Austin, TX — Angela was twenty weeks pregnant when she walked into a dingy abortion clinic in Santa Ana, California, on August 7, 2004. Her abortion was completed in five minutes with little or no pain relief by an 84-year old abortionist, Phillip Rand, who rotated his time between several clinics throughout Southern California.
When he was done with Angela’s abortion, he got in his car and began the three-hour drive on congested California freeways to another abortion clinic in Chula Vista, near the Mexican border, where he had more patients waiting. But when Angela started bleeding heavily, the two medical aids, who were the only ones left in the clinic, didn’t know what to do. One called Rand and asked him to return to the clinic to help the hemorrhaging women, but Rand refused. He was already an hour or so away and didn’t want to go back and risk losing business in Chula Vista. He told them to call 911 if she got any worse.
Angela did get worse – much worse. By the time paramedics arrived, it was too late. They found her in a pool of her own blood. There was no oxygen or no crash cart at the clinic, but it is doubtful that the two minimally-trained aids would have know how to operate them if they had been available. Angela was transported to a local hospital where she later died.
One paramedic was so incensed by how he found Angela that he reported Rand to his supervisor who, in turn, notified the Medical Board. A signed declaration from the paramedic noted, “This was the worst post-partum patient situation at a medical clinic I have ever encountered during my time as a paramedic.” Twenty months later Rand surrendered his medical license.
For Angela, there was no continuity of care. Rand held no hospital privileges. This allowed him to operate well below the standard of care at the cost of one woman’s life.
In Texas, a new law that requires abortionists to maintain hospital privileges within 30 miles of their clinics is meant to prevent tragedies such as Angela’s.
Last week, Federal Court Judge Lee Yeakel blocked the law from taking effect noting that it was “without a rational basis and places a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a nonviable fetus.”
He should try explaining that to Angela’s family.
Thankfully, on Thursday the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with Yeakel and allowed the hospital privilege requirement to take effect.
The result has been dramatic. By our count, as a result of Thursday’s ruling, 16 abortion clinics have stopped supplying abortions in Texas. There are reports that women who were scheduled for abortions have made decisions to carry their babies to term because of the clinic closures.
Right now, the new law is saving an estimated 50 innocent lives per day and is actively protecting the health of women by closing clinics that dangerously cannot ensure a continuity of care.
Yesterday, Planned Parenthood filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anton Scalia will issue the decision on whether this law will continue to be enforced pending a full trial on the matter. He has given the State until November 12 to file a response and is expected to make his decision soon after.
The New York Times blogged just this morning about the Texas hospital requirement, stating “virtually everyone understands that H.B. 2, the new Texas law that places various restrictions on a woman’s ability to obtain an abortion, is not about protecting women’s health — it’s about stopping abortion.”
To that, we can only refer the Times to cases like Angela’s and to the common practice of “fly-by-night” abortionists who breeze into town, inflict injuries upon women, then hurry off to the next city where more abortion appointments await, leaving hospital ER’s to clean up their messes.
Many states across the country have recognized the dangers to this “circuit rider” practice and have attempted to mitigate them by passing safety laws similar to the one now under litigation in Texas. In Mississippi, a similar hospital privilege requirement was blocked by another judge, allowing the last abortion clinic in that state, Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to continue to operate under risky conditions. All of its abortionists come from out-of-state and none have been granted hospital privileges due to the liability issues surrounding their practice of being chronically unavailable in the event an abortion patient suffers life-threatening complications.
We frequently quote from a declaration by James C. Anderson, M.D. that was filed in support of a Mississippi law requiring that abortionists maintain hospital privileges, abortion clinic emergency plans frequently involve simply sending women to an emergency room and letting the ER staff figure out what happened and how to fix it.
Anderson continued, “As stated earlier, I have worked in local Emergency Rooms across Virginia for over thirty years. When women have come to the Emergency Room with complications related to an abortion, never once have I received a phone call initiated by the provider conveying information about the abortion, the young woman’s condition or potential complications. I have always had to evaluate the situation, come to my own conclusions, and initiate what I thought was appropriate treatment. This definitely created some time delays that were not in the patient’s best interest. I have called many abortion clinic physicians but never once has the provider come to the Emergency Room to assume care. I have always had to call a staff physician. This then creates another delay since the staff physician is taking care of his/her own patients, but now much change his/her schedule to assume the care of someone else’s patient. These delays can have life-threatening implications when dealing with hemorrhage or infection.”
In West Virginia, another emergency room physician has acknowledged the dangers that a lack of hospital privileges can present for women seeking abortions.
“We commonly (I personally probably at least weekly) see patients at Women and Children’s Hospital in our emergency room or our ultrasound center with complications from abortions at these centers in Charleston: so much for ‘safe and legal.’ These patients are told to come to our hospital because the abortion clinic providers do not have hospital privileges to care for their patients, so we must treat them as emergency ‘drop-ins,’” stated Dr. Byron Calhoun, vice chairman of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department at West Virginia University, in a letter he wrote on June 31, 2013, to West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
“No other medical providers are allowed to care for patients, have no backup coverage, and then abandon them to the emergency room,” Calhoun wrote. “We would be held ethically and legally liable. The fantasy of women’s reproductive health care seems to allow these individuals who perform the abortions some special dispensation to provide substandard care.”
So yes, this controversial Texas law is undeniably about protecting the lives and health of women, as well as protecting the lives of innocent babies who can be spared if predatory abortion clinics are prevented from inflicting negligent practices on women. Even some of the most liberal abortion apologists agree that reducing the number of abortions is in everyone’s best interest.
As for this being about depriving women of a so-called “constitutional right to abortion,” this law certainly does not do that. While it is our opinion that every abortion clinic should close and abortion should be criminalized once again, this law was never meant to accomplish that. It was meant to protect as many as it can under the current political climate in our nation. Abortion is still more than freely accessible in Texas though the 25 remaining abortions clinics scattered throughout Texas.
We are hopeful that Scalia will not overturn the 5th Appellate Court and that the law will continue to be enforced, saving lives every day. But even under the unlikely chance that this law is somehow struck down at some future time, the hundreds of babies saved from abortion and the women who were spared from injury by this attempt at reining in a dangerous and out-of-control abortion industry were more than worth the effort. If Angela was alive today, we think she would agree.