- - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When you go to the doctor’s office, walk-in clinic or outpatient-surgery facility, you expect the facility to be an environment that meets basic standards of health and safety. You assume the staff is well-trained, the examining room is clean, and the equipment sterilized.

Imagine then, finding out that public health officials had inspected your doctor’s office and found blood splatter on examination tables, equipment and doorways, and unsterilized equipment. Or that your doctor failed to wash his hands between patients. Or that his staff was untrained in basic emergency-resuscitation procedures. Or that there was no way of knowing if the drugs your doctor was giving you had expired because his office didn’t bother to keep accurate records. Is that a doctor’s office or medical facility to which you would want to return or send a family member?

If so, Virginia’s abortion centers are ready for you. According to inspection reports by public health officials, these centers were found to have well over 100 health and safety violations, including those listed above. Unfortunately, while focusing on the construction standards included in the health and safety standards, the abortion industry and its apologists in the media have almost completely ignored the bloodstained and unsterilized equipment, untrained staff and host of other health and safety failures. While the construction standards are necessary to improve access for emergency personnel and equipment when medical emergencies take place, the rest of the standards about to be voted on by the Virginia Board of Health are basic to any medical facility that puts its patients ahead of its profits.

The $1 billion abortion industry has argued that it does not need public health oversight, that abortion is safe, and that the proposed standards are “politically and religiously motivated.” At a recent public hearing in Alexandria, abortion industry representatives continued to make similar claims. All of their rhetoric, however, ignores or attempts to cover up the very real and very revealing violations of even the basic health standards found in every abortion center in Virginia.

Prior to emergency standards adopted by the board last year, facilities where abortions take place were not required to meet any health or safety standards. They were not inspected by anyone, nor were they licensed. What really happens inside these centers has been anyone’s guess.

The abortion industry continues to claim that it is safe, but inspection reports are indisputable evidence that their idea of safe is far different than any reasonable person could claim. Perhaps more frightening, the inspections were announced, meaning operators of these facilities had time to prepare for inspections and thought their facilities were clean and safe. What other medical practice sees blood-splattered equipment as safe?

Some industry representatives claim they support regulations, but say that the proposed Virginia standards “go too far.” In fact, for several years they adamantly opposed legislation before the Virginia General Assembly that would have required only licensing, inspections and emergency equipment. Now we know why. The discovery of widespread violations of health and safety in the inspections — inspections the industry fought so hard to stop — reveals that it has no credibility when it comes to which regulations are necessary and which are not. An industry that has covered up for two decades the kinds of problems found in the inspection reports does not deserve to be listened to when it comes to how it should be regulated.

Moreover, these violations are not isolated. Indeed, there is a pattern of disregard for health and safety by the abortion industry across the nation. Recently, three abortion centers in Maryland, a state with lax standards, were closed by public health officials because of continuing violations. The clinics are operated by Dr. Steven Brigham, a notorious abortion operator who also owns two abortion centers in Virginia, including one in Fairfax that had multiple violations of health and safety standards.

The owner of one abortion center in Richmond found to have multiple violations has had several abortion centers she owns in other states closed because of health violations. The pattern of a complete lack of concern for basic health care by these owners of Virginia abortion centers is more evidence that these standards are needed and that public health officials must protect the women of Virginia.

Despite the hysterical claims of some, nothing in the proposed health and safety standards forces an abortion center to stop providing other health care services should they refuse to meet the standards for performing abortions. Such rhetoric exposes the reality that they are in the business of abortion and not health care. Clearly, they have not been in the business of clean facilities and trained staff. For that, we need the proposed health and safety standards now before the Virginia Board of Health made permanent.

Victoria E. Cobb is president of the Family Foundation of Virginia.