Don’t Judge All Abortion Providers Based on the Case of Steven Brigham

It is no surprise that abortion opponents are attempting to use the recent investigation of a Maryland clinic to depict abortion as unsafe and providers as unregulated. However, this case is not representative of the state of abortion care in Maryland or throughout the rest of the country.

Abortion is one of the safest medical procedures provided in the United States due in large part to the skill and expertise of abortion providers who offer high-quality care. However, Steven Brigham’s record makes it clear that he is not one of these providers.

The events in Elkton, MD are just the latest problem for Brigham who has come under fire from state licensing boards and health departments throughout his career. He has had his medical license temporarily suspended, relinquished, or revoked in five states, and this summer the Pennsylvania Department of Health ordered him to shutdown his clinics there and banned him from owning any other abortion clinics in the state. These repeated disciplinary actions make it evident that Brigham operates outside recognized standards for quality abortion care. And just as we wouldn’t judge the entire field for the misconduct of one dentist or dermatologist, we must not make generalizations about abortion providers based on Brigham.

Yet, that is exactly what abortion opponents are doing. They are using this opportunity to call for more regulations on all providers in an attempt to further their goal of limiting women’s access to abortion care. While I agree that Brigham and his clinics in Maryland and surrounding states should be investigated, I do so in order to ensure that women have access to the highest quality abortion care. Abortion is already highly regulated, and additional state regulations are not necessary.

Health care facilities, including abortion clinics, are required to comply with a variety of federal and state regulations. These include the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, as well as other state and local regulations. Medical professionals, including physicians and clinicians who work in abortion care, are required to maintain professional standards and licenses and complete continuing medical education courses.

Additionally, most abortion providers comply with professional guidelines and established standards of care. The National Abortion Federation (NAF) is the professional association of abortion providers in North America. NAF members care for more than half the women who choose abortion each year in the United States, Canada, and Mexico City. Each NAF member must comply with NAF’s evidence-based Clinical Policy Guidelines, which are updated annually, and set the standards for abortion care in North America. NAF periodically conducts site visits to confirm that member facilities are in compliance with these guidelines, which help ensure that women receive quality care. Other medical organizations, such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, have also established professional guidelines for abortion providers that their affiliates and members must follow.

Many states already single out abortion providers for politically-motivated, medically unnecessary regulations. Enactment of this type of legislation discourages health care providers from offering abortion care and can make provision very burdensome and/or expensive for smaller providers. These restrictions — which often dictate the width of hallways or landscaping maintenance— do not make abortion safer, they just make it more difficult for abortion providers to remain open and for women to access the abortion care they need. Abortion providers should not be targeted for more regulations based on the troubled career of Steven Brigham.

Abortion has an outstanding safety record: fewer than 0.3 percent of all abortion patients experience a complication that requires hospitalization.

High-quality abortion care is readily available from providers and clinics who meet NAF’s quality care standards. Women can locate providers offering quality care online or by calling the NAF Hotline referral line 1-877-257-0012.

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  • prochoicekatie

    In my opinion, the arguments for more regulation because of Brigham fall flat because Brigham wasn’t following the regulations that were already in place – meaning someone like Brigham wouldn’t be deterred by additional regulations in the first place.

    Abortion is already one of the safest procedures in the country. When doctors follow the rules of the medical community, women are incredibly safe.

    Furthermore, I would argue that doctors like Brigham are precisely the reason we shouldn’t impose more regulations – when women can’t find safe, legal abortion (which is hard to find already because of superfluous and politicized regulations) they resort to doctors like Brigham who operate outside the law.

  • lucy9


    I agree, but for different reasons. The pro-life movement should not take a single incident and use it as a generalization of all abortion clinics – in the same way that pro-choice advocates should not generalize pro-lifers by the few most radical of protesters.


    Anyways, there’s no need for us to focus on an unintended injury during an abortion, when we have a much better argument by focusing on the fact that there is an intended death caused in every abortion!!


  • forced-birth-rape

    Each year about 890,000 women have abortions in Pakistan, and every day 10 women die because they had an unsafe abortion. Some 560,000 Filippina women have unsafe illegal abortions every year, with 90,000 suffering complications from the procedure and 1,000 dying.

  • prochoiceferret

    I agree, but for different reasons. The pro-life movement should not take a single incident and use it as a generalization of all abortion clinics – in the same way that pro-choice advocates should not generalize pro-lifers by the few most radical of protesters.


    What about the high-profile “pro-lifers” who offer unapologetic praise, visits, and assistance to the most radical of (anti-choice) protesters once they end up in the slammer?


    Anyways, there’s no need for us to focus on an unintended injury during an abortion, when we have a much better argument by focusing on the fact that there is an intended death caused in every abortion!!


    Yes, an argument that better not make any mention of the pregnant woman, lest it become clear to everyone that you want to force her to remain pregnant against her will.

  • julie-watkins

    I get angry at anti-abortion rhetoric. First, find a bad doctor, then say that all doctors are the same. Well, if abortions hadn’t been shoved out of hospitals then there would be more oversight. Also, there are many hospitals that mandate, as a condition of employment or for admitting priviliges that Doctors perform no abortions at other locations, even if it’s volunteer. With all the attacks, harrassment, and contract restrictions, the pool of available doctors is less. Anti-abortion laws and other barriers to reproductive rights are sexist and classist. If we were a equal & just society, abortion would be a matter for medical standards, not laws — that’s the situation in Canada. Canada doesn’t have abortion scandels like Steven Brigham. I check Life Site, etc., frequently to keep tabs on the current talking points. The only “scandals” that come out of Canada are about protests, or abortion not being treated as a “problem” that needs “fixing”.

