Women at risk: Judge lets shoddy abortion chain open in Indiana without license
Investigative

Women at risk: Judge lets shoddy abortion chain open in Indiana without license

Image: Whole Women's Health South Bend Indiana

An abortion facility in Indiana has been granted temporary permission to operate, despite being denied a license by the State’s Department of Health. The order, issued by Federal Court Judge Sarah Evans Barker, allows Whole Woman’s Health Alliance (WWHA) to begin committing medication abortions in South Bend. The temporary injunction remains in effect until a new hearing can be held in August of 2020, over a year away.

But Whole Woman’s Health isn’t just any abortion chain; it’s a Texas based national chain of abortion facilities, which was founded in 2014 by Amy Hagstrom Miller. According to WWHA’s website, the abortion facility “is… governed by an independent board, and benefits from the expertise of Whole Woman’s Health [WWH] serving as its management company.”

“Benefits” and “expertise” are not appropriate terms to use when referring to Whole Woman’s Health, which has a very long history of failed health inspections, putting women in danger.

According to local media, Barker ruled the Indiana Department of Health’s license rejection was a “substantial obstacle” for women seeking abortion. The South Bend Tribune notes the judge claimed “the state health department’s previous rejection of a license for the clinic violates due process and equal protections,” and that the abortion facility claimed licensing requirements were “arbitrary” and “vague.” The judge claimed the state “stands to lose little” but “women… stand to lose a great deal” if the abortion facility doesn’t open.

In November of 2018, an Indiana State Health Department appeals panel denied WWHA a license. A letter from the Indiana Department of Health obtained by Live Action News indicates that INDOH found “discrepancies” in WWHA’s application.

The Department wrote that it received a “revised application from WWHA,” and again requested additional information. But health officials determined that WWHA “failed to disclose, concealed, or omitted information related to additional clinics.” State officials then determined that WWHA had “failed to meet the requirement that the Applicant is of reputable and responsible character and the supporting documentation provided inaccurate statements or information.”

Image: Whole Women's Health Indiana DOH health letter denies license

Whole Women’s Health Indiana DOH health letter denies license

WWHA’s case brief detailed the state’s reasons for the license denial:

On October 6, 2017, Whole Woman’s Health submitted its revised application. Fox had immediate concerns, for the application listed Liam Morley as the clinic’s administrator, and Morley had a connection with Dr. Ulrich Klopfer—who recently lost his abortion clinic and medical licenses for serious violations, including failing to exercise reasonable care with patients, failing timely to report abortions on two girls under the age of 14, failing to follow proper sedation practices, failing to keep a log of cleaning procedure rooms, and failing to dispose of expired medications. In addition, shortly after receiving the revised application, the Department received several surveys raising concerns regarding abortion clinics in other States…

The particular violations at issue involved Texas clinics that Miller controlled and that used the name “Whole Woman’s Health” and included: (1) failing to account for medications, (2) failing to ensure proper sterilization of instruments, (3) failing to provide hospital contact information, (4) failing to schedule required follow-up appointments, (5) failing to evaluate employee performance, (6) failing to properly store hazardous cleaning solutions, (7) failing to provide a sanitary environment, (8) failing to train staff in sterilizing instruments, (9) failing to staff clinics with registered or licensed nurses, (10) failing to follow policy for fire and disaster drills, (11) failing to keep current emergency medication, and (12) failing to train staff in CPR.

The court document included findings from health inspections at Whole Woman’s Health facilities in Texas:

  • (1) failing to account for medications,
  • (2) failing to ensure proper sterilization of instruments,
  • (3) failing to provide hospital contact information,
  • (4) failing to schedule required follow-up appointments,
  • (5) failing to evaluate employee performance,
  • (6) failing to properly store hazardous cleaning solutions,
  • (7) failing to provide a sanitary environment,
  • (8) failing to train staff in sterilizing instruments,
  • (9) failing to staff clinics with registered or licensed nurses,
  • (10) failing to follow policy for fire and disaster drills,
  • (11) failing to keep current emergency medication, and
  • (12) failing to train staff in CPR….

… A survey from Whole Woman’s Health’s Austin clinic showed discrepancies in the count of Schedule II pain medications, improper sterilization of surgical instruments, failure to provide pregnant women with contact information for the nearest hospital, and failure to schedule follow-up appointments within 14 days.

A survey from its San Antonio clinic showed failure to properly evaluate employee performance and improper storage of hazardous cleaning solutions.

And a survey from its Beaumont clinic showed thirteen violations, including failure to provide a clean and sanitary environment and failure to have emergency medication….

A March Live Action News report on WWH in Peoria, Illinois, includes a 911 call in which the facility refused to give important details to the dispatcher about an abortion injury for fear it would become public information. Live Action News recently reported that this Peoria Whole Woman’s Health facility is now shut down — but health inspections from the state might reveal why. According to a 2017 Survey:

  • Three operating rooms had no documentation of preventative maintenance completed on any of the suction machines available for use.
  • Failed to ensure outdated drugs were not available for use in patient care areas.

And a March 2018 survey found that “3 of 3 physicians providing medical and surgical pregnancy terminations failed to ensure its credentialing procedure was implemented, monitored and maintained. This has the potential to affect all patients serviced by the facility….”

Image: Whole Women's Health DOH health inspection deficiency report March 2018

Whole Woman’s Health DOH health inspection deficiency report March 2018

The report also states that the Illinois Whole Woman’s Health:

  • did not ensure that an RN was on duty at all times on the premises when patients were present.
  • did not ensure that patient care equipment was maintained and available for patient use…AED…observed to be non-operational, and was unable to be powered on.
  • did not ensure that patient care equipment was appropriately sterilized prior to patient use.
  • did not ensure that its policy on multidose vials was followed to prevent the potential for cross contamination.
  • did not ensure that syringes were stored to prevent the potential for cross contamination.
  • did not ensure that surgical procedures were by qualified physicians within the defined specific surgical practice…
  • did not ensure that IV conscience sedation was administered and/or supervised only by physicians who had been granted specific privileges for IV sedation
  • did not ensure that all patient medical histories were reviewed by the telemedicine physician prior to the telemedicine medical  abortion procedure.
  • did not ensure that informed consent accurately reflected patient instructions [with telemedicine abortions]
  • did not ensure that physician orders were accurate.
Image: Whole Women's Health DOH health inspection deficiency report on telemedicine abortion B March 2018

Whole Women’s Health DOH health inspection deficiency report on telemedicine abortion March 2018

A statement sent to Live Action News by St. Joseph Right to Life states that the Judge’s ruling has “completely undermined the state’s ability and right to regulate and license organizations doing business in Indiana,” noting, “[A]n unlicensed clinic will further endanger the health and safety of women.”

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