By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
We have discussed clinic regulations and their role in abortion clinic closings as recently as last week. Two days ago, we posted about Femcare, an abortion clinic in Asheville, North Carolina, that is shifting its abortion services to a new Planned Parenthood clinic scheduled to open in the summer.
Additional news coming from North Carolina further fleshes out the picture and suggests how Planned Parenthood, the powerful nationwide abortion chain which performs over 330,000 abortions a year, is posed to scoop up more and more business.
The headline of the 3/19/14 story from Time Warner Cable News/Charlotte is simple enough–“Planned Parenthood prepared to comply with any new regulations.” First, some background
North Carolina recently passed a law requiring that abortion clinics be governed by the same requirements the state imposes on other ambulatory or outpatient surgical centers. Though regulations are still being written, they will address basic patient safety issues such as ensuring that hallways and doorways be wide and accessible enough so that emergency personnel can transport patients in distress; that facilities and equipment be sterile; that there be appropriate resuscitation equipment available, and so forth.
Clearly clinic regulations were needed. One abortion clinic temporarily closed at the end of July of 2013, after inspectors found “egregious violations,” including what the Charlotte Observer said were “torn anesthesia masks, a dirty operating room floor and unchecked emergency equipment” (8/1/13).
The clinic addressed the insufficiencies to the satisfaction of the state Department of Health and Human Services and reopened before the end of the following month (Asheville Citizen-Times, 8/27/13). And another clinic announced that it was surrendering its operating license after inspectors cited it for not performing quality control tests on more than 108 patients who had received Rh factor blood tests (Durham Herald Sun, 8/26/13).
While actual costs and closures will depend on the exact nature of the regulations the state health board puts in place, Haywood Brown, chair of obstetrics and gynecology for the Duke University School of Medicine, puts potential compliance costs at “thousands and up to sometimes millions of dollars.” He speculates that the other eleven non-Planned Parenthood abortion clinics may not have the necessary fund to comply (Capital Tonight, 3/19/14).
Melissa Reed, the area’s Planned Parenthood affiliate’s vice president for public affairs, argued (against all evidence to the contrary) that the new guidelines would “do nothing to enhance patient safety.” She complained that the legislation would make clinics face “huge costs” but is going to comply with those regulations.
Reed said that Planned Parenthood is evaluating their four abortion- performing locations, figuring out what needs to be done, and “working across the state to raise the funds that we need to meet those standards.”
Noteworthy is that “According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are currently 15 abortion providers in North Carolina,” Time Warner Cable News/Charlotte reported. “After the new Asheville site opens and Femcare stops providing abortions, Planned Parenthood will represent one-third of them.”
The idea of closing the clinics seems to be the farthest thing from Planned Parenthood’s mind.
“Our bottom line is that we are going to be here for our patients and that no Planned Parenthood is going to shut down, and so whatever it takes, we will be there,” Reed said.
Though this story has a long way to go before we see how everything turns out, it isn’t hard to see where this is going, at least for Planned Parenthood.
Some, if not all, of the smaller independent abortion clinics will probably close, while the industry shouts that the sky is falling. Those patients will then be channeled to Planned Parenthood clinics, which have been using the passage of the new regulations as a rallying cry to raise money to upgrade and further expand their facilities. As a result, Planned Parenthood will corner an even bigger share of the abortion market even if abortions drop in the state as a whole.
Some of this is already happening. As noted above NRL News Today reported earlier this week on the plans of Asheville’s Femcare to stop offering abortions and send to patients to Planned Parenthood’s Asheville-Buncombe County site once it adds abortions. It was less than five years ago that Planned Parenthood opened a giant $5.8 million, 11,000 square foot mega-clinic in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
The moral of the story? It’s good when an abortion clinic closes, but don’t expect Planned Parenthood to give up without a fight.