to provide a safe and sanitary environment:
- A broken bed in an exam room and uncovered drain underneath;
- The suction machine used for abortion had rust in various spots;
- Floors were stained and discolored;
- 112 curettes in 4 different sizes had expired;
- Staff providing direct patient care was not trained in CPR; and
- The clinic had not followed its own policy on record that outlines decontamination, disinfection, sterilization, and storage of sterile supplies.
State-required evacuation plans were not found posted anywhere in the building and all three fire extinguishers were expired. Employees had never participated in and the facility had failed to conduct fire and disaster drills. However, Whole
Woman’s Health was not fined for any of the violations recorded by the state.
Of the remaining centers, many were cited as unable to keep routine surgical and emergency equipment sterile and up-to-date with staff unable to identify and use emergency equipment. Though the equipment was expired, it was still available for use on women. Many open, expired, and unsecured vials of medication were identified by inspectors. The points below are in addition to many of the violations listed above.
Abortion Advantage – Dallas
- Expired gauges and curettes, some over two years.
- Methotrexate, a medication used for abortion, was open, unsecured, and unlocked in a room, which violates state and federal law.
- This center was recommended for re-licensure.
Routh Street Women's clinic – Dallas
- Cited for having an outdated sonogram machine being used daily on patients;
- Curettes and lancets were in the medical and procedure rooms, expired;
- Manual Vacuum Aspiration syringes had been expired since 2006 and 2007; and
- Medications furosemide and epinephrine, which were located on the emergency crash cart and available for patient use, were also expired.
- No fines were assessed by the state for this clinic.
West-Side Clinic, Inc. – Fort Worth
- 18 abortion patients’ charts showed three patients were released before the clinic assessed vital signs.
- Facility did not have a policy or procedure describing what an attending physician indicates to be “stable vital signs, prior to discharge.”
- Re-licensure of this clinic was recommended.
Suburban Women’s Medical Center – Houston
This center had a seven-page report with the majority of which was blackened or blurred out. Some of the corrective plans for the clinic were legible, giving indication of what the violations were. Requirements include:
- Staff to be properly trained in emergency response and have treatment guidelines posted in patient rooms.
- Medical director must ensure that all equipment will have stickers indicating current maintenance and will arrange to have the suction pump inspected to prevent reverse pump suction.
- No fines were assessed for this clinic.
AAA Concerned Women's Center, Inc. – Houston
Facility failed to have any policies in place for the preparation and storage of medication to ensure safe administration.
- There were many unsecured, open vials and unlabeled syringes throughout the facility.
- Many instrument packages in a treatment room had broken sterile seals and vials containing Lidocaine were not sterile.
- No fines were assessed for this clinic.
Clinics that perform elective abortions in Texas need to be held accountable to the state and the medical community that is responsible for actually serving the health needs of Texan women. This accountability will not occur without new legal requirements.
Abortion advocates wax poetical about being there for women and having their best interest at heart. But do these violations and facility standards bear out that claim?
Abortion facilities need to put their money where their mouth is. And the Department of State Health Services must assure women, and the state of Texas, that the Jennifer Morbelli tragedy does not happen in Texas.