- - Monday, July 4, 2016

Is patient safety the collateral damage of the Supreme Court’s abortion-friendly ruling Monday in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt?

Certainly women seeking abortion no longer have the right to expect quality care now that five ideologically driven, appointed-for-life justices have decided that access to abortion is more important than patient safety. Abortion profiteers all over the country who are subjected to the onerous burdens of clinic standards and hospital admitting privileges for their doctors are no doubt spending this week deciding how to cut patient safety standards in an effort to increase profit.

But what about those who operate ambulatory surgery centers? Why should they have hallways and exam rooms big enough to fit gurneys? Why must their physicians have hospital admitting privileges? Is it really necessary to sterilize equipment after every patient?

These are the standards that Amy Hagstrom Miller, owner of a chain of abortion clinics in five states, including three in Texas, decided she could not meet, but which ambulatory surgery centers in the state must:

• The construction and design, including plumbing, heating, lighting, ventilation, and other design standards necessary to ensure the health and safety of patients.

• The qualifications of the professional staff and other personnel.

• The equipment essential to the health and welfare of the patients.

• The sanitary and hygienic conditions within the center and its surroundings.

• A quality assurance program for patient care.

When Ms. Hagstrom Miller crunched the numbers and saw that she and other abortion salesmen would have to spend some of their blood money to upgrade, she sued. And, to the shock and chagrin of many of us gathered outside the Supreme Court on decision day, she won.

The case never had a chance in the court of public opinion. The abortion lobby and its media chums made it all about access, and how far some women would have to travel to abort their children, but it was never about access. If Ms. Hagstrom Miller owned a chain of facilities that performed arthroscopic knee surgery, sanitary surroundings and essential equipment would be expected. It’s only when we get to the fractious issue of abortion that proper lighting and ventilation could possibly be seen as unnecessary.

Can ambulatory surgery centers file lawsuits now to rid themselves of these regulations? That remains to be seen. But what we do know is that it’s a sad day in America when the voices of women who have been physically harmed by abortion are silenced, and June 27, was that day.

On behalf of the women of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, Priests for Life submitted an amicus brief in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt describing their experiences before, during and after abortion.

In the brief, one woman describes the clinic where her child was aborted: “The walls behind the privacy screen were splattered with blood. There were pools of blood on the floor.”

Another woman describes an abortion that left her hemorrhaging, with clinic personnel instructing her to go to the hospital. They wouldn’t even call an ambulance.

A third woman was sent away from an abortion business, told it was too early to abort her child. When she returned a week later, she was told she was 16 weeks pregnant and had to have a riskier, more expensive procedure. When she balked, a “doctor” decided she was just 12 weeks and could have a first-trimester abortion.

This is the reality of abortion, repeated thousands of times a day across the country. But Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy decided to ignore this reality and vote in favor of access over patient safety.

As Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his dissent: “By second-guessing medical evidence and making its own assessments of ‘quality of care’ issues, the majority reappoints this Court as ‘the country’s ex officio medical board with powers to disapprove medical and operative practices and standards throughout the United States.’ “

It’s true that when Texas legislators passed HB2 in their now-famous 2013 summer of discontent, they surely knew some clinics would likely close because they were so poorly run that they represented a danger to the public. If we were dealing with anything other than abortion, there would be across-the-board agreement that closing shoddy facilities is right and just. But, since the subject is abortion, the law became just another unwanted presence in the sacred relationship between a woman and her abortionist.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz told reporters after the decision Monday that “Our bottom line is that a decision on women’s health should be made by that particular woman. And this is an individual, private matter and one that shouldn’t be subject to government intrusion.”

Why is it OK, then, for the government to demand standards from some medical providers but not from others?

“Because it’s abortion” is not enough of an answer and this issue is too important to just shrug off. If we want a Supreme Court that doesn’t make medical decisions or trample over state’s rights, we have to vote wisely in the upcoming presidential and Senate elections, in the hope of getting a court whose concern is the law.

• Janet Morana is the executive director of Priests for Life, co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign and author of “Recall Abortion” (Saint Benedict Press, 2013).

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