Don’t Judge All Abortion Providers Based on the Case of Steven Brigham

Vicki Saporta

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures provided in the United States due in large part to the skill and expertise of abortion providers who offer high-quality care. Steven Brigham is not one of these providers.

It is no surprise that abortion opponents are attempting to use the recent investigation of a Maryland clinic to depict abortion as unsafe and providers as unregulated. However, this case is not representative of the state of abortion care in Maryland or throughout the rest of the country.

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures provided in the United States due in large part to the skill and expertise of abortion providers who offer high-quality care. However, Steven Brigham’s record makes it clear that he is not one of these providers.

The events in Elkton, MD are just the latest problem for Brigham who has come under fire from state licensing boards and health departments throughout his career. He has had his medical license temporarily suspended, relinquished, or revoked in five states, and this summer the Pennsylvania Department of Health ordered him to shutdown his clinics there and banned him from owning any other abortion clinics in the state. These repeated disciplinary actions make it evident that Brigham operates outside recognized standards for quality abortion care. And just as we wouldn’t judge the entire field for the misconduct of one dentist or dermatologist, we must not make generalizations about abortion providers based on Brigham.

Yet, that is exactly what abortion opponents are doing. They are using this opportunity to call for more regulations on all providers in an attempt to further their goal of limiting women’s access to abortion care. While I agree that Brigham and his clinics in Maryland and surrounding states should be investigated, I do so in order to ensure that women have access to the highest quality abortion care. Abortion is already highly regulated, and additional state regulations are not necessary.

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Health care facilities, including abortion clinics, are required to comply with a variety of federal and state regulations. These include the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, as well as other state and local regulations. Medical professionals, including physicians and clinicians who work in abortion care, are required to maintain professional standards and licenses and complete continuing medical education courses.

Additionally, most abortion providers comply with professional guidelines and established standards of care. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in North America. NAF members care for more than half the women who choose abortion each year in the United States, Canada, and Mexico City. Each NAF member must comply with NAF’s evidence-based Clinical Policy Guidelines, which are updated annually, and set the standards for abortion care in North America. NAF periodically conducts site visits to confirm that member facilities are in compliance with these guidelines, which help ensure that women receive quality care. Other medical organizations, such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have also established professional guidelines for abortion providers that their affiliates and members must follow.

Many states already single out abortion providers for politically-motivated, medically unnecessary regulations. Enactment of this type of legislation discourages health care providers from offering abortion care and can make provision very burdensome and/or expensive for smaller providers. These restrictions — which often dictate the width of hallways or landscaping maintenance— do not make abortion safer, they just make it more difficult for abortion providers to remain open and for women to access the abortion care they need. Abortion providers should not be targeted for more regulations based on the troubled career of Steven Brigham.

Abortion has an outstanding safety record: fewer than 0.3 percent of all abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization.

High-quality abortion care is readily available from providers and clinics who meet NAF’s quality care standards. Women can locate providers offering quality care online or by calling the NAF Hotline referral line 1-877-257-0012.

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