Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Whole Woman's Health has history of shoddy practice, legal trouble

Sign outside WWH clinic in Texas
Until last Wednesday afternoon the Whole Woman's Health (WWH) abortion facility in Minneapolis advertised "same-day surgical [abortion] procedures" on its website. Either this was false or WWH was violating state law, which requires a 24-hour period before an abortion can be performed. (It was unlikely that WWH was referring to one-day procedures, since on the same webpage the group advertised "1 day" and "2 day" abortions.) Hours after MCCL brought the matter to the attention of the media and state officials, WWH changed its website to instead read "same-day surgical consult." The group also publicly denied performing "same-day surgical procedures," its website notwithstanding.

Whole Woman's Health is an abortion chain based in Texas, and it only recently opened its facility in Minnesota. The group's track record is cause for concern.

In 2011 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality determined that WWH of Austin and WWH of McAllen were violating Texas law regarding disposal of the remains of aborted children. WWH was putting babies' bodies (and other abortion refuse, including syringes and disposable surgical instruments) into open public dumpsters. WWH was penalized $40,410 (the two clinics combined), and its medical waste vendor $42,612, for a total of $83,022 (see Appendix 1, page 8 of the Texas Commission's Annual Enforcement Report).

In 2012 the Texas Medical Board disciplined two WWH abortionists for violating standards of patient care. They were both fined $3,000 and required to take a medical education course. Many other WWH abortionists have previous disciplinary histories. One abortionist at Meadowbrook Women's Clinic, which became WWH Twin Cities, was previously disciplined by the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice.

WWH in Texas has also been found illegally dumping private medical records. One WWH abortionist was recorded mocking the informed consent information he is required to provide patients, and disregarding the 24-hour waiting period.

"The facility failed to provide a
safe and sanitary environment,"
according to state inspection
In 2007 the Texas Department of State Health Services fined WWH of Beaumont $3,050 for five different violations, including "failure to have licensed nursing staff." A 2011 survey of the Beaumont facility by the Department of State Health Services found numerous and disturbing health violations. The following are quotations from the 17-page report (several parts of the report have been blacked out and remain unknown):
  • "Based on observation and interview the facility failed to provide a safe and sanitary environment."
  • "The facility failed to ensure the staff was trained in sterilization process of surgical instruments."
  • "The facility failed to provide safe equipment in the patient's procedure rooms."
  • "The facility failed to staff the clinic with a registered nurse(s) or a licensed vocational nurse(s)."
  • "The facility administration failed to ensure staff received training, education, and orientation to their specific job description."
  • "There were numerous rusty spots on the suction machine used on the patient for evacuation of the products of conception."
  • "The facility's floor was stained and discolored which give the appearance of being dirty."
  • "An interview with the administrator ... confirmed the bed was broken in room #1, there was a hole in the [floor] in procedure room #2, the floors were stained, and the evacuation plan of the building was not posted for the safety of the patients and employees."
  • "The facility's staff failed to monitor the expiration dates on sterile supplies."
  • "The facility failed to maintain the sterility of the surgical instruments."
  • "The facility failed to have current emergency medication in the emergency crash cart."
  • "The facility failed to provide emergency airway equipment."
  • "The facility failed to follow [federal regulations] concerning portable fire extinguishers."
The Beaumont inspection was possible because Texas law, though far from perfect, at least provides for the licensing and once-per-year inspection of abortion facilities. But Minnesota law does not! We have no way of knowing whether abortion facilities like WWH are meeting basic health and safety standards, and no way of correcting violations in order to protect the health and safety of women. That is absurd, regardless of one's position on the ethics of abortion. It is especially so considering WWH's law-breaking history and the frequent news of unsafe conditions in other abortion centers across the country.