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Women at risk: Former abortion workers speak out about failed inspections

women clinic abortion

Earlier this month, Live Action News published an article about the Delta Clinic, an abortion facility where former abortion worker Shelley Guillory, RN, worked. In a webcast sponsored by the pro-life group And Then There Were None, Guillory spoke about the horrible conditions at Delta, which put women at risk:

[I]t was horrendous. I mean, it was filthy. You still had blood splattered from, I mean, weeks of procedures ago that were still on the wall. This building was not cleaned on a daily basis. It wasn’t even cleaned on a monthly basis.

Despite the disgusting conditions at Delta, the facility never failed an inspection. This was because the abortion workers knew in advance when the inspectors were coming. Workers were able to prepare for the inspections. In fact, according to Guillory, the only time the abortion facility was ever cleaned was right before inspectors were scheduled to arrive:

Our buildings got cleaned when we knew the state was coming in. And the way we knew the state was coming in was because we always got a phone call from within the State Department that they were coming in, so we knew what day they were coming in, what time they would be there and what charts they wanted pulled. So we never failed an inspection. Although we were, I would say, the most unhealthy place to have a human body have to go through any sort of procedure.

Abby Johnson, who managed a Planned Parenthood abortion facility, comments in the webcast, “Shelley, you just said that you knew when the inspector was coming…. They let you pull the charts; you were able to scrub the charts. You could get cleaned up for that one day inspection,” adding that her own Planned Parenthood worked the same way with regard to inspections:

We had something very, very similar. We always knew when they were coming. We were able, they allowed us to pull our own charts. We scrubbed the charts. We never gave them a chart with a complication or anything like that, or a woman who had to be transported. So, in fact, our inspector would leave us the list of things that she was looking for so that we would know exactly what to pull the next year.

Johnson and the other workers were able to choose which patient charts they showed inspectors, instead of having the inspectors pull charts at random. Therefore, it was very easy for abortion workers to hide injuries to women. All the abortion workers had to do was select the charts of women who had no complications. In a 2016 public Facebook post, Johnson revealed that there were in fact injuries at her facility, and that the facility never called ambulances when women were hurt. But the inspectors never knew of these complications. By pre-selecting the charts inspectors saw, abortion workers were able to hide botched abortions and women’s injuries from inspectors.

These facilities weren’t the only ones who injured women and acted as if nothing had happened. An undercover Live Action investigation caught several Planned Parenthood facilities lying about whether women had been harmed there:

The workers could also make sure the charts they showed inspectors were filled out correctly and had the correct information. Meanwhile, many other charts could be filled out carelessly or contain errors.

However, despite being pre-warned of inspections, Johnson’s facility still failed an inspection. She said:

And you know what’s funny to me is that we always knew when the inspector was coming, but one year we actually did fail an inspection. So that tells you how poorly the place was run, if even when we had warning, and notice, and knew what they’re going to be looking for, we still failed our inspection.

There were no real consequences for Johnson’s facility after it failed the inspection. Workers were simply told to correct the problems and pass the next inspection.

Abortion worker Annette Lancaster says her facility did not know when inspectors were coming. Her abortion facility also failed an inspection. Yet despite the failed inspection, there were no consequences for her facility either. Lancaster says:

I can talk about our clinic in North Carolina.… I didn’t know inspectors were coming, didn’t have any charts pulled, and we actually did not pass. We couldn’t find the credentialing. We couldn’t find policies and procedures. Charts were missing lots of information. There were nurse’s notes and charting that was not done properly. And we were basically given a certain amount of time to come up with a plan to fix the errors that we had. But we were never shut down. We were allowed to stay open.

This is not unusual. Abby Johnson says:

[T]hat’s what we find, that a lot of these clinics, over and over and over again, they fail inspections. Many times, the same things over and over again, you know: improperly sterilizing instruments, untrained staff, but yet the state never closes them down. They continue to remain open for years even though every year the inspector comes in, they’re failing the same thing.

An example of a facility that was allowed to stay open despite repeatedly failing inspections is Whole Woman’s Health. This chain of abortion facilities failed multiple inspections between 2011 and 2017. Inspectors found that Whole Woman’s Health:

  • Failed to properly disinfect and sterilize instruments that were used from woman to woman
  • Failed to provide a safe and sanitary environment – “products of conception” were being examined and contaminated instruments were being washed in the same room
  • Emergency cart contained expired supplies and medications
  • Cracks, rips and tears on the vinyl covers of exam tables
  • There was a hole in the cabinet flooring that had “the likelihood to allow rodents to enter the facility”
  • Suction machines had numerous rusty spots having the “likelihood to cause infection”

In fact, Whole Woman’s Health failed not one, not two, but four inspections – on 11/17/2011, 9/13/2016, 11/8/2016, and 7/24/2017.

Yet not only are Whole Woman’s Health facilities still open, they are responsible for defeating laws that would’ve required abortion facilities to meet basic safety standards.

Whole Woman’s Health was the plaintiff in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Supreme Court case that stuck down safety regulations for abortion facilities. Whole Woman’s Health sued to stop laws that would have required abortion facilities to meet the same standards as other medical facilities – and they won. Thanks to an abortion facility that failed state inspections four times, the government can no longer require abortion facilities follow basic health and sanitary standards that other facilities have to follow. The Supreme Court decided the case in 2016, the same year Whole Woman’s Health failed two inspections. They then went on to fail again in 2017.

One wonders if the Supreme Court Justices who ruled in favor of Whole Woman’s Health knew or cared about the facility’s repeated failed inspections. Whole Woman’s Health clearly had an interest in opposing abortion facility regulations.

Not only are abortion facilities allowed to stay open after repeatedly failing inspections, but rules holding them to higher health standards have been found unconstitutional.

All too often abortion facilities are free to operate under conditions that put women’s health and lives at risk. The testimonies of former abortion workers, as well as inspection reports that pro-life people have made public, show how abortion facilities get away with providing substandard “care” to women.

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