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Opinion | Loosening abortion regulations is dangerous for Michigan women

As a medical professional, I believe — as I'm sure many people do — that patients should expect the medical facilities they visit to be sanitary and be subject to state inspections and licensing to ensure they are clean and safe.

I also believe my patients should receive adequate information before medical procedures so they are aware of the risks and what the procedure will involve. That way they can make an informed choice about the procedure.

Dr. Catherine Stark
Dr. Catherine Stark is a board-certified OB-GYN who has practiced in Michigan for more than 25 years. She has worked in private practice and serves as medical director at Crossroads Care Center in Auburn Hills.

These are common-sense medical standards any patient would expect for any sort of medical procedure. Yet a bill package before the Legislature removes common-sense health and safety standards for abortion clinics and removes requirements to provide a woman the right to know about the details and complications of abortion through informed consent.

The legislation — known as the Reproductive Health Act (RHA) — repeals requirements that abortion clinics are licensed by the state, inspected, and regulated to ensure they meet basic health and safety standards for female patients. Should this policy become law, abortion businesses would be allowed to regulate themselves — thereby creating an environment ripe for abuse due to a lack of transparency and little to no accountability. 

Removing the baseline health and safety regulations for abortion clinics, the RHA would likely result in women again being subjected to filthy, dangerous, and unsanitary abortion clinics no different than a facility in Muskegon where authorities uncovered in 2012 “blood on the floor and walls in multiple locations” and “buckets containing unknown fluids.”   

According to news reports at the time the conditions were discovered, local authorities had flagged the facility for “improper disposal of syringes and needles,” “unsterilized medical equipment,” “multiple unsanitary medical instruments,” and “blood dripping from a sink in a room used by patients.”

No woman deserves to be in an environment like that — it’s an insult to human dignity.

The Michigan Legislature passed the current law requiring abortion clinics to be inspected and licensed by the state at a time when the vast majority of abortion clinics were rarely, if ever, inspected by state officials.

Now the RHA, promoted by the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, proposes to repeal those standards.

Women also deserve a right to know before an abortion about what the procedure involves, including any possible complications. This period to provide informed consent before an abortion also allows the medical provider to determine if the woman is being coerced into an abortion.  

No person could walk into a medical facility and expect to get a procedure done immediately without first hearing about the possible risks and complications. The same should be true for abortions, and perhaps even more so, as people on both sides of the debate agree that the decision to have an abortion is not one to be made lightly.

Yet the RHA is proposing the repeal of the state's informed consent standard for abortion. While abortion supporters say these requirements are not needed, a study of women who had undergone abortions in the U.S. found that 67 percent received no counseling prior to their abortion and that 64 percent felt pressured to have an abortion. The data show women are better served with these protections in place rather than removing them, as the RHA proposes to do.

If a woman is seeking an abortion, she should expect that the clinic she visits will be clean, sanitary, and following all health and safety standards she would expect at any other medical facility. I assume any person would want these conditions for their sister, niece, aunt, or whomever may be considering abortion.

I am convinced that it will be vulnerable women who are most in need of support and care who will be hurt the most if these bills are approved. The RHA package of bills should be rejected if we as a society care about the health and safety of women in our state.

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