One of the most common pro-abortion arguments is that legalization keeps abortion safe. The rationale goes something like this: whether people like it or not, some women will always seek out abortions. No matter what other services or programs are offered to help with crisis pregnancies, abortion is so needed, so necessary, that keeping it legal is the only way to keep women fully safe.
When legislation is brought up to limit abortion to certain gestational periods (such as before 20 weeks) or to limit abortions to only ambulatory surgical centers, abortion advocates oppose these measures, claiming it places undue burdens on women, seeks to control them, and will force them into underground, unsafe facilities.
What if the reality is that abortion facilities operating right now, in full legality, are being consistently cited for health code violations for things that can endanger the lives of women? What if the current system of legalized abortion isn’t actually keeping women safe?
It’s not idle conjecture to wonder this. Some recently published research suggests that post-abortive women are seeking emergency room care at high rates: “The incidence of abortion-related emergency department visits within six weeks of initial abortion procedure is about 40%.”
Women’s Safety Isn’t Just a Pretend Argument
What are the records of safety for local facilities, and the qualifications of the workers there? Should abortionists have to maintain admitting privileges at a local hospital, so when something goes wrong during a procedure, such as uterine perforation, the doctor can follow the case? A case newly before the Supreme Court is examining just this requirement, as explained by Margot Cleveland.
The distressing truth is that despite the legality of abortion in America, and that it has been legal since 1973’s Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, many abortion facilities are not operating in safe, sterile, or hygienic conditions for the women they serve. Regardless of your feelings on the morality or legality of abortion, why are legal medical services happening daily in abortion facilities without up-to-date crash carts, with improper sterilization, with rusty implements?
This website lets you check facilities by state for health code violations, broken down by year. There’s no political posturing here or framing, it’s just photocopies of state health department reports.
State information is listed, such as: whether direct counseling is required, if there is a waiting period after counseling, if an ultrasound is required, parental consent requirements for minors, any gestational limits, if there is a life or health exception to those limits for the mother, whether abortion facilities in the state are required to meet ambulatory surgical center requirements, if telehealth or webcam appointments are allowed, public funding status, and what procedures must be performed by a doctor versus other staff.
For example, in Illinois, there are 13 abortion locations listed, plus a map where you can see them all. All listed violations for these 13 facilities are directly from Check My Clinic’s summaries of health department reports.
Michigan Avenue Center for Health
The first listed, the Michigan Avenue Center for Health, in Chicago, has five reports listed. Those cite health violations including improper sanitation, crash cart/emergency resuscitation supplies missing or out of date, and clients who had to be transferred to local hospitals for complications. The summary and link to each health department report for this facility is available here.
Apollo Health Center in Des Plains
This facility lists violations including 10 out of 10 employees missing background checks, no onsite X-ray machine to check the location of missing surgical tools, and gastrointestinal surgeries happening at the facility with no GI consultant on staff. Link to report here.
Access Health Center in Downers Grove
Access Health Center in Downers Grove has four listed reports, detailing violations including sanitation violations days after surgeries had been conducted, no post-op counseling, missing medical records, a non-functional fire sprinkler system and walls that are not fire retardant, lack of proper documentation on fire alarms, liquid oxygen too close to combustibles, infection risks due to missing hands-free sinks, performing vasectomies without a license, and other problems related to sterilization and infection control. Reports here.
Anchor Women’s Health in Glen Ellyn
Anchor Women’s Health in Glen Ellyn lists five reports. Staff were cited for running IV fluids on clients without a doctor’s order, blocking exits, lacking hands-free features to control infection and germ control, problems with fire alarms and smoke ventilation, problems with the facility’s instrument sterilizer, and a lack of follow-up counseling. Reports and notes here.
Whole Women’s Health of Peoria
Whole Women’s Health of Peoria has two lengthy reports listed. Equipment was lacking the maintenance and inspections required for safe operation on women, medications on-site and in use were expired, physicians had credential problems or expired hospital privileges, patients were having on-site procedures without RN nurses present, resuscitation equipment was unavailable, instruments used on multiple patients were not properly sanitized, there were problems with narcotics at the facility, open syringes were not marked whether they had been already used, sedation was being administered by doctors who may not have been qualified to administer it, ultrasounds were being performed by doctors who lacked documentation allowing them to do ultrasounds, telemedicine abortions were observed that failed to collect or consider the women’s previous health history, and more. Reports and notes here.
Western Diversy Surgical Center in Chicago
Western Diversy Surgical Center in Chicago lists one report, citing that they were performing dilation and extraction procedures on women without a license. Report here.
Abortion Access National Health Care in Peoria
Abortion Access National Health Care in Peoria lists one report. Violations in this report included that medications were expired, patient medications were being stored in the same fridge as food, and the facility was providing vasectomies without a license. Report here.
ACU Health Center in Hinsdale
ACU Health Center in Hinsdale is now closed, but before shutting its doors also had health code violations. These included failure to maintain a sanitary space for women and record-keeping errors. Report here.
Northern Illinois Women’s Center in Rockford
Northern Illinois Women’s Center in Rockford is also now closed, and has violations from when they were open. These violations include staining on items in patient care areas that weren’t cleaned, an autoclave or sterilizer that didn’t work properly and had a record of failures, and a lack of on-site RNs and documentation. Report here.
Hope Women’s Clinic in Granite City
Hope Women’s Clinic in Granite City has three health department reports. CheckMyClinic also includes screenshots of five customer reviews worth reading. Here’s one.
This facility’s violations included medication problems, lack of physical exams before providing abortions, sanitation issues, equipment used on patients was in poor repair, and problems with the fire suppression system. Report here.
Forest View Medical Center in Des Plains
Forest View Medical Center in Des Plains is now closed but had violations while open. Their violations include a lack of documentation for background checks, Rhogam administration, and counseling. Report here.
American Women’s Health Center in Des Plains
American Women’s Health Center in Des Plains has four health department reports and three screenshots of applicable client reviews. This facility did not have a RN present during an “invasive” procedure, failed to provide counseling, failed to document patient transfers (other records show at least seven), failed to keep patient records in a secure or private fashion, fire code violations, and sterilization and medication errors. Report and notes here.
Advantage Health Care in Wood Dale
Advantage Health Care in Wood Dale lists two health department reports. These include failing to examine a patient properly, documentation issues, and fire code issues. Report here.
This Is Just One State’s Abortion Facilities
This is just a rundown of abortion facilities from a single state. It’s an incredibly condensed version of the summaries available on CheckMyClinic, with more detailed information available on the actual health department reports.
Each and every facility has documented violations of basic patient care and safety. If women’s health were really the primary goal here, people would be demanding safer facilities, better enforcement, more regular inspections, stricter standards. There are no protests for that. There are no clever campaigns bringing light to systems that have allowed doctors like Ulrich Klopfer or Kermit Gosnell to practice atrocities.
There are other good alternatives for women, but we don’t hear a lot about those, either. It’s tragic that the fight over abortion has become a fight to keep it legal at any cost, even when that cost includes the safety of women and girls. There is no reason for unsafe facilities to get a pass.
Legalizing abortion in America hasn’t removed the unsafe facilities but instead given women the idea that they’re receiving safe medical services when they often are not. It’s time to call this out.