North Carolina health officials shut down the state’s “model” abortion center this week after deeming it an “imminent threat to the health and safety of patients.”
Investigators found 23 separate “egregious violations” at Femcare in Asheville during a surprise inspection July 18, the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced Wednesday. Among the violations, the center had no resuscitator, had thick dust on operating room equipment, and held together an anesthesia tube with tape, endangering dosage.
State inspectors are giving abortion centers increased scrutiny since the trial of Philadelphia abortionist and convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. Asheville’s Femcare became the 42nd center closed in the country this year, far more than the 24 closed in 2012.
Ironically, Femcare was the Tar Heel State’s only ambulatory surgical center specializing in abortions. Pro-abortion advocates and legislators upheld the center as the only one protected from potential closure by new safety regulations. The Republican-led legislature passed the new pro-life bill July 25 after a three-week legislative battle. The measure increases conscience rights and safety regulations for abortion centers. North Carolina, where 15 percent of reported pregnancies end in abortion, has 16 abortion facilities, and safety regulations haven’t been updated since the early 1990s.
At the same time, Femcare shows the new law’s regulations alone won’t necessarily increase safety. Just 10 people are in charge of inspecting hundreds of health centers in the state, according state DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos. Full inspections can only be made every three to five years, she said. The staffing problem is not new, and was the one issue both sides agreed on in debates. The freshly passed state budget will double the department’s staff.
Even with the staff shortage, though, Femcare is the third abortion center suspended this year for clear disregard of safety regulations. The DHHS has uncovered a culture of willful incompetence that couldn’t have started overnight. But before Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and his appointees took office, no abortion center’s license had been suspended since 2007. DHHS officials appointed by one-term Gov. Beverly Perdue, a Democrat, reported no problems.
Earlier this year, the DHHS shut down A Preferred Woman’s Health Center in Charlotte for administering methotrexate, an intravenous abortion-inducing drug, by putting it into a cup for patients to drink. The Baker Clinic for Women in Durham closed for improperly handling blood samples for testing.
Pro-abortion protesters continue to decry the new bill’s supposed dangers. They have vilified McCrory, saying he broke his campaign promise not to sign any new abortion restrictions. He claimed in a Friday press conference that he is keeping his promise, but making abortion safer: “Our goal is to keep every current facility open that is open today.”
The governor startled a group of protesters outside his mansion Tuesday by offering them chocolate-chip cookies and saying “God bless you.” The insulted protesters turned him down.