This week's legally outrageous Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt decision has undermined efforts to hold the abortion industry accountable and to safeguard the health of pregnant women. To see the real tragedy of the Supreme Court's ruling, consider the lead plaintiff in the case, whose name will now forever be tied to this appalling decision.
Whole Woman's Health (WWH) is a Texas-based chain of abortion centers that expanded to Minnesota in 2012. WWH is now the second-leading practitioner of abortion in our state (behind only Planned Parenthood).
WWH's track record in Texas shows why the Texas safety provisions struck down by the Court were important—and why WWH was so committed to stopping them. Justice Samuel Alito, during oral arguments back in March, noted that there had been "instance after instance where Whole Woman's facilities have been cited for really appalling violations when they were inspected. Holes in the floor where rats could come in, the lack of any equipment to adequately sterilize instruments." (Alito went on to vigorously dissent from the Court's awful ruling.)
Indeed, WWH has been cited many, many times for health code violations. In 2007, for example, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) fined WWH of Beaumont $3,050 for five different violations.
In 2011, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality fined WWH of Austin and WWH of McAllen $40,410 for illegally disposing of the remains of aborted children. 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.
A 2013 inspection of the Beaumont clinic noted that "the facility failed to provide safe and sanitary equipment in the patients' procedure rooms." Inspectors found "numerous rusty spots on the suction machines used on the patient" that had "the likelihood to cause infection," according to the DSHS report. They also found "expired drugs," unlabeled "pre-filled medication cups," and "a large hole in the cabinet flooring ... [that] had the likelihood to allow rodents to enter the facility." The DSHS concluded: "[T]he facility failed to provide a safe environment for patients and staff."
A 2013 inspection of WWH of San Antonio determined that it "failed to implement and enforce acceptable environmental controls in cleaning and preparing instruments for sterilization." An inspection that same year of WWH of McAllen found that "personnel ... were not following proper sterilization procedures." In 2014 and 2015, inspectors uncovered numerous safety violations at WWH clinics in Austin, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and McAllen.
Year after year, clinic after clinic, WWH never seems to get its act together. This should be especially concerning for Minnesotans. Unlike Texas, our state does not license or inspect abortion facilities at all—we have no way to determine if WWH has imported its shoddy conditions and practices into Minnesota.
Whole Woman's Health and other abortion facilities must be held to a higher standard. Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt has, sadly, made it more difficult to do so.