South Carolina Experience Proves Why Abortion Clinic Regulations are Essential

By Holly Gatling, Executive Director
South Carolina Citizens for Life

Editor’s note. As explained last week and discussed in more detail today, two Kansas abortion businesses–Aid for Women  and Center for Women’s Health–persuaded U.S. District Judge Carlos Murguia to issue an injunction Friday against Kansas’ new abortion clinic regulation law. The injunction will stay in effect until there is a trial in the lawsuit.

But thanks in part to the horrific example of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell, charged with eight counts of murder, Kansas is not the only state to enact, or attempt to enact, clinic regulation measures this session. Pro-abortionists insist these commonsense requirements as nothing more than attempts to drive them out of business which is their way of fending off the truth.

Holly Gatling, Executive Director, South Carolina Citizens for Life

South Carolina passed an abortion clinic regulation bill in 1995 which was upheld by a federal appeals court, a verdict the United States Supreme Court left in place. The following story was written by Holly Gatling,  after the High Court chose not to review the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals verdict executive director of South Carolina Citizens Concerned for Life. It illustrates perfectly why such regulations were then– and are now—essential.

Recent media coverage of the abortion industry’s legal fight to keep from being regulated omitted an astonishing fact.  The urgent need for first trimester abortion clinic regulation came to the public’s attention not from pro-life groups and not from government regulatory agencies, but from abortion clinic employees themselves.

In 1992, Lori Saunders and Celeste Danish, employees of the now-defunct Ladies’ Clinic in North Charleston, filed a grim complaint with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.  Saunders and Danish revealed that clinic owner, the late Dr. Jesse Floyd, used a common kitchen sink disposal to grind up the bodies of aborted babies, some well past the 12th week of development, and flush these human remains into the public water system. (Floyd died in an 1995 automobile accident.)

Because state law did not regulate first trimester abortion centers, DHEC’s ability to investigate the workers’ complaint was limited to possible violations of the Hazardous Waste Management Act.  Saunders and Danish also took their concerns to Channel 2 Eyewitness News, the CBS affiliate in Charleston.  Subsequently the station aired a three-part series exposing the allegations against Floyd and the lack of first trimester abortion clinic regulation in South Carolina.

As a result of this stellar piece of investigative journalism, Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, introduced the Abortion Clinic Regulation Act in the 1993 General Assembly.  During public hearings about the legislation, post-aborted women told of bloody sheets, bloody cots, and dirty bathrooms they encountered in various abortion “clinics.”  One young woman testified she saw a dog in the procedure room.

In 1994 while the legislaion was in process, the statewide news media reported that an 80-year-old abortionist was charged with performing an illegal second trimester abortion in Columbia after he left most of the upper torso of a 16-week fetus inside the mother.   The abortionist estimated the baby’s fetal age at six weeks.  After the mother was treated for raging infection at Lexington Medical Center, pathology reports showed the fetal age to be 16-weeks.  The Richland County Grand Jury declined to indict the elderly abortionist, and his medical license was not suspended.

Clearly there was an urgent need for minimum standards of sanitation and medical care in the state’s first trimester abortion facilities.  The Abortion Clinic Regulation Act authorized DHEC to write and enforce regulations.  It passed the General Assembly in 1994, and Gov. Carroll Campbell signed it into law.  For the next year, DHEC officials conducted a thorough process of formulating the regulations, inviting public input from abortionists, abortion opponents, and health care professionals whose sense of ethics dictated that the invasive surgical procedure at least be done in sanitary and medically sound facilities.

After DHEC developed the regulations, the General Assembly gave its final approval in 1996.  On June 27, 1996, one day before the regulations were to take effect, two abortion facilities, the Greenville Women’s Clinic, and the Charleston Women’s Medical Clinic, and one abortionist, William Lynn, sued to avoid compliance.

Now more than six years after South Carolina’s Abortion Clinic Regulation Act was signed into law, the pro-abortion challenge to the regulations is nearly over.  On Feb. 26, 2003, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear South Carolina abortionists’ complaint that they are subject to “unconstitutional and medically pointless regulations.”

By refusing to hear the case, the high court upheld the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals’ Aug. 15, 2000, decision that said:

1.   The regulations serve a valid state interest and are little more than a codification of national medical and abortion association recommendations designed to ensure the health and appropriate care of women seeking abortion.

2.   The regulations do not strike at the abortion right itself.

3.   The increased costs of abortion caused by implementation of the regulations, while speculative, are modest and have not been shown to burden the ability of a woman to make the decision to have an abortion.

4.   Abortion clinics may rationally be regulated as a class while other clinics or medical practices are not.

The abortion industry fights regulation every step of the way and is continuing its opposition to the South Carolina standards with every legal maneuver available.  Unfortunately recent media reports focused on the shrill hyperbole of losing attorney Bonnie Scott Jones of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy.  When she said the court’s decision will regulate abortion “out of existence,” the institutional media treated this remark without question.

The fact is, as long as Roe v. Wade and its progeny remain the law of the land, it will be legal for abortionists to kill unborn children for any reason or no reason at all.  That abortions have declined in South Carolina by 45 percent in 10 years and by 17 percent nationwide doesn’t mean women are being denied their right to abortion.  It means girls and women are making better choices than abortion.

Abortion may be a doctor’s right to make a killing, but abortionists don’t have the right to operate in unregulated, filthy, back-alley offices.   Nothing demonstrates this better than the fact that abortion clinic workers themselves brought the need for regulation to the attention of the public and the state’s lawmakers.

Holly Gatling, who is the Corporate Secretary of the National Right to Life Committee, was a reporter for 20 years with daily newspapers, including The State.

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