By M.H. Cavanaugh
Christian Action League
December 12, 2014
RALEIGH – Last week, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released their proposals of new regulations for abortion clinics. The proposed rules come more than a year after the North Carolina General Assembly passed landmark pro-life legislation meant to prohibit abortion clinics from operating under substandard conditions.
The legislation in its original form would have required clinics to be regulated as stringently as ambulatory surgical centers – something consistent with recommendations resulting from the Gosnell clinic case in Pennsylvania. But opponents of the measure at that time were loud and livid, arguing abortion clinics were already highly regulated and the bill would effectively shut down all but one clinic and lead to “back alley abortions.”
In keeping with a campaign promise not to do anything to further restrict a woman’s access to abortion, Governor McCrory threatened to veto the legislation as it was originally proposed. Therefore, new legislation allowing DHHS to set regulations for the clinics, imposing the ambulatory surgical centers standard only when applicable, was crafted, passed, and signed by the Governor.
“I mentioned as far back as February, I was always concerned the feedback DHHS was getting for setting these rules was over influenced by people who would either protect or be sympathetic with the abortion industry,” said Dr. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “Forgive me for saying, ‘I told you so.’ But, it’s apparent pro-choice advocates won this round. The proposed rules are not consistent with the law’s true essence. I think you can hold the Governor responsible for this loss. The bill he required provided too much room for setting the wolves to watch the sheep.”
Other pro-life organizations are also saying the rules are not enough.
John Rustin of the North Carolina Family Policy Council faults the rules as “far short of what is necessary.” He cites three shortcomings.
- The new rules only make abortion clinics “subject to” annual inspections, but do not require annual inspections to take place; “it only means that the clinics may be inspected annually.”
Rustin says this point is not a minor one because three abortion clinics in Charlotte, Durham and Asheville were temporarily shut down in 2013. “At that time, it became widely known that the Division was only inspecting abortion clinics about three to five years, on average.”
- The newly proposed regulations are too loose when it comes to transfer agreements with a nearby hospital. Transfer agreements are arrangements between the clinics and hospitals that provide patients with a swift means of transfer for emergency care, when, or if needed. The new rules, however, only require that the clinics must document attempts to try and make such arrangements in order to be in compliance with the law. They are not required to have secured such arrangements.
- “Furthermore, the proposed rules would remove an existing requirement that women undergoing an abortion be observed in the clinic for at least one hour after the abortion. Instead, the new rules only require a patient to ‘be observed in the clinic to ensure that no immediate post-operative complications are present,’ and that the patient’s blood pressure and pulse are stable and that bleeding and pain is controlled. As a result, women who have undergone abortions could be discharged too quickly after the procedure.”
Tami Fitzgerald with the North Carolina Values Coalition said, “DHHS’ proposed abortion clinic rules disappointingly fail to meet the standard for clinics intended by the life-saving pro-life reforms we passed last year.
“Our question: Why, even after several abortion clinics have been shut down for unsafe practices, should DHHS continue to allow abortion clinics to operate at a standard that is below any other outpatient surgical facility in the state?”
Fitzgerald names specific shortfalls other than Rustin, such as, (1) no requirement for an anesthesiologist or CRNA to administer anesthesia, (2) the abortion physician is not required to be a board certified OB/GYN, (3) the requirement that materials used to perform anesthesia be clean, sterile and in good working order, and (4) that the doctor performing the abortion provide continuing care for patients that could experience medical complications.
Barbara Holt, president of North Carolina Right to Life, said she genuinely believes a woman’ health needs to be protected, but she questioned the wisdom of legislation focused on making rules stricter for abortion clinics.
“As we have seen in other states,” said Holt in an email to the Christian Action League, “making the rules stricter only makes Planned Parenthood stronger. They have the money to comply and the fly by nights go out of business. Just look at what happened in Asheville. Femcare, one of the abortion facilities that DHHS closed, has now been replaced by a Planned Parenthood facility. No abortion facility, no matter how state of the art it is, is a place we want any mother to visit because it means death to her unborn child.”
There will be a public hearing on the proposed rules scheduled for 9:00 am, Friday, December 19th at the Dorthea Dix Campus in Raleigh. The North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation is also taking written comments until January 30th, 2015 at this link: