In 2012, Texans for Life was contacted by a young woman who had recently had an abortion in Dallas. Despite being an ardent supporter of legal abortion, she was unhappy with her experience with the doctor she went to and was demanding change so higher medical standards would be in place at abortion clinics.
That even women who support abortion access and had gone through the procedure themselves want better accountability for the doctors who perform abortions makes it clear that standards of care must be raised. Which is why it is particularly disappointing that the Supreme Court on Monday struck down a law, by a vote of 5-4, that would have done so.
Some very bad actors are hiding in the abortion industry, and the industry knows it.
The legislation, passed in Louisiana, required those performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. It was similar to a law in Texas that my organization supported but that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016, in the case Whole Woman's v. Hellerstedt.
Abortion supporters claim that those of us advocating for admitting requirements are only trying to limit abortion access, since they do have the effect of lowering the number of doctors who can perform the procedure and my group does want to see abortion outlawed. But they conveniently are ignoring that real women are also suffering in cases of inadequate care. We support life — and good health care is a part of that.
It is also particularly important given how many of the women seeking abortions are young, scared and often alone. Indeed, what struck me most about the young woman who turned to Texans for Life for help in 2012 was that she, unlike many other young women, knew from experience what a surgical consultation before a medical procedure is supposed to look like — and whether it was not adequate — because she was the daughter of a nurse.
After her prolonged insistence, I agreed to look into the doctor, Jasbir Ahluwalia. A 2002 article in The Dallas Morning News reported numerous malpractice cases, including a couple who accused him of causing permanent brain damage to their child during delivery, which was eventually settled for more than $1.3 million. The story noted that Ahluwalia had also settled cases for perforating uteruses during two other abortions.
Only when Ahluwalia lost his admitting privileges at Harris Methodist Erath County Hospital did the Texas Medical Board punish him with 50 hours of continuing medical education and other requirements, saying he "failed to adequately manage various high-risk pregnancies."
But Ahluwalia, 81 this year, has continued to see women seeking abortions and other related services in clinics including the Fort Worth branch of Whole Woman's Health — the lead plaintiff in Whole Woman's v. Hellerstedt. Ahluwalia declined to comment on these incidents after being contacted through the Fort Worth clinic.
Though the Supreme Court in that case, and again in Monday's decision, dismissed the notion that there were sufficient medical benefits to requiring admitting privileges — particularly since complications after abortions are rare — the court missed the mark. Much of the medical information it relied on to assess whether the requirement was reasonable overlooked that the data on the safety of abortions often is not crystal clear.
For instance, of the scores lawsuits in 2012 against abortion doctors that I researched, only a handful involved emergency transportation to the hospital from the clinic, meaning those who arrived hours or days later might not have been identified in data as suffering complications due to abortions.
Also, the value of privileges is not in the credentialing but in the ongoing peer review that is especially valuable and even critical in an industry that is often cloaked in secrecy. If a hospital notices that a number of women presenting with complications had a doctor with privileges granted by the hospital, there is oversight and recourse not otherwise readily available.
Ahluwalia is just one doctor, but we have dozens of lawsuits filed by women injured and maimed at the hands of abortion doctors. You can already see how these tragedies could impassion Texans for Life, a group run largely by women, to pursue a requirement for hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors to drive out the worst of the worst abortion doctors in Texas.
When Texas abortion clinic owners like Amy Hagstrom Miller wax on about the anti-abortion bias that prevents their doctors from getting hospital admitting privileges, they are ignoring the fact that it is a violation of state and federal law to deny hospital privileges to a doctor because he or she performs abortions.
Requiring abortion doctors to be subject to the review of their peers is the most important part of hospital admitting privileges, and it is the standard of care that should be in place.
Some very bad actors are hiding in the abortion industry, and the industry knows it. Requiring abortion doctors to be subject to the review of their peers is the most important part of hospital admitting privileges, and it is the standard of care that should be in place for abortion procedures. It is the answer to weeding out the bad actors, and the abortion industry knows this, too.
The Supreme Court is allowing the politicization of abortion to justify lowering the standards of care for women, ensuring that abortion is cheap and readily available with little regard for the safety of women.