Did VDH Ignore Safety Violations?

On Monday, staff from The Family Foundation testified at a Board of Health public hearing concerning amendments that would relax some of Virginia’s abortion center health and safety standards.

At the meeting, we challenged the $1 billion abortion industry’s claim that Virginia’s abortion centers are “safe” and well-maintained.  I testified to the fact that Steven Brigham, Diane Derzis and William Fitzhugh own and operate seven of the sixteen (fifteen operating with the license suspension of one in Fairfax) abortion centers in Virginia. These operators have a history of ignoring standard medical practice. 

You know about Brigham, whose Fairfax abortion center recently had its license suspended because of an inspection that found dozens of health and safety violations. 

Derzis has operated abortion centers across the nation, including A Capital Women’s Health Center in Richmond.  A significant number of Derzis’ abortion centers have been closed due to egregious health and safety violations. In 2012, Derzis was ordered to shut down her facility in Birmingham, Alabama, after inspectors found 76 pages of violations following the hospitalization of three patients in one day for abortion complications.  Officials have been fighting to close her Mississippi abortion center for years.

William Fitzhugh operates abortion centers in Richmond, Charlottesville, Roanoke and Newport News.  Fitzhugh’s abortion centers have been found to have a litany of health and safety violations, including unlicensed staff members illegally mixing drugs for patients and transporting narcotics from one facility to another with no record or documentation.  In fact, the Charlottesville facility had no records in accordance with federal and state laws regarding the drugs used at the facility, including Schedule II narcotics like Fentanyl, a drug now becoming a major problem in the drug trade.  Fitzhugh administered medications and wrote prescriptions at his Charlottesville facility without a current DEA number for that abortion center. For multiple violations of state and federal drug laws Fitzhugh received nothing more than a reprimand from state officials. 

Changes to the health and safety standards will simply make it easier for abortion operators like these to continue to put women at risk. 

We also testified about inconsistencies in abortion center inspections.  For example, the recent April 2016 inspection of Brigham’s NOVA abortion center found a multitude of expired drugs – including drugs that had expired prior to a March 2015 inspection, drugs that expired in January, May, August, and December of 2014.  Yet, those violations were not found in the March 2015 inspection.

How did public health inspectors miss these expired drugs?  Was this simple oversight? 

We hope that inspectors did not overlook violations within abortion centers, but considering the promises of the current Governor to protect the abortion industry, we find it highly disturbing that these violations were missed.  Clearly, the inspectors from this April did their job thoroughly, which gives us hope that the inspection from March 2015 was simply done poorly and not intentional.  But today we called on the Department of Health to review the 2015 inspection so that the reasons for the oversight are determined and the public can have confidence that inspectors are not improperly influenced by external politics.

As always, the abortion industry today hid behind catchy, focus group phrases like “sham regulations” and “evidence based” regulations, claiming that the safety standards will “drive women to unscrupulous abortion providers,” all the time ignoring the evidence in inspection reports that the very standards they oppose are what expose “unscrupulous” providers and protect women.

If you have not yet submitted comment in opposition to the proposed amendments to the abortion center health and safety standards, time is running out!  Click here to make your voice heard!