Md. Releases Regulations for Abortion Clinics

August 3, 2011 — Maryland abortion clinics will be required to apply for a state license, provide a 24-hour hotline for patients, show that they have on-site qualified anesthesia providers and create emergency plans, according to draft regulations released Friday by the state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Baltimore Sun's "Maryland Politics" reports. Clinics that fail to comply with the regulations would face a $1,000 penalty or have their license revoked.

According to "Maryland Politics," the regulations were developed in response to abortions provided in Elkton, Md., by Steven Brigham, who was not licensed to practice in the state (Linskey, "Maryland Politics," Baltimore Sun, 7/31). Regulators found that the physician had started abortion procedures while the patients were in New Jersey and completed the procedures in Maryland.

"These draft regulations are strictly aimed at patient safety and rely on professional judgment," the health department said, adding that the rules reflect "the right balance of preserving both safety and access."

After completing a review of medical board records, the department concluded there was a "lack of an appropriate transfer procedure for a patient needing emergency care" during an abortion procedure at an outpatient surgical clinic (Witte, AP/Washington Times, 8/2). The review also found cases where complications resulted from poor administration of anesthesia ("Maryland Politics," Baltimore Sun, 7/31).

"The department is moving forward to strengthen oversight in light of rare cases of physicians who violated the standard of care with surgical abortions," the agency said, adding that it consulted gynecologists, anesthesiologists, outpatient surgeons and other clinical experts to determine which regulations to push.

The regulations are open for public comment through Aug. 18. The department then will formally review the comments and make any necessary changes to the regulations before they are published in the Maryland Register. The public then will have another 30 days to comment on the rules (AP/Washington Times, 8/2).