Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-3 against abortion clinic health and safety regulations in Texas. Justice Stephen Breyer’s opinion in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt will continue to allow substandard and dangerous abortion clinics to operate throughout the country. The majority opinion cited reasonable health regulations as an “undue burden” on women’s health because many Texas abortion clinics will close after failing to meet basic health and safety standards.
Today’s decision is disappointing, but unsurprising. Abortion advocates routinely talk about women’s health, but repeated evidence shows how they will look the other way when it comes to dirty and dangerous abortion businesses.
The case centered on two provisions of Texas state law. The first requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. The second regulates Texas abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers.
Hospital admitting privileges are necessary to provide a continuum of care for women who experience botched abortions. The abortion industry objects to the rule because some hospitals refuse to grant privileges to abortionists with a history of substandard and unprofessional care.
Ambulatory surgical centers are defined in Texas law as facilities that operate primarily to provide surgical services to patients who do not require overnight hospital care. Surgical abortion clinics plainly meet that definition and should not receive special treatment because of their political status. These are simple regulations that ought to be unobjectionable, like having hallways wide enough to fit a stretcher through and making sure surgical rooms are properly sterilized.
The practical effect of Justice Breyer’s opinion is that dangerous and unsanitary clinics must be allowed to continue operating if there are no other abortion clinics nearby. Five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are now in charge of health regulations at abortion clinics, not state regulators.
Numerous cases in recent memory show how a lack of regulatory oversight puts the health of women in danger. In the case of abortionist and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell, Pennsylvania authorities allowed Gosnell to operate on women in filthy conditions for years. This negligent atmosphere directly led to the death of one of Gosnell’s patients, Karnamaya Mongar. Emergency medical technicians were unable to navigate her stretcher through Gosnell’s clinic following a botched abortion.
Many states have experienced similar problems, including Michigan. City of Muskegon officials closed Women's Medical Services in 2012 after discovering unsterilized medical equipment, improper disposal of syringes, numerous leaks in the roof and widespread general filth. If veterinary clinics were allowed to operate like that, there would be public outrage. Why do abortion clinics get special treatment?
Michigan’s Bureau of Health Systems (BHS) conducted only three onsite surveys of abortion clinics from 2007 to 2009. BHS cited all three for noncompliance with state surgical facility requirements regarding equipment sterilization, maintenance of a sterile environment, and sterile pre-op handwashing. All three continued operating despite unsafe conditions.
Justice Breyer’s decision relied heavily on statistics from abortion clinics to substitute his own judgement for that of state regulators. In Michigan, however, abortion clinics routinely fail to report patients’ complications, including even patient deaths.
Right to Life of Michigan compiled an in-depth report at the beginning of 2012 showing multiple abuses by the abortion industry in the state, as well as state regulatory failures. Michigan began reform efforts to address these serious problems on December 28, 2012 with passage of the Prolife Omnibus Act.
How many more women have to be subjected to unsafe and unsanitary conditions in abortion clinics before pro-abortion justices and officials will do something about it?