State DHHS releases proposal for updated abortion facility rules, public comment period opens

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On December 1, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released a proposal for updated abortion facility rules, beginning a 60-day public comment period.
 
The proposal comes as a result of the 2013 Health and Safety Law Changes, the pro-life omnibus bill passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor McCrory. The law stipulated that the state DHHS work to update abortion facility rules, bringing them closer in line with regulations for other outpatient ambulatory surgical centers. The rules have not been updated since the mid-1990's.
 
The proposal was put together by the DHHS with input from abortion facility representatives and medical professionals. The proposed effective date is April 1, 2015.
 
Encouraging provisions include:
  • Requiring annual facility inspections, rather than simply "as needed," plus a procedure for ensuring deficiencies are addressed in a timely manner
  • Establishing a quality assurance program to identify and address deficiencies in patient care
  • Requiring daily housekeeping: cleaning procedure and recovery rooms and removing waste material
  • Requiring appropriate humidity levels in procedure and recovery areas to reduce risk of infections
  • Requiring a 24-hour phone line available for patients with complications or questions following an abortion (voice recordings are not sufficient) and a protocol for putting patients in touch with a physician if patient needs exceed the capabilities of abortion facility staff
  • Requiring an automated external defibrillator (AED)
  • Requiring a written transfer agreement with a local hospital, or documented efforts to secure such an agreement
Concerning provisions include:
  • Relaxed requirements for lab testing of the placenta and the child's remains, leaving any necessary follow-up, should there be doubt about whether the pregnancy was ectopic, to the discretion of the abortionist
  • Eliminating the required 1-hour post-operative observation period prior to patient discharge
  • No longer requiring a doctor or nurse to accompany a non-ambulatory patient needing emergency transfer to the hospital
  • Reducing the time medical records must be maintained from 20 years to 10; for minors, records need only be kept for three years after the patient turns 18

Abortion advocates are sending mixed messages in press statements regarding the proposed rules updates. Planned Parenthood representatives, who worked with the DHHS on the proposal, say their facilities will comply, while other pro-abortion groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina are opposing rule updates, concerned first and foremost with easy abortion access over strict safety protections for patients.
 
We encourage pro-lifers to make their voices heard during the 60-day public comment period, particularly during the public hearing in Raleigh on Friday, December 19. The hearing will take place at 9:00 am in room 104 of the Brown Building, 801 Biggs Drive, Raleigh, NC 27603.
 
You may also submit comments between now and January 30, 2015 to DHSR.RulesCoordinator@dhhs.nc.gov or by mail: Nadine Pfeiffer, Division of Health Service Regulation, 2701 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-2701.
 
Needless to say, abortion harms mothers regardless of how clean and well run abortion facilities are. However, any rule that protects the lives and health of the mothers seeking abortions is a good rule.  Unfortunately, unborn babies will still die since that is the primary purpose of abortion facilities.  Our ultimate mission is to protect these children from death and their mothers from making a life altering and irreversible decision to end the life of her child.