For the few moments required to read that which follows, do something that pro-life individuals may find challenging: Do not think about the baby. Put on blinders, and consider only the safety of the woman seeking an abortion.
After all, according to any pro-choice advocate, that is all that matters. Abortion providers like Planned Parenthood claim to be staunch advocates for women. Let us consider the facts on this issue, centered entirely on the health and safety of women – many of whom are patients I serve as an OB-GYN.
Photo: Texas Heart Institute / Flickr
In the past two years, both Tennessee and Texas state legislatures have passed regulations requiring abortion centers to maintain the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgery centers. Now judicial intervention threatens to circumvent the will of the people in both states.
The state has a compelling interest in holding health care providers and institutions to certain sets of standards that ensure the safety of patients. No one can argue this fact. Both state and federal agencies are involved in making sure that patient safety and the quality of care given are the primary focus of health care regulation. This is not only appropriate – it is desirable.
There is a federal entity called the Joint Commission. All hospitals and surgery centers must submit to inspection by the Joint Commission to prove that they meet or exceed basic safety standards. Inspections occur as scheduled events, but they can also occur as totally random and unannounced events.
The Joint Commission has the ability, if it finds sufficient safety violations, to penalize or even close facilities that demonstrate a significant disregard for patient safety and for the regulations designed to protect patients.
Photo: Daniel Lobo / Flickr
Ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) are places in which patients can undergo a variety of surgical procedures. ASCs are not hospitals, and as such may sometimes encounter situations in which there is a complication such as cardiac arrest. The patient then needs unexpected emergency care to be properly treated; transfer to a hospital may be necessary for the patient to survive.
Consequently, ASCs must be must be properly designed. The centers must be able to accommodate emergency medical crews required to safely transport a critically ill patient to a hospital setting – so they can receive advanced care.
Hallways, doors and operating rooms must be of sufficient size to allow rapid, unobstructed transit of life-support equipment and personnel. When a hallway or a door cannot accommodate a stretcher, or an operating room is so small that the number of people required to move a critically ill patient cannot be present – then a patient’s life is endangered by delays a transport crew may encounter. These are not trivial issues.
Individuals working in an ASC must be able to demonstrate that they have been properly trained and are credentialed to fulfill their responsibilities. Laws and regulations which require ASCs to prepare for the unexpected are in the best interest of the patient, no matter what procedure they undergo.
Photo: Michael Gil / Flickr
ASCs are also required to have and maintain an Infection Control policy that monitors all factors which may contribute to infection, and to pursue follow-up with patients in order to be aware of any infections which may have occurred – so that any risk factors that need attention can be properly handled.
Each month, I am required to complete a form with the ASC at which I have privileges and with the hospital at which I work to help them monitor my patients for post-operative infections.
These are basic safety standards and mechanisms, and are necessary to ensure that all patients coming in for procedures will receive the best care possible.
There are no exceptions to these policies for ambulatory surgery centers. It matters not how far away the next closest surgery center may be. It matters not how far someone may have to travel for care if a particular ASC is closed. It matters not how much these measures may cost the owner/operator of the ASC. Because they are required for the purpose of patient safety and care, there are no exceptions.
Photo: Shawn Whitson / Flickr
Both Tennessee and Texas also have enacted laws that require physicians who will be performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital in close proximity to the facility in which the abortions are performed. It is important to understand the purpose for requiring admitting privileges.
In order for a hospital to grant admitting privileges, a very thorough process is completed. Background checks are performed. Verification of the doctor’s training and education is accomplished. Demonstration of a current license and malpractice insurance coverage is obtained. Recommendations are evaluated.
This ensures that each and every physician on staff at a hospital has demonstrated basic competence and ability. When a patient sees a physician who has privileges at a hospital, then they are assured that the physician has been evaluated and deemed worthy to competently care for patients.
The second reason for requiring privileges is that complications do occur with patients who are undergoing abortion procedures. When a patient has a complication from any procedure, that complication is best cared for by someone with experience in the procedure that caused the complication.
Dr. Brent Boles has admitting privileges near the ASC where he works (Photo Courtesy of Brent Boles, MD)
In the vast majority of cases in which patients have experienced complications during or after abortions, the patient gets no help from the center which performed the procedure and must instead find a physician – most often one with no experience in performing abortions – who will take care of the issue. They often present to an emergency room and see doctors who have no prior experience in handling the complications of abortion.
The ASC where I have privileges requires all doctors who schedule procedures there to have admitting privileges at the adjacent hospital so that any complication that may occur can be handled by the doctor who performed the procedure that resulted in the complication.
These measures exist for the safety and the protection of the patient, in the mantra of primum non nocere – which is the primary medical motto: “First, do no harm.” There are no exceptions to the appropriateness of this directive, though the abortion industry has long operated with such exceptions.
If excellent care of the woman seeking an abortion is, as the abortion industry claims, the most important consideration, then there should be no problem with these standards. The truth of the matter, however, is that the abortion industry has always fought any efforts to hold them to the same basic standards of care that apply to all other areas of medicine and surgery.
Photo: Antitezo / Flickr
The abortion industry does not want to be held to ASC standards because it will have an impact on their net profit; it will force them to be open to inspections and transparent to the public. Those who perform abortions would have no problem obtaining privileges at a local hospital if they were competent and truly care about women they see.
A doctor who has a genuine interest in the patient will want to handle any problem the patient experiences as a result of that doctor’s care. To their credit, some abortion providers have privileges at local hospitals and take care of their patients when admission is required – but many do not, and have resisted all efforts to require them to do so.
Weeks ago, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled in favor of a Texas law requiring ASC standards for abortion clinics and for admitting privilege requirements for doctors. This law was passed by majorities of the duly elected legislators of Texas, signed by the Governor of Texas, and supported by a large majority of Texans.
On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States overruled the people of Texas, its legislators, its Governor, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. SCOTUS has put the implementation of these laws on hold to give the abortion industry time to appeal formally to the highest court; if they take the case, some observers believe it will be “the biggest abortion case at the Supreme Court in nearly 25 years.”
Image: The Radiance Foundation / Facebook
In Tennessee, after successful passage of Amendment 1, the state legislature enacted laws which also require abortion clinics operating in the state to adhere to ASC standards and submit to inspections. There is also a law on the books passed earlier that requires doctors who perform abortions in the state to have privileges at a hospital nearby.
The admitting privileges law is already in force, and the ASC standards law was set to go into effect yesterday. Yet a physician who owns two clinics – one in Nashville and one in Bristol –has steadfastly refused to adhere to any kind of quality standards and has refused inspections. The owner was also once arrested in South Carolina for threatening pro-life demonstrators with a gun.
These clinics would be closed today. But in a case filed in a federal court in Nashville, a judge appointed by President Obama has sided with this owner and has put the enforcement of the ASC standards law on hold. In another case in Memphis, an abortionist is attempting to have the admitted privileges law overturned.
Dr. Brent Boles has delivered thousands of babies over two decades (Photo Courtesy of Brent Boles, MD)
When a court sides with the abortion industry against safety standards, they ignore the principles that govern all other areas of medicine. In effect, they are saying that the profit margin of the abortion industry is more important than the safety of women who seek abortion services.
As a medical provider, the burden is on us in the health industry to ensure the safety of our patients – a level of care consistent for any procedure. My prayer as a Christian father is not only for defenseless unborn lives; it is for the women subjected to medical treatment without care.