En­force — don’t amend — abor­tion clinic reg­u­la­tions

Med­i­cal com­pli­ca­tions don’t care about pol­i­tics

The Washington Post Sunday - - LOCAL OPINIONS -

The Septem­ber meet­ing of Vir­ginia’s Board of Health on amend­ments to the gover­nor’s reg­u­la­tion of abor­tion clin­ics made my blood run cold.

I was a la­bor and de­liv­ery nurse for 24 years in four hos­pi­tals in Con­necti­cut and three in Vir­ginia. When I read the orig­i­nal reg­u­la­tions, I rec­og­nized the need for each of the pro­posed new rules.

Abor­tion clin­ics should be re­quired to com­ply with all the reg­u­la­tions and stan­dards of any other out­pa­tient sur­gi­cal unit. The Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Health should en­force them, not amend them.

The rea­son is sim­ple: Abor­tion is surgery, and surgery knows no pol­i­tics.

Germs don’t know that the Vir­ginia Depart­ment of Health has given 13 out of the 18 Vir­ginia abor­tion clin­ics a cer­tain span of time, with ex­ten­sions, to come into com­pli­ance with the state reg­u­la­tions. Germs are op­por­tunists. If you have a poorly san­i­tized fa­cil­ity, lax sur­gi­cal stan­dards or con­tam­i­nated sur­gi­cal in­stru­ments, germs will in­vade. It’s their na­ture.

If a woman’s body re­tains the pla­centa be­cause her hor­mones didn’t get the memo that the fe­tus was be­ing sur­gi­cally re­moved, she will bleed. If her hem­or­rhag­ing can­not be stopped, the body doesn’t know that there were not two units of packed red blood cells typed and cross-matched prior to surgery. It doesn’t know that any blood prod­ucts are avail­able only through that nar­row hall and across town. And the body doesn’t re­al­ize that the abor­tion doc­tor doesn’t even have ad­mit­ting priv­i­leges at that hos­pi­tal. The body just bleeds.

Some facts about surgery are uni­ver­sal and sim­ply don’t ad­mit com­pro­mise. Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy, anatomy, phys­i­ol­ogy and physics don’t bar­gain. And in an emer­gency, when sec­onds count, built-in prob­lems are the last thing you need. Na­ture obeys its own laws, whether we like it or not.

The ma­jor­ity of mem­bers of the Board of Health seem to have for­got­ten that. They seemed to ig­nore or brush aside the more than 400 vi­o­la­tions found by their own in­spec­tors, in an­nounced vis­its, over the past three years.

Why should we not ap­ply and en­force all the safety stan­dards and best-prac­tice reg­u­la­tions levied on ev­ery other in­pa­tient and out­pa­tient sur­gi­cal unit? Whom are we try­ing to kid? Each of the orig­i­nal reg­u­la­tions was for­mu­lated through re­search, trial-and-er­ror and, as risk-man­age­ment peo­ple tell us, law­suits.

Vir­ginia owes it to women to make sure all sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures are safe— no mat­ter the pol­i­tics be­hind the pro­ce­dure.


Abor­tion rights and an­tiabor­tion ad­vo­cates at­tend a Vir­ginia Board ofHealth meet­ing in Hen­rico in April 2013.

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