At least 10 of 14 Washington area abortion clinics, including three in suburban Maryland, will be inspected within the next two weeks under a voluntary inspection program to help insure that the clinics meet minimum medical standards.
The program was begun in late 1975 by Planned parenthood and the D.C. Medical Society, because Washington, Maryland and Virginia were among the few places in the nation that had no laws licensing or requring inspection of such clinics. The two groups approved eight of 13 clinics here that year. One clinic was inspected and not approved and four clinics declined to participate.
Three of the four existing suburban Maryland clinics have agreed to take part in the inspection program this year. The three, Sigma Reproductive Center in Rockville, Alternatives, Inc., in Silver Spring and Abortion Associates in Hyattsville also have been inspected under a similar voluntary inspection program conducted by the state medical society, the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland. The fourth, the Silver Spring Abortion Clinic, declined to take part in the state medical society program according to Dr. D. F. Kaltreider, chairman of the society's maternal welfare committee that inspected the other clinics. It also declined to be inspected in 1975 by Planned Parenthood.
While Maryland has no state licensing or official inspecion program, both the District and Virginia are in the process of adopting such laws. The Virginia State Board of Health is expectded to approve a clinic licensing regulation next month and the District City Council is expected to introduce a similar measure this week.
Planned Parenthood will announce its new approved list of clinics in early May. The list will be distributed to public and private agencies here, which will refer women wishing information about abortions to those clinics on the "approved" list.
While the outpatient abortion clinics perform the majority of abortions in the Washington area - well over 40,000 a year - they are performed also in most private hospitals here as well as in doctors' offices. Hospitals are inspected by city and state health officials and accredited by national medical accrediting commission.
Most Washington area abortion clinics have been established since 1973 when the Supreme Court legalized abortion, although several appeared in Washington after lower courts here declared the city's 1901 abortion law unconstitutional in in 1969. The oldest of them all is Laurel Clinic in the District, run by the self-proclaimed "grandaddy" of abortions, Dr. Milan Vuitch. His 16 arrests and defiance of the anti-abortion law resulted in its being declared unconstitutional.
The Laurel Clinic was inspected but not approved by Planned Parenthood in 1975 "because they didn't like my ceilings - a technical thing they should have taken up with my landlord," Dr. Vuitch said this week. Planned Parenthood has declined to comment on the reasons for its disapproval. However, Laurel has again agreed to participate in the in the voluntary inspection program.
Two of the abortion clinics which refused to be inspected in 1975 have since moved or gone out of business. One, the Columbia Family Planning Clinic, at 1855 I St. NW, was operated by Dr. Robert J. Sherman, who pleaded guilty to negligence last fall in the abortion death of a 16-year-old District girl.
It was one of five abortion negligence suits pending against Dr. Sherman. His plan came as the trial began and he was faced with detailed affidavits from former employees who said he ran a "filthy - sloppy" abortion clinic where, lawyers allege, "an accident was just waiting to happen." Hearings are now being held by the D.C. government to revoke Dr. Sherman's medical license.
The Silver Spring Abortion Clinic, at 880 Pershing Dr., Silver Spring, is the only area outpatient clinic separate from a hospital that has declined to participate in the voluntary inspection program. A woman ansering the phone at the clinic this week said, "I don't know why."
The outpatient clinic at D.C. General Hospital also has declined to participate this year, as it did in 1975, because doctors there said, they did not want additional patients referred to their already overcrowded public facility. They said they welcomed anyone to inspect the clinic as at any time and noted that like all hospital facilities it is inspected regularly by city and other medical groups.
However, D.C. General Hospital as a whole lost the accreditation over a year ago, following inspection by the nation's premier hospital inspection group, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals.
Washington Hospital Center, one of the first to open an abortion clinic here in a hospital setting, participated in the 1975 inspection program and was approved. The hospital has yet to commit itself ot the inspection program so far this year, according to Planned Parenthood.
The following area abortion clinics have agreed to be inspected by doctors and nurses from Planned Parenthood, the D.C. Medical Society or state medical officials:
In Maryland, Sigma Reproductive Health Center, inspected and approved by Planned Parenthood in 1975; Alternatives, Inc., in Silver Spring; and Abortion Associates in Hyattsville.
In the District, all inspected and approved in 1975, New Summit Medical Center; Hillcrest Clinic and Counseling Service; Preterm Center for Reproductive Helath, the area's largest clinic; Washington Surgi-Clinic; and the Women's Medical cCenter.
In Virginia, NOorthern Virginia Women's Medical Center in Fairfax and the National Health Care Plan, Inc., in Reston.