The big news for most mainstream media (here, here and here) was that the Rockford Women's Center will re-open as part of a consent decree to clean up its act. But the bigger news is that the Illinois Department of Public Health finally got around to enforcing public health laws when it comes to abortion clinics (or "pregnancy termination centers" as some news reports would have it) and forced the Rockford clinic to fix violations by state inspectors.
The Rockford clinic had gone without a health inspection for an astonishing 14 years, until complaints forced the health department to finally act. A department spokesman blamed a "lack of resources" for this outrageous--what shall we call it?--oversight. But it doesn't surprise me because the abortion industry has opposed any public health oversight, even though surgical procedures are performed in the clinics.
Here's the stunning background, demonstrating how the abortion industry is so extreme that it fought to have its clinics exempted from health regulations. (It would limit women's "choice" don't you know.)
Illinois had passed a law requiring clinics to abide by medical, health and safety rules following an 1978, award-winning Chicago Sun-Times investigation called Abortion Profiteers that found serious health conditions in abortion clinics, including some prominent ones on Michigan Ave.
But those regulations were challenged by a Rockford clinic in a lawsuit, Turnock v. Ragsdale. The suit worked its way all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and in 1989, just a few weeks before the court was to hear oral arguments, the abortion industry finally agreed that that the state has a right to set minimum health standards to protect women having abortions. Some observers believed that the abortion industry agreed to the settlement because of fears that the high court would amend the landmark Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions that had legalized elective abortions any time during pregnancy.
Among the provisions of the 1989 agreement was the requirement that physicians performing abortions in the clinics must have surgical privileges at a licensed hospital. Now that was something that the Rockford Women's Center failed to document.
The long-delayed state inspection of the clinic found other, what it called, "egregious health and safety violations." The violations were serious enough to cause the department to issue an "emergency summary suspension" of the clinic's license, forcing an immediate shutdown. Among the violations were multiple failures to meet "professional standards," failure to ensure that a registered nurse was present during all surgical procedures, failure to have a registered nurse supervise all nurses and unsanitary conditions in the surgical facility. (Last week's consent decree is here.)
The department's findings in the current Rockford case are worthy of a newspaper investigation, but they drew little attention in the Chicago media. But more disturbing is the Illinois Department of Public Health's failure to adequately enforce the state's 1989 consent decree. This either is an unacceptable level of nonchalance and indifference. Or, worse, as I suspect, a conscious decision to simply ignore the regulations based on political or ideological considerations.
In any case, the state finally acted. But the episode raises another, more troubling, possibility. Is the state adequately investigating all Illinois abortion clinics, as required by law. Maybe some enterprising reporter will look into it.
That's a legitimate concern considering how the settlement was disclosed. This from onenewsnow.com:
Peter Breen of the Chicago-based Thomas More Society admits he is a bit surprised by the settlement -- the terms of which have remained confidential -- and the statement by the attorney for the abortion clinic.
"When you have violations cited by the state that include unsanitary conditions in operating rooms; that include instruments that have not been cleaned; that include instruments that have not been sanitized properly -- for the abortion clinic lawyer to say that these violations had nothing to do with health and safety, that gives us great pause," Breen tells OneNewsNow.
The settlement, which the Society suggests that the Women's Center may have been given a "pass," calls for the clinic to pay about $9,000 in fines.
"This clinic's owners ... throughout the process and for many years have flouted basic medical standards," the attorney accuses. "They have put the lives and safety of women at risk -- and from that perspective we are very suspicious as to how this clinic could possibly reopen, at least under current ownership."