After Philly ‘horror,’ closer look at abortion clinics here
BY KARLA K. JOHNSON January 21, 2012 10:54PM
FILE - This Nov. 18, 2008 file photo shows the Northern Illinois Women's Center in Rockford, Ill. In 2011, after revelations in Philadelphia, Illinois inspectors visited all nine licensed abortion clinics that are designated as pregnancy termination centers, a regulatory category that limits those nine clinics to performing first-trimester abortions and no other procedures. The Northern Illinois Womens Health Center in Rockford and the Womens Aid Clinic in Lincolnwood were among those nine inspected clinics. The state found health and safety violations and issued emergency license suspensions for both clinics. (AP Photo/Rockford Register Star, Amy Van Horn)
Updated: February 23, 2012 8:17AM
An increased scrutiny of Illinois abortion clinics in the wake of revelations about a “house of horrors” in Philadelphia revealed that some facilities had gone up to 15 years without inspections, and two now have closed after regulators found health and safety violations.
The renewed oversight by state regulators led to the permanent closure of a clinic in Rockford earlier this month, following the closing of a clinic in suburban Chicago last October, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
One of those facilities — the Women’s Aid Clinic in Lincolnwood — closed when the owner decided to surrender its license rather than pay a $36,000 fine or endure an expensive legal fight with the state. The fine was for violations including the clinic’s failure to perform CPR on a patient who died after a procedure. Its owner told the AP her clinic was safe and she felt victimized by the surprise inspection after 15 years.
While Illinois is working on the backlog of neglected inspections, the documents reviewed by the AP show that a few abortion clinics in the state still haven’t been checked in more than a decade. One in Chicago hasn’t been inspected in 16 years. Another in the suburb of Wood Dale was last inspected nearly 15 years ago.
State officials attribute the lag to a lack of funds and resources, noting that the state’s 24 trained health inspectors are responsible for inspecting nearly 2,000 facilities.
Anti-abortion activist Eric Scheidler, executive director of the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League, said Illinois is “one of the most pro-abortion states in the nation” and he believes it gave the clinics “a pass.”
State regulators say ideology isn’t involved.
In a 2010 raid on a Philadelphia abortion provider that regulators had ignored for years, authorities found that late-term abortions were routinely performed by untrained staff, and viable newborns died by having their spinal cords cut with scissors.
Those reports spurred the Illinois Department of Public Health into action, said Karen Senger, who supervises licensing and regulation of health care facilities in the state. The documents show the state began quietly increasing the inspections of its clinics last year.
In 2011, Illinois inspectors visited all nine licensed abortion clinics that are defined as pregnancy termination centers, a category that limits them to first-trimester abortions and no other procedures.
Owners of the clinic in Rockford worked out a settlement with the state that would have allowed it to reopen with a reduced fine of $9,750. But they announced this month that trouble hiring new staff and lack of support from some in the Rockford community had persuaded them to close for good.
Larissa Rowansky, a co-owner of the Women’s Aid Clinic in Lincolnwood, said her clinic helped women and provided the best care that a professional clinic could provide.
But Illinois inspection reports detail citations for practices such as frozen TV dinners stored in a biohazard lab refrigerator that also held placental or fetal tissue.