Maryland Health Department to Monitor Abortion Clinics Better

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 1, 2011   |   1:27PM   |   Annapolis, MD

The Maryland Health Department is issuing new regulations that will result in better monitoring of abortion centers in the state to ensure they are following health and safety laws.

Under the new regulations, according to a Baltimore Sun report, abortion businesses must apply for a state license to operate, provide a 24-hour hotline for women considering abortions, and show state officials they have staff qualified to administer anesthesia. They must also present emergency plans for how they will treat women when abortions are botched and complications ensue.

The health department released the new regulations on Friday and abortion centers that fail to comply with then, the Sun reports, face a $1,000 penalty and may lose their license to operate. The public has until mid-August to comment on the new regulations before they become official, but the department says they “reflect the right balance of preserving both safety and access.”

The health department indicated five incidents of botched abortions and problems with the administration of anesthesia during the abortion partly prompted the new regulations.

The rules also follow botched abortion incidents that saw women injured after abortion facility owner Steven C. Brigham drove women from his New Jersey abortion center (where he is not legally allowed to engage in late-term abortions) to his Maryland abortion center to complete abortions. One botched abortion in that unusual circumstance resulted in formal charges by Maryland against abortion practitioner Nicola Riley.

Brigham has no medical license in Maryland and Riley is accused of aiding and abetting Brigham in the unlicensed practice of medicine there. That is also the case with George Shepard of Delaware, who assisted with abortions at the Maryland business and lost his license permanently.

In a document filed in January by the Maryland State Board of Physicians, Riley has formally been charged with fraudulently attempting to obtain a medical license, unprofessional conduct, aiding an unqualified person in the practice of medicine, and lying on her medical board license application.

After Riley perforated the patient’s uterus and pulled out part of her intestine, Riley first contemplated wheeling the semi-conscious woman to the emergency room two blocks away in a wheelchair, but instead persuaded Brigham to drive them there in his private vehicle. Once at the hospital, Riley’s suspicious behavior further delayed emergency care for the critically injured woman, who was later airlifted to Johns Hopkins University Medical Center in Baltimore for emergency surgery required to save her life.

Police were notified and raided Brigham’s Elkton clinic where they found 35 bodies of illegally aborted late-term babies, but not the medical records related to those abortions. The case is similar to the one in which authorities have found Pennsylvania-based abortion practitioner Kermit Gosnell to have killed a woman in a botched abortion and killed newborn babies purposefully born prematurely using a technique that snips their spinal cords.

Troy Newman of the pro-life group Operation Rescue furnished with the information on Riley’s charges and he said Riley, who is based in Utah but contracted with Brigham to do abortions on the East Coast, has attempted to conceal information from the medical board.

The report containing the charges details how Riley lied about a previous felony conviction in order to fraudulently obtain licensure in Maryland.

Operation Rescue has obtained additional open record documents showing Riley has a history of criminal problems that earned her a year at the U.S. Military Prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, and a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Army.

Riley attended the United States Military Academy at West Point but records indicate she pled “no contest” to not reporting credit card fraud perpetrated by soldiers under her command and OR indicates Riley may have been involved the scheme as well. She was sentenced to serve one year at the Ft. Leavenworth military prison after which she received a dishonorable discharge from the Army. Later, Riley eventually returned to school and obtained a medical degree from the University of Utah in 2002.

The group received a redacted copy of Riley’s Utah medical license application from the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing through an open records request. The 37-page document reveals that Riley submitted her application for a medical license in Utah on June 10, 2004, and was granted a license on July 14 of that same year.

Transcripts show that Riley failed the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 three times, finally passing with only five points to spare in 2002 after nearly two years of trying. It took her an additional 15 months to pass steps two and three.

Translating her scores into letter grades, she would have passed with a D grade overall, the records show. In 2004, Riley passed her Utah Controlled Substances Law and General Law exam, with just two points above a failing score.

Riley attempted to conceal the true nature of her crimes by telling the Board that her military records were sealed due to her “top secret security clearance,” which she never had, and by indicating that her records were lost in a fire.

The Maryland Medical Board also discovered that Riley lied to gain acceptance at the University of Utah Medical School after her conviction. Riley stated on her application that she completed her tour of duty in 1992 and “left the military with numerous decorations, a multitude of experiences, and friends spanning the globe.” She never mentioned that part of her “multitude of experiences” included a year of incarceration in a federal military prison.

In May, Utah officials banned Riley from doing abortions there.