To those who think that legal abortion means safe abortion, think again. The Supreme Court is currently contemplating important questions surrounding a Louisiana state law requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortionists. Among the amicus briefs submitted to the Court in support of the law are several that outline in compelling detail the health and safety deficiencies of Louisiana abortionists and their abortion businesses.
Deficient doesn’t even begin to describe the conditions in these places. According to a brief submitted by 207 members of Congress in support of the law, “Louisiana abortion clinics… have a long history of health and safety violations, and Louisiana abortion doctors have a long history of professional disciplinary actions and substandard medical care.”
June Medical Services is the abortion business challenging the Louisiana law. In Shreveport, June Medical does business under the name Hope Medical Group for Women. In 2010, an “immediate jeopardy” condition was found there by health investigators for failing to monitor the level of consciousness of patients who were under sedation. The abortionist was also cited for failing to ask patients if they had prior complications with anesthesia.
This is the kind of thing that kills people. Laura Hope Smith died of an anesthesia overdose in 2007 in Massachusetts. Karnamaya Mongar died of an overdose in Kermit Gosnell’s West Philadelphia house of horrors in 2009. At Hope Medical, those serious deficiencies were probably cleared up in the ten years since they were first reported, right?
Wrong. In 2011, the business was cited for failing to document the name and strength of stored medications, and for storing them improperly. In 2012, Hope was failing to clean and sterilize instruments after they were used on patients. The very minimum they could do to ensure their patients’ safety was too much for the abortion workers to take on.
And Hope Medical isn’t the only substandard abortion business in Louisiana. Delta Clinic in Baton Rouge also had an immediate jeopardy finding in 2009 for “failing to follow standards of practice for administering conscious sedation by placing syringes in a non-sterile bag; failing to document medication, time, and dose; failing to monitor cardiac status; and failing to document start and end times of abortion procedures,” according to the brief.
Just last year, Delta had another immediate jeopardy situation when it did not have IV fluids on hand for a patient experiencing heavy bleeding after an abortion. She had to be transferred to a hospital, where she underwent a hysterectomy and had both her fallopian tubes removed. Two years prior, the business was cited for failure to sterilize medical equipment properly.
The Women’s Health Care Center in New Orleans was written up in 2015 when it failed to keep a written record for a woman who continued to have heavy bleeding eight days after a chemical abortion. She ultimately was picked up by a clinic staffer and taken to the hospital. That same year, inspectors faulted the business for failure to disinfect its ultrasound probe. Louisiana’s abortionists are as bad as the businesses where they work. Dr. A. James Whitmore III was aborting children at Delta Clinic when he was found to be using surgical instruments that were “rusty, cracked and unsterile.” For one second-trimester patient, he failed to call an ambulance for three hours. When the patient eventually got to a hospital, she needed a total hysterectomy.
Whitmore is far from the only rogue in the gallery, leading the brief’s authors to conclude: “Louisiana abortion doctors’ multiple professional disciplinary actions for substandard medical care and blatant disregard for their patients’ health and safety—in addition to the numerous health and safety violations of Louisiana abortion clinics— demonstrate that abortion providers’ interests are at odds with their patients’ interests.” A separate brief, filed by Louisiana state legislators, bolsters the arguments made by the members of Congress in their filing.
According to that brief, abortion businesses and the ways they failed women in the state included two that stand out above the others. First, Causeway Medical Clinic in Metairie was cited for violation 14 times between 2007 and when it closed in 2016. Shortcomings included failure to determine viability of a child, not monitoring patients’ vital signs during the abortion procedure, unsanitary conditions, expired medications, and failing to ensure parental consent for their children to procure an abortions. The second, Bossier City Medicad, had been “cited for violations eight times since 2004, including for failing to obtain a controlled dangerous substances license… for not monitoring patients’ vital signs after being given narcotics, and for unsanitary conditions.” This business is also closed.
Abortionist James Whitmore is mentioned in this brief as well, along with Dr. David Lee Golden, who told a woman in excruciating pain to go home and rest. She went instead to a hospital, where doctors found the head of her child still in her womb. She underwent a total hysterectomy.
Dr. Golden appears again in the legislators’ brief. After performing what he suspected was an incomplete abortion on a woman, he kept her, bleeding, on the table for seven hours and then had an employee drive her to the hospital. Physicians, unaware that she had had an abortion, waited three days before performing surgery. The woman’s uterus was torn and her baby’s skull was still inside her. She, too, left the hospital unable to bear children ever again. “These examples illustrate the high cost of Louisiana abortion facilities’ medical incompetence and failure to screen doctors,” the brief states. “Women’s lives are endangered, and their ability to have children is ripped away. The costs are so great and the situation so dire that the legislature felt compelled to act.”
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Louisiana case in June. But even if the justices allow the law to stand and abortionists are required at least to be competent enough to qualify for hospital admitting privileges, our movement will work and pray that women in the state choose other options when facing an unexpected pregnancy. By choosing life for their babies, the life they save may also be their own.
Image: Pro-choice activists demonstrating outside the Supreme Court on March 4, 2020, as the Court hears oral arguments regarding the Louisiana abortion law. (AFP via Getty Images)