Dallas Hospital Revokes Privileges, Tells Abortion Providers They Damage Its ‘Reputation’

Two North Texas doctors have filed suit against a Dallas hospital that told them it had revoked their admitting privileges because they provide legal abortion care.

Federal and state laws prevent hospitals from discriminating against doctors who perform abortions.

Doctors Lamar Robinson and Jasbir Ahluwalia received identical letters, dated March 31, from the CEO of the University General Hospital of Dallas (UGHD), who wrote that because the doctors performed legal abortion procedures at locations wholly separate from the hospital, the doctors were engaging in “disruptive behavior,” in violation of the hospital’s bylaws.

The two doctors’ “practice of voluntary interruption of pregnancies,” wrote hospital CEO Charles Schuetz, “creates significant exposure and damages to UGHD’s reputation within the community.”

For now, a Dallas County judge has temporarily granted a restraining order that forces the hospital to reinstate the doctors’ privileges until the case can receive a full hearing, which has been scheduled for April 30.

Texas’ new omnibus anti-abortion law, HB 2, requires doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles of where they perform procedures, a mandate that went into effect last November and which has now ended legal abortion care at about a third of Texas’ existing abortion clinics.

During debate over HB 2, reproductive rights supporters predicted that hospitals would refuse to grant privileges to abortion providers out of fear of retaliation from anti-choice protesters; in subsequent court challenges to the law, the State of Texas argued that because federal and state laws prevent hospitals from discriminating against abortion providers, doctors who provide abortions would have plenty of legal recourse in the unlikely event they were denied privileges.

Now, Robinson and Ahluwalia are suing on precisely those anti-discrimination statutes, alleging that UGHD revoked their privileges not only because they are abortion providers, but at the behest of anti-choice activists who threatened the hospital with negative publicity if it continued to employ the doctors.

Opponents of reproductive rights in Texas have been developing templates for anti-abortion activists to follow in hopes of convincing hospitals to revoke abortion providers’ admitting privileges, including contacting hospital boards and advising those who seek to get doctors de-credentialed that “you will want to inform the CEO of your plans to hold a prayer vigil outside of their hospital.”

In court documents, the doctors allege that anti-choice protesters had threatened to picket UGHD on April 1, leading to the hospital’s decision to revoke the doctors’ privileges:

On information and belief, activists opposed to abortion contacted the hospital and demanded that it revoke Dr. Robinson’s admitting privileges and sever any relationship with physicians who provide abortion. On information and belief, the hospital was threatened with an April 1, 2014 protest outside its Dallas facility if it refused to give into the activists’ demands. The day before the threatened protest, March 31, 2014, UGHD did exactly what the protestors had demanded.

UGHD’s Schuetz, a Republican political donor who lives in Houston, claims in his March 31 letter that the hospital does not provide gynecology services and “does not have the capacity to treat complications that may arise from voluntary interruption of pregnancies.”

Calls and emails to UGHD were not immediately returned, but the hospital’s website says it provides a “full array of services” and “the ultimate in modern medical treatment.” Both Robinson and Ahluwalia say they were admitted specifically to provide gynecological services such as the “identification and treatment of abscesses, cysts and cancers.”

In the March 31 letter, Schuetz also writes that “it has come to [UGHD’s] attention” that doctors Robinson and Ahluwalia perform legal abortion procedures, implying that the hospital was previously unaware it had granted privileges to two abortion providers.

Both Robinson and Ahluwalia say they were clear about their off-site abortion services when UGHD granted their admitting privileges in December and January, respectively. Dr. Robinson even says in court documents that he applied directly to perform “certain second-trimester surgical abortion procedures.”

Doctors Robinson and Ahluwalia were not the only abortion providers who went to court this week to fight for revoked admitting privileges. Lawyers for an El Paso abortion provider appeared in federal court in Austin on Wednesday after their client found that her hospital admitting privileges had been revoked without warning or explanation, causing the city’s Reproductive Services clinic to stop seeing patients on April 11, canceling 30 appointments.

