Over the last several months, there have been a number of mischaracterizations in the media regarding a new law that will bring common-sense health and safety standards to clinics which provide abortions in the state of North Carolina. Contrary to what many activists have said, the legislation does nothing to change federal law or limit woman’s right to choose.
What are the health and safety provisions in the new law?
There are two. The first will allow the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to apply the same safety and hygiene standards to abortion clinics that now cover outpatient surgery centers. These commonly-accepted health standards were put in place to safeguard patients seeking personal medical care at outpatient (or “ambulatory”) surgery care facilities. Any type of surgery carries with it the inherent risk of medical complications, and abortion-related complications can include infection, excessive bleeding, and uterine perforation. While uncommon, these complications can sometimes be significant enough to require hospitalization or further surgery.
Fortunately for everyone, the risks involved to the mother’s life during a surgical abortion are extremely low. And while statistics vary, according to the Guttmacher Institute, the chances of death associated with abortion in the United States is just one out of every 29,000 women (at 16-20 weeks pregnant) and just one out of every 11,000 women (at 21 or more weeks).
But by expanding existing safety and hygiene standards to cover all facilities that provide outpatient surgical abortions, all North Carolina’s women, rich and poor alike, can finally access sanitary facilities and share in better quality medical care.
But aren’t North Carolina’s clinics safe and clean now?
Everyone wants them to be; health risks to women only increase in those facilities which fall short of maintaining basic standards of safety and hygiene. In the last decade, under already existing regulations, over 200 citations have been issued against clinics — and more recent violations of these long-established regulations are troubling indications that future improvements need to be made.