CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- North Carolina lawmakers have used the number of citations against abortion clinics to argue for stricter standards.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) has not made the citations themselves public – so it’s hard to say whether the citations are technical violations or threats to health and safety.
When NBC Charlotte requested the records last week, before legislators repeatedly referred to them from the floor in debate, NCDHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz asked us to file a formal request under the state Open Records Act, which we did.
Records are released in extreme cases, such as when the state shut down “A Preferred Woman’s Health Clinic” on Latrobe Drive in Charlotte in May, have been made public.
Those documents show the state considered conditions inside the abortion clinic to be an imminent threat to the health and safety of patients.
But in hundreds of other citations over the last 12 years, the state has yet to make the documents public.
“A Preferred Woman’s Health Clinic” responded to the shutdown and has re-opened.
A spreadsheet with numbers of citations from NCDHHS provided by a state lawmaker show that the clinic is not typical of North Carolina abortion clinics.
The state issued 41 citations against A Preferred Woman’s Health Clinic from 2001-2013. That’s five times more than the next Charlotte abortion clinic – “Carolina Women’s Center on Wendover” – which got eight citations in the same 12 year span.
And it’s 10 times more than the third Charlotte abortion clinic – “Family Reproductive Health” on Hebron off of South Boulevard in Charlotte.
What violations were the clinics cited for? We don’t know. Not until we get the documents. Lawmakers have been unable to answer questions as straightforward as how often women die as the result of an abortion.
Rep. Paul Stam of Wake County responded to a fellow lawmaker on Friday, “we wouldn’t know because they go other places to die.”
It was a response that could most charitably be called pure speculation – not the kind of facts that usually inform health care debate.
As soon as the NCDHHS responds to our Open Records Act request and sends copies of the actual citations, we’ll let you know.