Whole Woman’s Health, a Texas abortion chain whose centers have been cited by state health inspectors for numerous health violations, is behind the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt challenge to HB2, a 2013 Texas law requiring abortion centers to be held to the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers and requiring abortionists to obtain hospital admitting privileges. The case is set to be heard by the US Supreme Court, and amicus briefs have been filed by several pro-life groups, documenting the dangerous conditions of abortion facilities in the state.
HB2 requires a physician performing an abortion to have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the location where the abortion is performed and – as pro-lifers have pointed out – simply requires all abortion centers to comply with the same regulations set for ambulatory surgical centers. Since HB2’s passage, several abortion facilities have closed due to their inability to comply with the law.
In June of 2015, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld both provisions but made a narrow exception for the Whole Woman’s abortion facility in McAllen, after they were unable to secure required hospital privileges for its abortionists. The issues under review in the case include:
(1) Whether, when applying the “undue burden” standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a court errs by refusing to consider whether and to what extent laws that restrict abortion for the stated purpose of promoting health actually serve the government’s interest in promoting health; and
(2) whether the Fifth Circuit erred in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health – or any other valid interest.
According to their website, Whole Woman’s Health (WWH) currently operates abortion facilities in Baltimore (MD), Fort Worth (TX), McAllen (TX), San Antonio (TX), Twin Cities (TX), New Mexico, and Peoria (IL). Prior to 2013, WWH operated abortion facilities in five different communities in Texas: McAllen, Beaumont, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin. But since HB2’s passage, WWH stopped performing abortions in Austin and Beaumont.
Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Health, claims her abortion facilities do not need any more scrutiny – but the State of Texas has found some very concerning issues with WWH abortion facilities – both in the past and much more recently.
2007: The state of Texas took disciplinary action against Whole Woman’s Health of Beaumont for “failure to have licensed nursing staff at the facility,” among other violations.
2011: Pro-life group Operation Rescue released information documenting widespread abuses at a dozen Texas abortion facilities. Among the worst offenders at the time was WWH’s McAllen facility, where bloody medical waste and patient logs (including patient names) and other private information had been thrown in a dumpster outside the facility. (View photo documentation of the evidence with the name Whole Woman’s Health clearly evident.) The documentation was turned over to the the attorney general and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. As a result, Operation Rescue was notified that WWH of McAllen was fined a total of $17,430 and WWH of Austin was ordered to pay a total of $22,980.
Also in 2011: Another review of Texas abortion facilities conducted by the pro-life group Texas Alliance for Life listed several disturbing violations cited by state health inspectors at Whole Woman’s Health in Beaumont. An inspection of WWH dated November 17, 2011, found a long list of violations including (among other things):
- “[I]n procedure room #2 there was numerous rusty spots on the on the suction machine used on the patient” for an abortion.
2012: National Right to Life News reported that the Texas Medical Board disciplined two WWH abortionists for violating standards of patient care. They were both fined $3,000 and were required to take a medical education course. Many other WWH abortionists have previous disciplinary histories, NRTL states, citing a case from Minnesota.
Also in 2012: Health inspectors who visited WWH in Beaumont on December 19, 2012 found (among other things) that “… the staff was still not knowledgeable in the proper procedure of sterilizing instruments and the facility had an infection control issues” and “staff members… failed to perform the correct procedure for the sterilization of the surgical instruments.”
But, while the Beaumont abortion facility was one of the worst, violations were also found at Whole Woman’s Fort Worth facility as well as McAllen. In addition, state health inspectors who visited Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio found that “Whole Woman’s Health of San Antonio failed to implement and enforce acceptable environmental controls in cleaning and preparing instruments for sterilization,” among other violations.
2013: An inspection of WWH of Beaumont by the Texas Department of State Health Services cited the facility for 13 health and safety code violations:
Also in 2013: Texas Right to Life obtained inspection reports of all abortion centers in Texas from July 2011-2012. The reports revealed that 14 Texas abortion centers were cited for health violations. Included among the infractions was a 17-page list of violations from Whole Woman’s Health in Beaumont.
“Four of five Whole Woman’s Health Clinics have incurred violations against safety laws during the last three years; some of these clinics fell short dozens of times,” TX RTL pointed out later.
2014: A news report filed by KFDM listed disturbing problems found at WWH’s Beaumont abortion center, including the lack of certain life-saving tools on-site. Convicted abortionist Kermit Gosnell was cited for this offense in Pennsylvania.
Clearly, despite Amy Hagstrom Miller’s insistence that her Whole Woman’s Health abortion centers are safe, the record shows otherwise.
Pro-life groups filing briefs in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt include Live Action, the ACLJ, Liberty Counsel, and Operation Rescue. Live Action’s brief details Live Action’s investigations as well as published articles that document the fact that abortion is unsafe for women.
Despite the recent passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, oral arguments in the Supreme Court case on are scheduled to begin March 2.