Abortion opponents want tighter regulations

Annie Linskey reports:

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'd been the subject of multiple complaints. On the day of her procedure, White said, an unqualified staffer member pumped her full of drugs.


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

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

The story was one of several presented by anti-abortion activists Wednesday as they made their case for tighter regulations on abortion clinics in Maryland. The idea is gaining some traction in Maryland's Democratic General Assembly, in part due to revelations about a New Jersey doctor performing abortions here with no 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. Virginia's legislature recently passed a similar measure.

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

Opponents called the proposal a thinly disguised effort to shut abortion clinics down. They said the rules would be so costly that most of the 41 providers in the state could not comply.

Still, they said, the state could play a more active role monitoring clinics. And the abortion rights supporters on the Senate panel sounded concerned about 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 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 in the process of considering new rules .


She said no new laws are needed.

Sen. E.J. Pipkin, an Eastern Shore Republican, disagreed.

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