Forty Years After Roe, Back Alley Abortions are Now on Main Street

Opinion   |   Anna Higgins   |   Mar 28, 2013   |   2:56PM   |   Washington, DC

Prior to Roe, our society was fed the line by pro abortion advocates that in order to rid ourselves of dangerous “back alley” abortion procedures, abortion must be legalized. Forty years later, the practice of abortion remains unsafe, unsanitary, and largely unregulated. What we no longer have, however, is the voice of abortion proponents crying out for safer procedures.

Now that abortion has been legalized, it seems these ardent pro-abortionists no longer have a real interest in seeing to it that abortions are performed in safe, regulated environments. In fact, it is the leaders of the pro-life movement who are standing up for women exposed to horrific conditions in abortion facilities. Abortion proponents, on the other hand, are coming out of the woodwork to oppose such safety measures.

This month the notorious abortionist, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, is on trial for seven counts of first-degree murder as well as multiple counts of conspiracy, criminal solicitation and violation of a state law that forbids abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy, following a federal drug raid that revealed much more than prescription drug violations. The raids revealed “blood on the floors, parts of aborted children stored in jars… padlocked emergency exits and broken and inoperable emergency equipment,” (AUL, Defending Life, 2012). The murder charges stem from the death of one adult patient and the discovery that Gosnell had been delivering live babies and killing them by severing their spinal cords with scissors. One employee testified at trial that she, Gosnell, and other employees did in fact cut the spinal cords of a dozen babies. Perhaps the most chilling fact of all is that Gosnell’s clinic was left to operate completely uninspected by state health officials since 1993, despite numerous complaints.

Unfortunately, this scenario is far too common. Even states that impose abortion facility regulations rarely inspect or require complication reporting. For example, Maryland recently enacted new abortion clinic restrictions, under which Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s abortion facility, Germantown Reproductive Health Services, was licensed. Although it was issued a license under these more stringent regulations, the clinic was never actually inspected.

On the heels of this licensure, Carhart performed a late-term (33 week gestation) abortion on a 29 year-old woman who subsequently died of complications from the procedure. Because of such lenient inspection and reporting requirements around the nation, it is impossible to know how many facilities continue to operate under sub-standard, dangerous conditions. As we now know from experience, these dangerous and unsanitary clinics are likely to remain open until another preventable tragedy takes place.

If abortion activists are so concerned about women’s safety and health, it is time they support of common sense measures that require abortion facilities to meet the standards applied to other medical facilities. Abortion, like any other surgical procedure, poses many risks which are complicated by an unregulated environment. Abortion also presents complications that far exceed those of other procedures. As stated by the Supreme Court in Harris v. McRae, abortion is the only medical procedure that “involves the purposeful termination of a potential life.” For that reason, it is distinguishable from any other medical procedure, and can be held to high standards of regulation by states.

Currently, the Virginia Board of Health is considering regulations passed by the General Assembly requiring stricter standards for abortion facilities, including hospital construction standards. The Board is receiving public comment until March 29th, at which time they will vote on the new regulations. If you are a citizen of Virginia, consider acquainting yourself with these new standards and adding a comment in support of tougher regulations. You can post comments here.



The legalization of abortion has done nothing to improve the health of women. In fact, it has detrimentally affected women’s physical and mental well-being. As we work to end the evil that is abortion, we should be vigilant to enact common sense measures that limit the risks posed to women, children, and families by these unregulated clinics.

LifeNews Note: Anna Higgins writes for the Family Research Council blog.