Alabama Adopts New Rules After Abortion Facilities Violate Health Codes

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 26, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Alabama Adopts New Rules After Abortion Facilities Violate Health Codes Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
September 26
, 2006

Montgomery, AL ( — The state of Alabama has adopted new rules designed to improve the health and safety of abortion businesses after two facilities violated existing health rules and placed women’s health in danger. The violations resulted in one abortion center closing and another temporarily out of business.

Last week the State Committee on Public Health adopted the new regulations.

The new rules require doctors to be present at an abortion business at all times until all patients have been discharged. Backup physicians must notify the abortion facility 72 hours in advance of an expected absence and no abortions can be done when a backup doctor is unavailable.

State Health Officer Don Williamson told the Birmingham News that the new regulations "demonstrate our expectation that patients who have abortions will receive the same level of care and follow-up from their physician that any patient has a right to expect."

Though the state instituted the new rules in response to the problems at the abortion centers, the newspaper, in an editorial, said the rules will only be effective if the abortion businesses follow them.

"Rules only help to the extent they are followed. The problems uncovered at Summit and, later, Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery weren’t so much a problem of no rules as of rules not being obeyed," the paper wrote.

"It’s crucial the Department of Public Health doesn’t let up its efforts to monitor and inspect abortion clinics as it has since the Summit’s frightening fiasco," the paper added. "This isn’t a matter of harassment, but of protecting the lives of women these clinics claim to serve."

Earlier this month, state health officials postponed a hearing on the suspension of a license of the Reproductive Health Services abortion facility in Montgomery. The abortion business lacked proper emergency care for women who may suffer from botched abortions.

Because the facility says it is working on making improvements, State Health Department attorney Pat Ivie said the agency decided to postpone a hearing.

The Alabama Department of Health suspended RHS’s license in August saying that the abortion business also did not have a backup physician on hand kept inadequate medical records and conducted poor follow-up abortion care.

Previously, the health department had set up a September 18 hearing on the suspension but Ivie told the Associated Press that the abortion center showed a plan for correcting the abuses.

Ivie indicated RHS must satisfy its requirements and sign a consent agreement to abide by the state health rules before it can reopen.

RHS closed on the heels of state officials shutting down the Summit Medical Center abortion facility in Birmingham. SMC was closed in July after a nurse illegally gave a woman late in pregnancy the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug. The abortion center then fabricated its health records in an attempt to cover up the incident.

The woman Summit gave the abortion drug to had a severely high blood pressure and needed medical attention, later gave birth to a stillborn baby. According to the suspension order obtained, the woman had a "critical and dangerously high" blood pressure reading of 182/129.

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.

At Summit, 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."

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.

Following the incident at Summit, the state began inspecting the state’s other abortion facilities, which led to the findings of the problems at RHS.