HARTFORD – The sixth annual "State of Abortion in Connecticut," prepared by the bishops’ watchdog agency, reports that clinics performing surgical abortions in the state are not licensed as outpatient surgical centers. Rather, they are licensed as "family planning outpatient clinics," which require inspections only once every four years, as opposed to two years for fertility and other surgical centers that do not provide abortions.
"The State Department of Public Health’s duty is to license all of these clinics, and that’s a determination that they have made," said Michael C. Culhane, executive director of the Connecticut Catholic Conference (CCC), which released the report Oct. 16.
"The question that we raise is that the six surgical centers providing abortions should have the same review standards as the other surgical centers in the state," he said.
The six surgical abortion centers are Summit Women’s Center in Bridgeport, Hartford GYN Center in Hartford and Planned Parenthood facilities in New Haven, Norwich, Stamford and West Hartford.
Mr. Culhane wrote in an email, "The conference believes that all surgical procedures involving the use of moderate or deep sedation – or general anesthesia – should be performed in a licensed surgical clinic which is inspected by the Department of Public Health every two years. Clinics providing surgical abortions are currently inspected every four years and this schedule simply is not right. It is only proper that the first priority of the DPH regarding surgical abortions should be the health and welfare of the patients in Connecticut."
There are 13 other Planned Parenthood facilities throughout the state that are licensed as family planning outpatient clinics, which perform only nonsurgical (drug-induced) abortions or that refer women to surgical clinics for abortions. Both types of abortion clinic require inspections only once every four years, the report says.
Ironically, the report states, "fertility centers, which focus on the implantation of human life, are licensed as outpatient surgical clinics, while abortion centers offering surgical abortions to end human life are licensed as only outpatient clinics. This difference exists despite the fact that during an abortion or fertility implantation the woman is undergoing a similar medical experience, although they are opposite in nature." (Italics in original.)
A second major finding in the report is that, despite a decline in the number and rate of abortions in the state, Planned Parenthood is planning major facility renovations because of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Since 2008, four abortion clinics in the state have closed because of declining demand for abortions, he report states. But, according to the report, because of changes to Medicaid under the ACA, "Planned Parenthood of Southern New England is anticipating an increase in the number of clients seeking nonabortion-related reproductive services. This program may significantly increase their cash flow, allowing them to keep clinics open and possibly to expand."
Mr. Culhane said, "Abortions clearly would be more available with an increase in the number of sites. They are finishing up a brand-new site in Manchester, and it is my understanding that they have other expansions throughout Connecticut."
Other concerns raised in the report include a continued failure by abortion clinics to report the ages of many women getting abortions, as well as the gestation ages of many aborted fetuses; and the absence in Connecticut of a parental notification or consent law.
The CCC first raised the reporting problem in 2008, when 1,511 abortions (out of 14,442) lacked the completed state-mandated reporting. In the years that followed, reporting improved significantly; but since 2010, incomplete reporting has been increasing again. In 2012, there were 648 cases (out of 11,955 abortions) lacking proper reporting.
Mr. Culhane wrote that the continuing lack of reporting of abortions by some abortion providers is a concern. "The DPH clearly has an obligation to enforce the provisions of Sec. 19-13-D54 requiring that all induced abortions be reported within seven (7) days. While the DPH has made strides in addressing this issue since 2008, the 648 abortions lacking a complete report, as noted in our 2013 survey, must be addressed," he wrote in an email.
Connecticut is one of only seven states lacking a parental notification or consent law. A notification law would require that a parent or guardian be informed that a minor child in their care is seeking an abortion. A consent law would require their consent as well.
Mr. Culhane said that the CCC has pushed for such a law every year. "It is extremely difficult to move a pro-life issue through the General Assembly, and it would be my wish that at least we would have a better reception, a further discussion along these lines," he said.
Massachusetts and Rhode Island both have consent laws, the report states, and between 2003 and 2012, 90 percent of the 833 out-of-state minors obtaining abortions in Connecticut came from those two states.
Without a notification or consent law to protect them, "you could get into the area of a minor who is pregnant with no parental or adult involvement; you could run into a situation of statutory rape," Mr. Culhane said.
Major recommendations in the report include: Require inspections of all abortion facilities every two years, enforce existing reporting requirements, enact a notification or consent law and prevent out-of-state minors from receiving abortions in Connecticut.
"The State of Abortion in Connecticut – Sixth Annual Report" has been made available to the Connecticut General Assembly. The full report can be viewed at