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Ovide Lamontagne: We should regulate abortion clinics to protect women's health

January 16. 2014 1:12AM

Imagine a product that has resulted in serious injury, infection, depression and even death. Imagine that millions of American women bought that product. Now imagine that the product is marketed by people who are unregulated, unmonitored and secretive.

One might expect public hearings, warning labels and government inspectors engaged to protect the women in harm's way. But not if the product is abortion. Despite the scientific data and peer-reviewed medical evidence showing that abortion harms women, the abortion industry in the United States remains largely unregulated, unaccountable and exempt from the same government oversight given to comparable mainstream health care procedures.

Whether they find themselves in a Planned Parenthood clinic or in an independent abortion clinic, women face serious risks behind an abortionist's closed doors, including:

• Short-term risks such as blood loss, blood clots, infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease and cervical lacerations and other injuries to organs.

• Premature births in subsequent pregnancies.

• Placenta previa, which significantly increases in subsequent pregnancies from 30 to 50 percent.

• Mental health risks, such as those documented in a 2011 study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry which revealed that women face an 81 percent increased risk of mental health problems after abortion; the increases for specific mental health issues include 34 percent for anxiety, 37 percent for depression, 110 percent for alcohol abuse, and 155 percent for suicide.

• Breast cancer, where aborting a first pregnancy before 32 weeks eliminates the protective effect of a full-term pregnancy.

Yet despite abortion's risks, in 2013 only five states — Alabama, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia — regulated abortion clinics like they do mainstream ambulatory surgical centers. Veterinary clinics, tattoo parlors, tanning booths and beauty salons are regulated more heavily than abortion clinics.

Why do abortion providers insist on operating their risky business in the shadows of mainstream health care, fighting common-sense regulations? The simple answer is economics. Abortion providers generate profits when they lower their costs by subjecting women to substandard care.

Philadelphia late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, for example, made millions in his legal, unregulated clinic, yet he refused to spend money to sterilize his equipment or meet basic health and safety codes.

Kermit Gosnell is no aberration when it comes to abortion providers. Gosnell's clinic represents what pro-abortion advocates have successfully hidden from the American people: substandard care for women who seek abortion.

Since 2009 alone, more than 80 abortion providers in more than 25 states have faced investigations, criminal charges, civil lawsuits, administrative complaints and/or been cited for violating abortion laws.

Women like Karnamaya Mongar, a refugee camp survivor, and Tonya Reaves, a 24-year-old mother of a one-year-old son, have died from abortions. Karnamaya Mongar bled to death in Kermit Gosnell's unregulated clinic in part because the emergency entrance was locked and chained and the hallways were too narrow to fit a stretcher. Tonya Reaves died after a Planned Parenthood clinic abortion because of excessive bleeding from an incomplete abortion.

To protect women from the proven harms of abortion and to help save the lives of their unborn children, Americans United for Life is launching its "Women's Protection Project," a package of model legislation designed to protect women from the documented harms and risks of abortion.

The model legislation includes AUL's "Abortion Patients' Enhanced Safety Act," which requires abortion providers to meet the same standards as all other ambulatory surgical centers; the "Women's Health Defense Act," to prohibit abortions after five months based on the harms to women's health caused by these late-term abortions and on the pain suffered by her unborn child; and a statutory enforcement module to provide a mechanism for civil authorities and private citizens to enforce abortion-related laws in each state.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey described the essential holding in Roe v. Wade as including "the principle that the State has legitimate interests from the outset of pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman…." AUL's "Women's Protection Project" provides a constitutional, common-sense approach to regulate the abortion industry and hold it accountable in order to protect the health of women and save lives in the process.

Expect the abortion lobby to fight these common-sense limits, claiming it is a matter of life and death. They're right. Women and girls face death, and the risk of infection and illness when subjected to substandard clinics and unlicensed profiteers. The time is now to enact a comprehensive women's protection package in all 50 states so women's health can be better protected and lives can be saved.


Ovide Lamontagne of Manchester is general counsel of Americans United for Life and former candidate for governor of New Hampshire. This column first ran in The Daily Caller.

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