Below, read the March 31 letter that UGHD sent to Robinson and Ahluwalia, calling their abortion practices damaging to the hospital’s “reputation.”

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  • Amanda

    A HOSPITAL doesn’t know how to treat abortion/miscarriage complications? I think it’s got bigger problems than a couple doctors with admitting privileges.

  • Lieutenant Nun

    And pro lifers like to pretend that none of these new regulations will shut down clinics. That it is simply about higher standards of care.

    Oh wait. Obgyns who do abortions are not real doctors, therefore it is acceptable to deny them hospital privs!

  • Bec

    insanity, unless the doctors have done something illegal and have been charged with malpractice or something , the hospital shouldn’t be allowed to do that.

  • radsenior

    People are arguing that Davis had created a false image of a “modern-day Supermom” who “existed only in our imagination.” But Wendy Davis does exist. She was poor, on her own, and rearing two children when she started in community college and ended up graduating from Harvard Law School. She threw herself into community service and is close to her daughters. Not only does Wendy Davis exist, thousands of other women have succeeded in similar ways over the past four decades. Like Davis, they made sacrifices, their spouses made sacrifices, and their children made sacrifices to help them achieve their goals. That’s what family does. Davis is not a “modern-day Supermom,” she is a mom. The title asks, “Can Wendy Davis Have it All?” The answer to that question is no. But she can have what she has earned and what she deserves, which is a chance to run for governor of Texas. I hope that’s why she’ll be elected.

    This is the caliber of woman we need in today’s politics. Elizabeth Warren, Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte show real strength, character and resolve to do for the middle class and poor, while Rafael Eduardo Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Marco Rubio shut down the government and cut Food Stamps and benefits for women and children. These women do not bow to men and stand their ground.

    It would be a good enough resume for any man running for the same office.

    • Arekushieru

      Except for the fact that it is easier for men who make sacrifices than it is for women and children, I pretty much agree with your entire post.

  • red_zone

    That is low. if the so-called ‘pro-lifers’ think they’re helping anyone, they are deluded by their own sense of self-importance. They are NOT more important, just willfully ignorant of the genuine harm they will bring about to women-especially poor women- by trying to keep doctors from doing their jobs.

    This will backfire on them in a big way.

    • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

      But women and girls will be maimed and die while we wait. That is what haunts me. I am enraged and frightened. Talk me down.

  • okieggma

    This is exactly why we need women in state houses and in the Oval office. I have had it with these religious control freaks 99.99% of whom are male. Join Emily’s List, work for women candidates and clean out this mess.

  • http://plumstchili.blogspot.com/ Plum Dumpling

    Okay, I think it is past time to do a Cliven Bundy on the antichoice zealots. We need to post snipers on roof tops and have people carrying long guns in front of abortion clinics in Texas. You do not need a permit in TX to carry a long gun anywhere.

    These zealots have crawled all over us, shot us, bombed us, set fires, assassinated doctors and maimed nurses. They sick domestic terrorists. And it is time for action by law enforcement and the FBI. Raping women by force of law is not acceptable.

  • Shan

    I read another article about this in MJ today stating this:

    “If one of their patients would need emergency care for abortion complications, Robinson and Ahluwalia note, there are other hospitals much closer to their clinics.”

    My comment there was: So the admitting privileges law is basically useless as anything other than a way to shut down abortion clinics.

    I already knew the law was medically unnecessary because anyone with complications could already go to any hospital they wanted to, but I guess for some reason I thought that IF there were admitting privileges in place at certain hospitals, that’s where they had to go. Apparently not, so, even more pointless.

  • Marisa Totten

    It’s sad that people in Texas don’t know nor care that abortion is acually safer than pregnancy. It’s also sad that their idea that abortion should be illegal isn’t good enough to get most people to agree, and thus they have to use the back door to sneak up on people and pull the rug out from under them. But what’s most sad of all is that some people think their right to have an opinion trumps anyone else’s right to have a differing opinion and control of their own reproductive choices. Texas is my home state and I grew up in Dallas, and now I’m sad, too.