Last week, radical anti-abortion rights group Operation Rescue told Life News that the Texas Medical Board has continued to investigate the group’s claims that women’s health clinics providing abortions in Texas were violating the law. Clinic operators continue to dispute the claims, but fear that a wave of harassment and intimidation against abortion providers could follow.
In Florida, Operation Rescue has paid close attention to a case involving a Hialeah abortion provider who was accused of illegally practicing medicine while performing a failed abortion in 2006. This March, the case against the provider was thrown out because “medical experts changed testimony,” making the case difficult to prosecute.
Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue, said the Hialeah case is an example of why anti-abortion rights groups such as Operation Rescue need to focus on getting abortion providers prosecuted.
Newman said that the group has done quite well getting candidates elected that share in the group’s cause, as well as passing legislation that restricts abortion rights. However, he believes the pro-life movement has “fallen down” when it comes to prosecuting abortion providers, who he says continually break the law.
“I have yet to find an abortion mill that doesn’t violate the law,” said Newman.
Terry Sallas-Merritt, a vice president for Whole Woman’s Health, said that the group’s most common tactic is to harass doctors and clinics who are providing a legal service. Whole Woman’s Health is a chain of women’s health clinics in Texas and Maryland, and was among those targeted in Operation Rescue’s self-proclaimed “sting.” Over a dozen doctors who provide abortion services in Texas are under investigation because of Operation Rescue’s claims.
According to reporting by our sister site, The Texas Independent, Operation Rescue and a group called “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” sent a team of 10 to 15 women undercover to clinics that provide abortions in Texas earlier this year.
The Texas Independent reported that the women sought the help of these clinics under false pretenses in four cities, changing “information such as age, name, and aesthetics such as hair color” when soliciting help from the clinics.
According to The Fort Worth-Star Telegram, the group also dug through public trash receptacles in search of any wrongdoing: “Operation Rescue reported that its members found evidence that a dozen clinics illegally dumped hazardous and infectious waste or violated patient privacy laws and didn’t adhere to consent laws.” Most of the evidence against these clinics was “discovered by searching trash receptacles around clinics.”
Sallas-Merrit tells the Florida Independent that she finds the validity of such evidence questionable. Because the dumpsters the group fished through were public, it is hard to say what exactly was disposed of by the health clinics.
“When you have a ‘public’ dumpster,” she said, “the ‘public’ will throw things in there.”
According to The Texas Independent, Operation Rescue filed a complaint with the Texas State Department of Health and turned over all of its evidence to the Attorney General. A press officer for the Texas Department of State Health and Services said the department investigates “each and every complaint thoroughly,” regardless of the nature of the complaint or the complainant. The press officer also said that “abortion facilities are one of the most highly regulated centers in the state and receive very few complaints overall.”
Whole Woman’s Health released a statement following Operation Rescue’s allegations, stating that its clinics “provide high quality, compassionate abortion care for women.” The statement also explained that abortion care in Texas is “more highly regulated than almost any other medical service and Whole Woman’s Health adheres to Texas laws and regulations.”
Sallas-Merritt said that Operation Rescue is “using tried and true tactics that have worked for them in the past,” and that there is a distinct possibility that these tactics will be used in the future.
“They disturb, distract, and harass, until [abortion-providers] quit,” she said. “That’s what they do.”
The Texas Medical Board has since picked up the investigation and, according to Life News, “has notified Operation Rescue that it is conducting an investigation into the wide-ranging abuses the pro-life organization found when it conducted an undercover probe of several abortion businesses in the state along with another group called The Survivors.” Texas Medical Board officials have also contacted Operation Rescue for “additional evidence and affidavits related to the fourteen complaints it filed.”
Newman says that his group is effective in “finding abortionists that are breaking the law,” a tactic they hope to achieve in Florida.
Newman also said that “exposing the abuses of the abortion cartel” will continue to play a big role in the group’s efforts now that the legislative session is coming to a close.
“That is what we will be coming down on,” he said.
Specifics about the complaints or complainants remain undisclosed while the Texas Medical Board continues its investigation.
“We won’t know the outcome of this for a long time,” says Sallas-Merritt, adding that, if the anti-abortion rights groups in Texas achieve what they are hoping, this has a good chance of being copied elsewhere.
Operation Rescue made an announcement just this week that signals the group will continue to intimidate abortion providers throughout the county. The group announced that it would put together an event with other anti-abortion rights groups called “Summer of Mercy 2.0” in Germantown, Maryland. This summer’s event explicitly targets abortion provider Dr. LeRoy Carhart. The first “Summer of Mercy” held about twenty years ago targeted another abortion provider named George Tiller. The efforts of those groups culminated in the first shooting of Tiller in 1993 by an anti-abortion rights activist and eventually his murder in 2009 (committed by another activist.)
“Abortion providers today are dealing with attacks on many fronts,” says Sallas-Merritt.
She explained that regardless of the outcome of the investigation, it has “emboldened anti-abortion groups.”