  • prochoicekatie

    The anti’s always drag us into discussing abortion itself, regardless of the content of the article.

    The first Lucy comment is about regulations – which is what the article is about – yay!

    The second is talking about the morality of abortion… here we go again. So actually, there’s “there’s no need for us to focus on an” irrelevant comment.

    Let’s have unique discussions!

    The thing I do love about Lucy’s first comment, though, is that it does fly in the face of what most of the anti-choice community does, which is pass manipulative regulations that have no actual bearing on the safety of abortion in an attempt to make it harder to get one.

    You want to make abortion illegal? Go ahead and try.

    However, regulations shouldn’t be used to push an anti-abortion agenda – they should be made fairly across all medical procedures and affect all physicians; they should not single out abortion. If we considered this when we passed regulations, they’d actually put women (and men!) at the receiving end of great medical care!


  • beenthere72

    Obviously you don’t give a rat’s ass about the woman and feel she’s just getting what she deserves for seeking abortion.     Nice.

  • life

    Over the last year, clinics in Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts and more all have had  formal complaints and charges filed against them, for medical injuries to women.  This is not just one story.  An abortionist was just convicted yesterday 3 years to the day after he killed Laura Smith in Massachusetts.  But you won’t hear about them because it’s bad for business.  In Virginia, licenses are revoked constantly because of malpractice.  Former Planned Parenthood workers have given testimony to the unsanitary conditions of “regulated” “above standard’ clinics. LEGAL AND SAFE, NOT SO!!!!  Abortion is dangerous to the mother and child.  You can say whatever you want but a child is a child. And if its not a child then you are not pregnant and you wouldn’t need an abortion. 


    Yes us anti’s always go back to abortion itself.  It’s murder!!!  You all “freak out” over animal testing and save the whales but yet you murder innocent defenseless human beings!!!! There’s some logic, kill the babies and save the whales. Unborn babies are the new endangered species here.  890,000 abortions in Pakistan?  WOW!!!!! From a country that doesn’t believe in abortion? 4,000 babies die each day in the USA from abortion. That is a 9/11 every day! 


    At the moment of fertilization each child has all the DNA for a complete human being.  At 18 days a baby’s heart beats.  It is a human being and deserves to live just as much as you do.

  • beenthere72

    It wasn’t the abortion  itself that killed Laura Smith.   The doctor failed to monitor her while she was anesthetized.     You won’t hear about it because it’s not a reason to stop all abortions.   If someone dies for the same reason during heart surgery, we don’t cry out to stop all heart surgeries. 


    I’m sure all those families of the victims of 9/11 would appreciate your sentiment in comparing them to aborted fetuses, just as much as I, as a Jewish American (DON’T!) appreciate the often used comparison to the Holocaust. 


    Honestly,  I’m involved in animal rescue and I would advocate for animal abortions.   Too many cats and dogs are needlessy killed everyday because shelters and animal control do not try hard enough to find them all new homes or they’re beyond capacity.   Too many are abused.     Too many live short, painful lives.   I would rather they not get a taste of life at all than to be gassed or mutilated.     Look at the unwanted dog and cat population in shelters and think about how the unwanted baby population might be if abortion did not exist.     The over-crowding is so bad that those that are deemed unadoptable will be the first to get put down.    If every abortion ever had was a live birth, I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing would be happening to us.     Are you and your fellow PL’ers going to take care of all those babies?    Deformed, handicapped and all?   I doubt it. 

  • cmarie

    It sounds to me like Vicki would have liked for this Dr to have been investigated as soon as rumers of inappropriate activity first surfaced and before he critically injured another patient.  Certainly, there must be other Dr’s on the radar who have yet to lose their licences because so far luck has prevented a similar injury but who are likely to do so in the future.   I’m curious about what steps the author would like to see taken so the next “Dr Brigham” is stopped before injuring (or killing) another patient.  I suggest calling for an end to Planned Parenthood’s standard “no lights, no sirens”  request when calling ambulances would be a step in the right direction.

  • mechashiva

    While I understand criticism of the “no lights, no sirens” policy, it doesn’t have anything to do with the problems exhibited by this Dr. For one thing, he worked in his own private clinics, not at Planned Parenthood. He was the highest authority in his clinics, whereas Planned Parenthood (and other organizations like it) hire the doctors as contractors, giving Planned Parenthood more control over the standard of care. Rather than closing a clinic, they can fire a doctor for not adhering to their safety protocols.


    The problem is that this guy wasn’t being overseen by anyone and was accountable only to himself (in terms of employment). He was able to practice medicine basically however he wanted to without fear of punishment until his risky practices finally caught up with him… and sadly his patients got caught in the middle, having to deal with the worst consequences of his actions.


    That’s not to say I think that the private clinic model is wrong, but that it relies much more heavily on the individual doctor’s standard of care. For docs that have a history of sub-standard care… I’m not sure they should be allowed to own and operate their own businesses, but that’s not a problem limited to abortion-provision.


    The most important thing is to practice medicine in such a way that ambulances don’t need to be called in the first place.

  • wholesalenflstore