Pro Life Group Uncovers Health Problems at Clinics

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Texas abortion clinics are plagued with health and administrative violations and have tons of gross medical waste, including fetal remains, in open trash bins outside their doors, according to the results of a three-month undercover study by Christian pro-life group Operation Rescue.

The group filed complaints with the Texas Medical Board against 12 "abortionists" they dub the "Dirty Dozen," detailing alleged findings such as "illegal dumping of biohazard/infectious medical waste"; illegal dumping of medical records; unsanitary conditions (including "bloody smears" on the toilet in a McAllen clinic); and doctors and clinic staff who "showed resentment toward the law and a complete disrespect for women and their right to know the risks of abortion." (Note: While we're interested in the allegations, we're less compelled by the loaded, borderline-paranoid language -- à la "abortion promoters" -- that fanatics are wont to employ, often to their detriment.)

The group has also posted excerpts of phone conversations between undercover members and clinic staff, including one call where a receptionist at an El Paso clinic steers a caller posing as a 17-year-old to a clinic in New Mexico, so the "minor" wouldn't have to inform her parents, per Texas law.

In another, a caller complains of not understanding a doctor's prerecorded informed-consent statements in a conference call because of his thick accent. The receptionist fielding that complaint suggests the caller listen to another recording later that day (presumably the same recording) and tells the caller that "You've already complied [with state law] so I mean, basically, that's all you need."

The clinics were chosen at random, according to the study, but several were part of a chain called Whole Women's Health. Those were among the worst violators, according to Operation Rescue.

Texas Medical Board Spokeswoman Leigh Hopper told us in an e-mail that "We review every complaint we receive for violations of the standard of care and other concerns. State law prohibits us from confirming or denying the presence of an investigation, but any disciplinary action will be public information. I always encourage consumers to use our website to see if a doctor has a history of disciplinary actions."

We also asked Hopper about the scenarios in the calls Operation Rescue posted online. In the case of the caller who was directed to the New Mexico clinic, we asked if a doctor in Houston should also tell a patient about New Mexico's informed-consent laws -- or perhaps outline the laws in the much closer state of Louisiana.

"The scenario you describe does not sound like it would activate Texas parental consent laws, which kick in 48 hours ahead of a scheduled abortion. In these scenarios, the receptionist or doctor is providing information about what the laws require in different states, and that's legal."

Per the hard-to-understand conference call, Hopper told us, "Doctors are required to provide adequate informed consent. This scenario sounds like it does not meet the standard."

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