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In defense of women’s health and safety

With increasing pain, another round of anesthesia was administered and the procedure continued. The pain turned severe, so another round of anesthesia was administered and the procedure continued. After three rounds of anesthesia, the pain still had not subsided. The doctor’s aide, possessing an 8th grade education and a certification for drawing blood, would administer a fourth round of anesthesia. It was at this time the patient turned gray and breathing slowed…but the procedure continued. And then it was over. Two lives would be lost.

Nineteen weeks pregnant, a Nepalese immigrant, Karnamaya Mongar, went to the Women’s Medical Society in Philadelphia for an abortion. The story above recounts Mongar’s treatment by Dr. Kermit Gosnell in 2009. Following the procedure, Gosnell performed CPR and his aide called 911. Upon arrival at the Women’s Medical Society, paramedics were met with a locked emergency exit and cluttered hallways not wide enough for an ambulatory stretcher to navigate. After hearing these details, one is forced to question the physical state of this facility and how much precious time was wasted in getting help to Monger.

{mosads}Mongar would die the following day in the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania. Could she have been saved? How many other women may have been in the same situation? How many other facilities like this are operating across the country?

The answers to these questions may not be easily reached. There is, however, a Texas law that puts in place commonsense health and safety regulations for women in such a situation. The law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital located within 30 miles of the abortion clinic. This improves the continuity of care for patients, ensures a minimum of physician competence, prevents doctor miscommunication, and prevents patient abandonment.

Additionally, the law calls for minimum standards for abortion facilities to be equivalent to those prescribed in Texas’s ambulatory surgical center standards. This would require abortion centers to be sterile, sanitary environments with emergency access, proper staffing, and minimum safety measures and precautions—all things seemingly lacking from the Women’s Medical Society, and all things that may have been the difference between life and death for Mongar.

This is a commonsense law that provides basic protections to women. Yet, it is currently being challenged and is slated to be heard by the Supreme Court this week.

The potential impacts of this case are incredible. In addition to serving as a template for other states, upholding this law ensures that abortion facilities don’t get a free pass on basic health and safety standards at the expense of women’s health.

In the Grand Jury report regarding Gosnell, the jurists stated, “There is no justification for denying abortion patients the protections available to every other patient of an ambulatory surgical facility, and no reason to exempt abortion clinics from meeting these standards.” They went further to say that abortion clinics “should be explicitly regulated as ambulatory surgical facilities, so that they are inspected annually and held to the same standards as all other outpatient procedure centers.”

Overturning the Texas law, on the other hand, endangers women’s health, allowing facilities like the Women’s Medical Society to go uninspected and unaccountable. Adding to this danger, ruling against this law could place other reasonable regulations on abortion in jeopardy as fringe groups, aiming to make unregulated abortion the norm and not the exception, use this as a precedent to overturn laws around the country.

To this end, joined by 173 other members of Congress, I led an amicus brief in support of this Texas law. Further, over 3,300 women injured by abortion have signed a similar amicus brief in support of these regulations. Simply put, medical procedures as serious and consequential as abortion should not be allowed to go unregulated. The infamous abortionist Kermit Gosnell was not an outlier—we must protect women and children from other Gosnells.

Hartzler has represented Missouri’s 4th Congressional District since 2011. She sits on the Agriculture; the Armed Services; and the Budget committees.


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