Alabama Will Change Abortion Facility Regulations After Center Violated Law

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 10, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Alabama Will Change Abortion Facility Regulations After Center Violated Law Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
August 10, 2006

Montgomery, AL ( — The Alabama state health department is planning changes to the state’s law regulating abortion businesses after one facility closed down following a botched abortion. The Summit Medical Center in Birmingham closed after a non-doctor gave a woman with a late-term pregnancy the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug and falsified its records of what happened.

The woman, who had a severely high blood pressure and needed medical attention, later gave birth to a stillborn baby.

Rick Harris, who directs the department’s Bureau of Health Provider Standards said current rules are apparently not clear enough for abortion facilities to understand and implement.

He would not tell the Associated Press which rules were unclear but said that proposed changes to state law would be ready in 45 days.

The rules change comes after representatives of pro-life groups and pro-life former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore met with state health authorities.

Harris told AP that the state health department investigated three of the nine abortion centers in Alabama and the results show a need for updated regulations.

The Alabama Department of Health suspended Summit’s medical license on May 17 and it closed down when it surrendered its license on June 14.

Only a doctor is supposed to dispense the dangerous abortion drug and the mifepristone pills are only intended to be used in the early stages of a pregnancy. The woman went to an emergency room six days later and gave birth to a 6-pound, 4-ounce stillborn baby.

The state medical board has also temporarily prohibited abortion practitioner Deborah Lyn Levich and Summit Medical Center nurse Janet F. Onthank King from practicing medicine.

Levich and King have been prohibited from working with each other again after Levich allowed King to dispense the abortion drug, as only licensed physicians are allowed to do that.

Levich routinely traveled from her home in Marietta, Georgia, to do abortions at the Birmingham facility but was not present when King gave the woman the abortion drug. Summit was later found to have falsified its records by saying King was present and falsely stating an ultrasound was performed on the woman before she took the abortion pill.

State officials said they found "egregious lapses in care, including non-physicians performing abortions, severely underestimating the gestational age of a fetus, failure to appropriately refer or treat a patient with a dangerously elevated blood pressure, and performing an abortion on a late-term pregnancy."

"That’s not something we do very often," Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer, told the Birmingham News of revoking the abortion center’s license. "The incident involved multiple and serious violations of the rules. There was no other means to address it except an emergency suspension."

"She was almost certainly in the third trimester and near term," Williamson told the News about the woman. "What’s clear here is that it wasn’t used appropriately," he said of the abortion drug.

According to the suspension order obtained, the woman had a "critical and dangerously high" blood pressure reading of 182/129.

"That in and of itself would have demanded immediate medical attention," Williamson said. Instead, the staff went ahead with the abortion.

Summit Medical Centers operates seven abortion businesses in five states and has another abortion center in Montgomery, Alabama.

It is the abortion business that employed Malachy Dehenre, who lost his medical license in both Alabama and Mississippi because of botched abortions.