my letter to the editor re: abortion in west philadelphia

I am not sure if this will be published or not, but it was sent to the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning:

To the Editor: 

I am a gynecologist, formerly in practice in Philadelphia, who provided abortion care for many years to my private patients as well as to those at three area women’s health centers. I am appalled but not surprised by the events surrounding the clinic run by Dr. Gosnell; it was an open secret among abortion providers that his practice was subpar and not reflective of the generally excellent care most abortion providers give to their patients. I had performed abortions in women who had come to his clinic for an abortion, sensed that something was not right, and fortunately left before receiving care at that facility. What surprised all of us is the fact that no local or state authority acted on longstanding concerns about the “clinic” in West Philadelphia. And while the National Abortion Federation’s guidelines and inspection process currently lack teeth as they are not a state or local health body, I think it does have an obligation to provide better oversight of member clinics and individual physicians. Unfortunately, only a portion of abortion providers are members of NAF, and like Dr. Gosnell, would not be subject to any enhanced regulation by that organization.

I do believe that outpatient abortion clinics should be evaluated in the same light as any other outpatient facility, but also not targeted or treated more onerously than a cosmetic surgery or outpatient surgical facility.

But lost in all of the media reports about the “house of horrors” in West Philly, is the fact that women came there because they often did not feel they had access to a safe, legal abortion. Abortion care is not generally reimbursable under medical assistance plans thanks to the Hyde Amendment. And thanks to terrorist groups like Operation Rescue and the assassinations they have inspired, many of my colleagues simply will not provide abortion, making subpar and dangerous physicians even more likely to make up for the decreased supply of qualified abortion providers. If anyone wants a preview of a future without Roe vs. Wade, look to that “clinic” in West Philly.

Most abortion providers and clinics provide excellent care to their patients. Indeed, abortion is one of the safest surgical and medical procedures out there. However, society and, in particular, many hospitals and medical schools have marginalized abortion. That marginalization will only make it more likely that unqualified people will provide abortions to women who lack the means to obtain safe and legal abortions. It’s time to stop this marginalization, and also elevate abortion practice to the quality standards and payor reimbursement it deserves, on a par with every other routine, standard and common gynecologic surgery procedure.