Alabama Health Dept Holds Hearing on Problems at Abortion Centers

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 27, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Alabama Health Dept Holds Hearing on Problems at Abortion Centers Email this article
Printer friendly page

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 27
, 2006

Montgomery, AL ( — The Alabama health department scheduled a public hearing for Monday to allow input into new rules it has adopted for abortion facilities in the wake of health code violations at abortion centers across the state. One abortion business has closed down and two were suspended after health officials found violations.

The Alabama Department of Public Health planned the public hearing for Monday in Montgomery to discuss new rules changes.

State Health Officer Don Williamson said new rules were needed after health inspectors found the problems.

Last week, the Birmingham New Woman All Women Health Care abortion facility agreed to go on probation over several violations found by state health inspectors including tests not being done on women before abortions and the abortion facility’s administrator taking narcotics from the facility for her own personal use.

Some of the violations included patients who were not given medications on time, failing to verify if ultrasound or pregnancy tests had been conducted before abortions, and the administrator’s personal use of the abortion center’s drugs.

The administrator has since been fired and state health inspectors are monitoring the abortion facility’s misuse of the drugs.

"Anybody could have a drug-using employee, but the problem is the administrator’s using the center’s drugs to help her replenish her supply," Rick Harris, director of the health department’s Bureau of Health Provider Standards, told The Associated Press. "That was the problem with the lack of proper management."

The center hadn’t been inspected since July 2004 but Williamson said staffing increases have made it so he can begin doing annual inspections of the state’s nine abortion centers.

Earlier this month, Diane Derzis, the director of the New Woman abortion facility, told AP, it had "nothing to hide" from state inspectors.

New Woman isn’t the first abortion business to have health violations as three other Alabama abortion centers have come under fire.

The Summit Medical Center abortion center in Birmingham closed down in July after a nurse illegally gave a woman late in pregnancy the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug. Afterwards, it fabricated its health records in an attempt to cover up what happened.

The woman Summit gave the abortion drug to had a severely high blood pressure and needed medical attention, and 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.

Levich and King have been prohibited from working with each other again after Levich allowed King to dispense the abortion drug.

At Summit, state health 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 finding problems at Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery.

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

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

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.