Gosnell grand jury: “license abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities”

As the Supreme Court hears a case involving a Texas law mandating that abortion facilities be given the same regulatory treatment as ambulatory care facilities, the Gosnell grand jury report from 2011 reminds us what happens when pro-abortion ideology trumps women’s health. I hope the Justices find this report somewhere amid the many briefs that have been filed in the Texas case.

quote from Gosnell grand jury

Gosnell was in Pennsylvania, but the recommendations of the grand jury are of interest to anyone who cares about public health in any state. From page 248 of the grand jury report, under “Recommendations”: “The Pennsylvania Department of Health should license abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical facilities.”

“The regulation of Pennsylvania’s ambulatory surgical facilities – which run over 30 pages – provide a comprehensive set of rules and procedures to assure overall quality of care at such facilities. The effect of the Department of Health’s reluctance to treat abortion clinics as ASFs was to accord patients of those facilities far less protection than patients seeking, for example, liposuction or a colonoscopy….Gosnell’s facility fell far below the basic, minimum standards of care that any patient having a surgical procedure should expect to receive. There is no justification for denying abortion patients the protections available to every other patient of an ambulatory surgical facility, and no reason to exempt abortion clinics from meeting these standards.”

Does the Texas law at issue today create stronger regulations on abortion providers than on, say, liposuction providers? Based on their questions today, some Justices apparently think so, and they don’t like it. I wonder how many of them would object if they believed the law simply required parity with ASFs.

Today at the Supreme Court of the United States, our nation’s solicitor general argued against the Texas law, calling it an “undue burden.”

The Pennsylvania Family Institute and Council anticipated that argument. Their words: “Ask the women who went to Kermit Gosnell if lower standards for abortion clinics is a good thing.”

From Pennsylvania Family Institute.
From Pennsylvania Family Institute.

 

Supreme Court to hear Texas abortion arguments

supreme-court-dot-gov
photo from supremecourt.gov

A few thoughts on the eve of U.S. Supreme Court arguments about a Texas abortion law:

  • What’s at issue is a piece of the Texas abortion regulation that was passed only after a huge uproar in Austin. Wendy Davis and her pink-sneakered filibuster couldn’t prevent passage of the legislation almost three years ago. It took some fast action to get the case to the Supreme Court in less than three years. The Massachusetts buffer zone case took much longer than that.
  • I’m indebted to Steve McDonald of GraniteGrok for pointing me to a post from The Federalist that makes a point not yet stressed in most coverage of the case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt: there are parts of the Texas law that aren’t even being challenged. “Almost three years ago the Texas legislature enacted HB2, the principle [sic]components of which are (1) restricting abortions after 20 weeks, when we know the unborn child can feel pain; (2) requiring abortionists to comply with the Food and Drug Administration’s approved protocol on chemical abortions; and (3) ensuring that abortionists would have to comply with basic health and safety standards….[the] prohibition on abortions after 20 weeks remains unchallenged.…The Court will not consider that part of the law because the abortion industry, despite its claims about harm to women and Wendy Davis’s rhetoric, has chosen not to challenge it.” [emphasis added]
  • The omnibus Texas law was a direct response to the Gosnell case in Pennsylvania – in effect, a Gosnell prevention act. It’ll be interesting to see if that comes up in tomorrow’s oral arguments.
  • With the recent death of Justice Scalia, observers with more time than I for Court-watching have suggested that a 4-4 split is likely in this abortion-law case, which would leave lower-court decisions intact. Any decision in the case is weeks or months away.

I’ll be looking to scotusblog.com for updates on this week’s arguments.