Alabama Health Board Adopts Some of New Abortion Center Regs

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 22, 2007   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Alabama Health Board Adopts Some of New Abortion Center Regs Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 22
, 2007

Montgomery, AL ( — An Alabama health panel adopted some of the new abortion facility regulations the state health department proposed after it found health and safety problems at abortion business across the state. The committee did not adopt one proposal regarding backup abortion practitioners saying it needed more discussion.

The key component of the health department’s suggestions revolves around a special training program anyone doing abortions in the state must complete.

State Health Officer Don Williamson said the health department, under the new proposal, would only allow someone to do abortions if they received special training from a qualified post-graduate program.

The training would require another certified abortion practitioner to sign off on training and all of the abortions during the program must be done in a hospital rather than a freestanding abortion business.

The State Committee of Public Health adopted the proposal, which becomes effective in 35 days, but put off a vote on whether to require all abortion practitioners in the state to be board eligible or board certified in obstetrics and gynecology.

Williamson said not all doctors who meet that criteria know how to do abortions and he said he would revise language for the committee to consider again in April.

During the debate on the proposals, pro-life groups said they weren’t strong enough while abortion activists complained they were too strict.

Larry Rodick, state director of Planned Parenthood, said a requirement in the proposal that abortion practitioners or their backups must be able to do hysterectomies was unfair. Previously they only had to be able to arrange for the procedure with another physician.

he said it would cause some abortion practitioners to "stop services because they wouldn’t be able to find the backup doctor that meets those qualifications."

Alabama Alliance Against Abortion president Father James Henderson said the state health department’s new guidelines don’t go far enough.

"This is not unexpected. What we saw was a watered-down approach where the state health department grudgingly gave in because of their embarrassment over Summit so finally they had to cave in and do something," he said, according to an AP report.

"We’ll be back with more strong recommendations. We see that they uncovered a few problems, but we’re not convinced that they’re going to follow through and enforce the new rules," he added.

The new proposal comes after abortion businesses ran afoul of current rules.

At one abortion center, the abortion practitioner allowed a staff member to illegally gave a woman late in pregnancy the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug.

Another abortion business did not have a backup physician on hand kept inadequate medical records and conducted poor follow-up abortion care.

Earlier this month, abortion practitioner Deborah Lyn Levich, who worked at the Summit Medical Center abortion facility that was permanently closed in June after state health officials found numerous violations, let her medical license expire.

Levich let Janet Onthank King, 58, give the abortion drug to a woman with severely high blood pressure who needed medical attention. The woman later gave birth to a stillborn baby because the drug is only allowed for use in the early parts of pregnancy.

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."

Following the incident, King fabricated the abortion center’s records in an attempt to cover up what happened.

Authorities arrested King in December and charged her with misdemeanor charges including performing illegal abortions.

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.

Then, in November, state officials found the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives in Huntsville violated 10 different health codes.

The state health department found the abortion center put women at risk by having those who called the facility experiencing medical problems after an abortion routed through to the abortion business administrator rather than a doctor.

Women who had serious bleeding or other complications following an abortion were not put in touch with a licensed physician.

Others were sent home early without allowing them any recovery time following the surgery.

The state health department also said the AWCRA abortion center routinely failed to document the gestational age of the unborn child prior to doing the abortion.