CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Christian evangelical group that sparked Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's review of abortion regulations in West Virginia says abortion clinics should be licensed and should undergo surprise inspections, according to a letter sent to Morrisey's office last week.
The Family Policy Council of West Virginia also wants the state to establish specific staffing and building structural requirements for abortion clinics -- measures that abortion rights activists say are designed to put the facilities out of business.
"What is at stake is nothing less than the safety and health of our state's sisters and daughters," said Jeremiah Dys, the council's president, in a 10-page letter sent to Morrisey's office last week.
Dys was responding to Morrisey's request for public comments on abortion regulations. Morrisey, who opposes abortion, started his review after Dys' group filed a lawsuit against a Charleston doctor who allegedly botched an abortion last year.
On Tuesday, women's health advocates plan to rally at the state Capitol in Charleston to oppose Morrisey's abortion review. They say he's targeting abortion clinics because a "special interest group has a religious and political agenda to make safe, legal abortion care unavailable to West Virginia women."
"This attorney general has teamed up with political minorities to advance an attack on women's health," said Margaret Chapman Pomponio, executive director of WV FREE, an abortion rights group. "We all know their goal is to ultimately make all abortion care illegal."
In his letter to Morrisey, Dys said he's recommending specific steps to regulate abortion without "limiting in any way a woman's reproductive choice."
Dys said abortion clinics should not be allowed to employ doctors who have been sued eight or more times for medical malpractice. The physicians also should have admitting privileges at a hospital within 15 miles of the clinic where they work.
Abortion clinics should be licensed like ambulatory surgical facilities -- also known as outpatient or same-day surgery centers, Dys said.
"The abortion procedure is a surgical procedure that employs the use of extremely sharp medical instruments into the reproductive organs of a female within very close proximity to major arteries and essential bodily organs," Dys wrote to Morrisey. "In short, the abortion procedure is a surgery. It ought to be treated like a surgical facility."
Dys said the clinics should be required to "open their doors" to unannounced health and safety inspections at least four times a year.
"Since the abortion industry came to West Virginia in 1976, not a single health and safety inspector has been sent by the state to ensure that, for instance, medical instruments have been properly sanitized, medical equipment is working properly, human remains are being properly reported and disposed, and Medicaid reimbursement is free of over-billing," Dys wrote.
Dys also recommends that abortion clinics meet building structural requirements. Among them:
| Exits, doors and hallways wide enough to accommodate medical gurneys.
| Storage rooms for clean and soiled linens.
| Adequate lighting and ventilation.
| Adequate areas for storing medical records, equipment and supplies.
A law recently passed in Texas, that places similar requirements on abortion clinic facilities and requires doctors to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, sparked a 12-hour filibuster and an impassioned national debate.