Twenty abortion clinics in Texas have closed after an abortionist who practiced out of a Dallas facility, the most recent closure, was unable to obtain admitting privileges at area hospitals.
The Northpark Medical Group abortion clinic that is affiliated with two other clinics owned by Houston abortionist Douglas Karpen, who has allegedly killed babies born alive during routine late-term abortions, has closed its doors.
According to Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life Coalition, when she and other pro-life advocates first started petitioning lawmakers to craft a bill requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at area hospitals, they had no idea that so many would be considered a liability, and thus unable to obtain privileges.
"We knew that there were some really bad actors out there as we did our research, but among all of the doctors that we and others had identified, we found that two thirds of them did have privileges," Wright told The Christian Post.
She continued, "So we had no idea what kind of impact it would have on abortion clinics. We couldn't tell how many – among the two thirds that had privileges – were just occasional abortion doctors but had other medical practices. And I think that we've all been thoroughly shocked by how many can't get hospital privileges."
Douglas Karpen, who is allegedly running a Texas "house of horrors" at his Aaron Women's Clinic in Houston, where he's been accused of cutting the necks of babies born alive like abortionist Kermit Gosnell did, has the Northpark Medical Group clinic listed as being one of the abortion facilities he owns.
Abortionists who have been identified as working most recently at that clinic include Robert Prince, Arthur John Brock, who is now retired, and Robert E. Hanson, who has had recent accounts of disciplinary actions taken against him in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
As noted by Wright, disciplinary actions taken against Hanson could mean that he'd be unable to obtain admitting privileges at the hospitals he's applied to that are located within 30 miles of the abortion clinics he works at, as required by state regulations that went into effect last fall.
Wright believes Northpark Medical Group was likely down to one abortionist, possibly Prince, who's 85, before it closed, but noted that many abortion doctors move from clinic to clinic on a frequent basis, and some own or co-own several clinics, all under different names.
Requiring abortionists to obtain hospital admitting privileges became a top legislative priority for Wright and her organization after first hearing the stories of two women who claimed to have been sexually assaulted at a North Texas abortion clinic by the same abortionist. One of these women, she said, continues to be pro-choice, but wanted to share her personal abortion experience with the pro-life group.
"This was our top legislative priority last session," Wright added. "We had been interested in this legislation for about 10 years and had been talking to other groups but it didn't take off until a woman, who is still very committed to pro-choice abortion rights, came to us and told us about a bad experience she had."
Pro-life advocates believed that HB2, which was passed by the Texas legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Perry last July, would weed out the more unscrupulous abortionists in the state who have been accused of sexually assaulting women in their clinics, are not protecting women's health by misinforming them about problems that occurred during their procedures, or who refuse to meet health and safety standards that are now required by the state.
In addition to some abortionists being unable to obtain admitting privileges at area hospitals due to liability issues, Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser for Operation Rescue, a pro-life organization, believes that some abortion facilities might be closing simply because clinic owners don't want to pay to upgrade their facilities.
"What they're really saying is: we don't believe that women are worth the extra money it would cost to increase our safety protocols at the clinic. And they're not worth us doing what it takes to get hospital privileges," Sullenger told CP in a recent interview.
"Most hospitals won't extend privileges to abortionists because they've either been disciplined before or have [a long history of] lawsuits that make them a liability to the hospital," she added.
On Sept. 1, the portion of HB2 that requires abortion clinics to meet the same health and safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers will go into effect. Clinic owners who opt to not upgrade their facilities to meet these requirements will close.
Abortion clinic owners have had one year to upgrade their facilities to meet these basic requirements, which includes having adequate plumbing, heating, lighting and ventilation, and equipment that can properly sterilize surgical instruments; ensuring that the doors to the facilities can accommodate stretchers for emergencies; and maintaining a sanitary facility to ensure the health and safety of patients.
Because of the horrific conditions found in Gosnell's late-term abortion clinic, in 2011 the Pennsylvania legislature also passed a law that requires abortion clinics to improve their safety and cleanliness standards.
Dayle Steinberg, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania, told KPBS that Planned Parenthood was required to install hands-free sinks, seamless floors that are easier to clean, and to build a room to house sterilization equipment. He lamented that the upgrades to meet the minimum health and safety regulations were unnecessary and too costly.
Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) told CP in a previous interview that the provisions in HB 2 that require abortion facilities to meet the same safety standards as ambulatory surgical centers are intended to enhance the safety for women who undergo an abortion procedure.
"What we're saying is that if you're going to have a major surgical operation, you should do so within the medically sufficient environment of an ambulatory surgical center – that is about protecting women. I think this is a pro-woman piece of legislation."
He continued, "I know the argument is, 'well, the ultimate effect of this is it will eliminate a number of clinics in Texas.' And my response to that would be: we're not prohibiting these clinics from operating. We're just saying that if they're going to provide this procedure, then make sure that you have the requisite medical background to do so.
"These clinics can upgrade. They're not prohibited from upgrading. In fact, they're given a year to do so."