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West Virginia does not regulate or inspect abortion facilities: report

Ben Johnson
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CHARLESTON, WV, June 11, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The allegations of Itai Gravely, the 26-year-old who is suing a West Virginia abortionist for performing a forced abortion on her without sufficient anesthesia and leaving the baby's head inside her uterus, have drawn attention to a little-known fact: West Virginia is the Wild West of the abortion industry.

Jeremiah Dys, Gravely's attorney, said that the state “as a matter of public safety, needs to know that...the abortion industry of West Virginia is unregulated." “That means the state of West Virginia is not inspecting this clinic, licensing its activities, or in any way ensuring the safety of the women who enter its doors," he said at a press conference on Monday.

According to state employees and a leading state newspaper, no state agency regularly inspects abortion facilities to assure their compliance with basic health or safety regulations.

"There is no state agency that specifically inspects clinics or facilities that perform abortion," Marsha Dadisman, a DHHR spokeswoman, told the Charleston (WV) Daily Mail.

The West Virginia Board of Medicine licenses physicians, but not institutions.

Any medical office that dispenses drugs, such as the sedatives at the heart of Gravely's case, must be approved before they begin administering them. But state inspections only occur following complaints.

The Office of Health Facility Licensure and Certification, part of the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), only oversees hospitals and their associated medical facilities.

Both of the state's abortion facilities are located in the state capital of Charleston. The city/county health department states that it only inspects abortion facilities if a communicable disease breaks out.

“We'll go if there is any infectious disease tied to a particular facility,” said executive director Dr. Rahul Gupta. “Other than that, there's nothing else regulatory."

That would not detect or prevent events like those Gravely and Dys say took place in the Women's Health Center at the hands of Dr. Rodney L. Stephens.

Dr. Gorli Harish opened the city's other abortion facility, Kanawha Surgicenter, in 1979. Harish reportedly performs abortions only two days a week and is the only abortionist at the facility. He said his office had not been inspected in five years.

An unregulated environment and a profession dedicated to extinguishing life make a dangerous mix, critics say.

“Sadly, abortion is about killing, and it's about killing an innocent child,” Dr. Wanda Franz, president of West Virginians for Life and the former president of the National Right to Life Committee, told LifeSiteNews.com. “When you do that regularly, I think you lose your respect for human life, because you're taking it so freely. [Dr. Kermit] Gosnell was the perfect example of that, but I think there is an element of that in any abortionist's practice.”

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Both offices are members of the National Abortion Federation (NAF). The NAF turned down Kermit Gosnell's bid for membership after seeing the unsanitary and dangerous conditions at the Women's Medical Society – but did not report Gosnell to state or local authorities.

The lack of regulation of abortion facilities in West Virginia has led pro-life activists and others, including some who are against other restrictions on abortion, to say greater inspection is needed in the Mountaineer State.

“Since Gosnell's case made such a big impression on the country, we have to keep in mind that we now have an example [of] government agencies that failed to do their job in terms of protection of women [and] proper oversight,” Franz told LifeSiteNews. That “ought to be of concern to people who support abortion.”

“Grand jurors investigating Gosnell learned he could have been stopped years before he was, had local and state health officials enforced the law at his clinic. They did not - and still do not at other abortion facilities,” the Wheeling Intelligencer/News-Register wrote in an editorial today rejecting a statewide ban on abortions past 20 weeks. “(U)nless local and state health agencies do their jobs and stop abortion doctors like Gosnell, a new 20-week limit is unlikely to save many tiny, precious lives from monsters like him.”

Inspection is not the only aspect of abortion that is out of step with the majority view in this overwhelmingly pro-life state. The state is one of just four that pays for all “medically necessary” abortions through its state Medicaid program, placing it alongside such liberal states as Hawaii, New Mexico, and New York. “This requirement essentially equates to funding abortion-on-demand in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s broad definition of 'health' in the context of abortion,” notes Americans United for Life.

“We're paying for abortions in West Virginia, and we certainly have a right to expect that at least the basic medical responsibilities are being shown to the women who are getting abortions,” Franz told LifeSiteNews.

She added that, while legislators have passed a parental notification law, “they have instituted procedures to allow teenagers to get around” the strictures.

The state has also instituted a 24-hour wait, requires informed consent – something Stephens is accused of violating – and must read women a statement warning them of adverse effects of and alternatives to abortion. 

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