Abortion opponents urge tighter regulations on clinics

The Baltimore Sun

Denise Crowe dropped her toddler off with a sitter in February 2006 and drove with a friend to an Anne Arundel County clinic to get an abortion. It cost about $800.

"She thought that she'd just have it done and nobody would know," said Stephanie White, her mother.

White told lawmakers Wednesday that her daughter walked into a clinic run by a man who had been the subject of complaints. The day of the procedure, White said, an unqualified staff member pumped her daughter full of drugs.

During the abortion, staff noticed that Crowe's nailbeds turned blue. The clinic did not have the equipment to revive her, and the 21-year-old died on the way to Anne Arundel Medical Center. Cause of death: Meperidine intoxication.

Testifying before the Senate Economic Matters Committee, White recalled sitting in the hospital and listening to a doctor tell her over and over that the death should not have happened.

The account was one of several presented by abortion opponents Wednesday as they made their case for tighter regulations on clinics in Maryland. The idea is gaining traction in the Democratic-led General Assembly, in part because of revelations that a New Jersey doctor performed abortions in Maryland without a state license.

The Maryland Catholic Conference and several other anti-abortion groups want the state to hold abortion clinics to the same standards as outpatient surgery centers. The Virginia Legislature recently passed a similar measure.

They detailed abortion horror stories in Maryland: One woman lost a kidney after suffering extensive internal injuries. Another woman died after an abortion doctor failed to notice that the fetus was in a fallopian tube. In each case, advocates said, the problems could have been dealt with if the clinics had been regulated as surgical centers.

Abortion-rights advocates called the proposal a thinly disguised effort to shut clinics. They said the requirements would be so costly that most of the 41 abortion providers in the state could not comply. Still, they said, the state could play a more active role in monitoring the clinics.

Members of the Senate panel expressed concern for the safety of Maryland women seeking to end pregnancies.

"If a woman is going to have an abortion, isn't there some reasonable presumption of safety?" asked Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, the Charles County Democrat who chairs the panel.

Robyn S. Elliott, a lobbyist for Planned Parenthood, said the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has regulated abortion clinics since 1993 and is considering new rules.

She said no new laws are needed.

Sen. E.J. Pipkin disagreed.

"We are up against tough cases," the Eastern Shore Republican said. "For 18 years there's been no regulation. Are you saying that the 19th year is going to be different?"