Pro-Life organization calls on Mass. to close abortion clinics for ‘patently illegal’ activities

By Christine M. Williams, Anchor Correspondent

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — Five abortion clinics in Massachusetts, including Four Women Health Services in Attleboro, are violating state law — or, at least, advertising their willingness to do so. While Commonwealth law states that abortions after 18 weeks must be performed in hospitals, each of the five clinics’ websites advertise abortions up to 20 weeks or later.

Massachusetts law 130 CMR 433.455 (C)(2) states, “A second-trimester abortion must be performed by a licensed and qualified physician only in a hospital licensed by the Department of Public Health to perform medical and surgical services; provided, however, that up to and including the 18th week of pregnancy, a second-trimester abortion may be performed in a clinic that meets the requirements of 130 CMR 433.455(C)(1) where the attending physician certifies in the medical record that, in his or her professional judgment, a non-hospital setting is medically appropriate in the specific case.”

The websites of four clinics — Four Women, Merrimack Valley Women’s Health Services in Haverhill, Metro West Women’s Health Services in Natick and North Shore Women’s Center in Lynn — all say abortions will be performed up to 20 weeks. Women’s Health Services in Brookline advertises abortions up to 23 weeks.

Anne Fox, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, sent a letter to the state executive office of Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz on March 31 to alert him to the “patently illegal” conduct.

Fox urged Polanowicz to order the abortion providers to cease abortion services until they demonstrate that they are not performing abortions beyond the 18th week of pregnancy.

“Consider the outcry which would occur if a store advertised that it sells cigarettes to 10-year-olds,” she wrote. “These providers’ flagrant violations of MassHealth regulations pose an imminent threat to the safety and proper health care of their patients because the later in pregnancy an abortion occurs, the greater the patient’s medical risk.”

In an interview with The Anchor, Fox said that hospitals are better-equipped to care for those women who are at a greater risk for complications during the procedure.

She added that no one from Polanowicz’s office has yet responded to the letter. Julie Kaviar, the office’s deputy communications director, told The Anchor that she had not seen the letter and would work to track it down before the paper’s deadline. She did not respond to subsequent messages.

Vanessa, a woman at Four Women who refused to give her last name, denied that the clinic acts illegally. “We have no comment at this time except to say that we do follow all Massachusetts federal and state laws regarding abortions,” she said.

MCFL and other Pro-Life groups say that abortion clinics in the state are not scrutinized as much as other surgical centers. Of greater concern is that the clinics are often unlicensed and not inspected regularly, they say.

Fox said that such conditions lead to abuses like the atrocities that occurred at the hands of Pennsylvania abortionist Kermit Gosnell. He specialized in illegal late-term abortions. He killed infants that had been born alive by severing their spinal cords. He also injured women in botched abortions. He was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter. He is serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Fox added that clinics make a lot of money and that they make even more when they cut corners. She mentioned the case of Laura Hope Smith who died during an abortion on Cape Cod in 2007. The cause of death was cardiac arrest while under anesthesia. Despite being legally required to have a second doctor present to monitor vital signs during an abortion, the clinic did not have a second physician or any monitoring equipment at all.

MCFL is also working on public policy questions that should appear on ballots in 40 state representative districts. If approved, the questions would instruct elected officials in those districts that the electorate support abortion clinics being licensed and inspected at least every two years.

Darlene Howard, chairman of the board of directors for Abundant Hope Pregnancy Resource Center in Attleboro, called the five clinics’ advertising of abortions up to 20 weeks “shameful.”

“We have these laws in place to protect people. For them to just ignore it and blatantly advertise, you can only imagine what else they’re doing. That’s what’s scary to me,” she said.

Howard said that Abundant Hope is seeking a license to administer ultrasounds, a noninvasive procedure. The license is the same one that abortion clinics must obtain in order to perform surgical abortions. 

“It’s very frustrating that where we’re trying to save lives, we’re being scrutinized, and where they’re taking lives, there’s no accounting for their business at all,” she said.

© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts