The scandalously lax regulation of the abortion industry is a well-documented fact. From Dr. Gosnell’s “House of Horrors” to Steven Brigham’s decades long trail of quackery, the unique status of abortion as a politically protected procedure has resulted in countless tales of grotesque medical negligence and tragically wounded women – in some cases mortally. Operators of tanning salons and barbershops, it seems, are more carefully regulated than abortionists.
The complicity of government officials who turn a blind eye to such things is the real scandal here. We should hardly expect high standards of any kind from people who make their living tearing their fellow creatures limb from limb. But government regulators – that’s a different story entirely. Yet the record shows that in case after case, they just don’t do their job when it comes to abortion.
The ACLJ represents Andrew Glenn, a Germantown, Maryland, resident who has long been disturbed by his own state’s exceptionally bad record of overseeing abortion businesses. In 2012, after the exploits of the notorious Steven Brigham finally embarrassed the Maryland Department of Health into adopting tougher regulations, Glenn made a Public Information Act request. He asked the Department for copies of surgical abortion facility applications submitted by abortion businesses. Glenn hoped to be able to do what the Department itself had shown itself incapable of doing for so long – a basic web search of the names of the characters involved in running the facilities and seeing which of them, if any, had sketchy track records in other states. It’s called being a “citizen watchdog,” generally deemed an honorable pastime by everyone but bureaucrats worried about the people who pay them checking up on them.
But, as in so many other areas of the law, when it comes to abortion, all bets are off. Instead of being seen as a laudable use of a statute designed to promote transparency in government, Glenn’s request was opposed by the Department of Health. He was given partial records, records that blacked out the names of the administrators, the owners, the officers, and the medical directors of each abortion facility. In other words, the important parts. The Department’s reason? People who own and work in abortion facilities don’t want their names revealed to the public. The speculative “threat of violence” was trotted out - as if anyone whoever threatened or actually committed a violent act against an abortionist first made a successful Public Information Act request before going off the deep end. Or could there be an even more real threat they’re afraid of? The threat that “citizen watchdogs” might do what state bureaucrats consistently failed to do with Brigham and others: research the sordid history of abortion entrepreneurs and insist that the state not turn them loose on an uninformed public?
The Glenn case presents real evidence of the incestuous relationship between Big Abortion and Big Government. Among the redacted records that Glenn did receive was an application from a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Written at the top of the application by a Planned Parenthood employee was the following directive to the Maryland Department of Health: “Exclude or redact ‘Agency email address’ and ‘Name of Medical Director’ from any FOIA [public records requests] inquiries.” Planned Parenthood’s wish was evidently the Department’s command. The information was redacted. The regulatee became the regulator. What other business gets to dictate to its government regulators the information the regulator should or should not disclose to the public?
Under Maryland law, in order to overcome the presumption of disclosure when faced with a request like Glenn’s, the Department was required to obtain court approval. A court hearing was held this past April 18th in Baltimore. In spite of presenting nothing more than bare speculation about “safety concerns,” all the while acknowledging that the Department had no reason to question Glenn’s good faith, the Circuit Court upheld the Department’s position. In a brief Order, the Court also cited nothing more than “the public safety concerns.”
We are now appealing the decision of the Circuit Court to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. On November 5th, we filed our opening brief. In the brief, we argue that:
The Dr. Brighams and Dr. Gosnells of the world exploit lax government oversight whenever possible, costing lives and endangering health. The public has a strong interest in obtaining adequate information from public records to effectively monitor the government’s oversight of surgical abortion facilities and those who own and operate them.
Put another way, the Department of Health’s stance here, unfortunately ratified by the Circuit Court, would replace the Public Information Act’s guiding principle of maximum disclosure with the principle of letting the inmates run the asylum.
We think it’s time to end the abortion industry’s protected status. The real “public safety concern” should be for the women whose very lives are jeopardized by the substandard “care” of medical charlatans and hucksters whose regulators too often look the other way for reasons having nothing to do with medicine or public safety and everything to do with political ideology.
We expect the case to be heard by the Court of Special Appeals some time in early 2015.
We’re preparing to file a critical brief to defend this pro-life law and the unborn. Double your impact for life with a tax-deductible gift.
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