Ten of the Washington area's 16 outpatient abortion clinics have been inspected and "approved" by the D.C. Medical Society and Planned Parenthood here under a voluntary program to assure that otherwise unregulated clinics meet minimum medical standards. Six of the 10 are in the District.
It is the second year that the majority of the area's popular abortion clinics, which perform the majority of the more than 40,000 abortions done here annually, have agreed to comprehensive inspections by a team of doctors, nurses, technicians and counselors for the medical society and the nonprofit family planning organization.
Last year eight out of 13 clinics were approved for referral of women seeking abortions. The approved referral list is used by public and private health agencies across the country for women seeking abortions. The Washington Planned Parenthood office referred more than 3,000 women to clinics on the list during the past year.
Of the 16 large area clinics invited to participate in this year's inspection program, 11 agreed to be inspected and five declined. Only one clinic inspected was not approved. The Laurel Clinic at 1712 I ST. NW, run by the self-proclaimed "grandaddy" of area abortionists, Dr. Milan Vuitch, was deemed "substandard" in every key aspect of clinical services, medical counseling, administrative and laboratory work, according to Planned Parenthood's summary report of this year's program.
The outpatient clinics, which offer the area's quickest and cheapest abortions, one-day operations that range in cost from $125 to $175, also have performed many of the area's Medicaid-funded abortions for poor women. Federally funded abortions for the poor soon may be banned by Congress, however, and the Supreme Court abortion decision two weeks ago ruled that states are within their rights in refusing to allow Medicaid funds to be used for abortion. The proportion of state and federal dollars varies. In some, like Maryland and the District, the federal government has paid 90 per cent of the Medicaid bill.
Dr. Emily Moore, executive director of Planned Parenthood here, said she hopes "some enlightened states like California and New York, and the District of Columbia will continue to provide free abortions for the poor." About 300,000 of the 1.1 million abortions performed in the U.S. each year have been funded by Medicaid.
Planned Parenthood and the D.C. Medical Society inaugurated the voluntary clinic inspection program here in 1975 because the District, Maryland and Virginia were among the few places in the nation that had no laws licensing or requiring inspection of clinics. Both Virginia and the District are now in the process of adopting medical clinic licensure regulations and public officials may be inspecting all clinics.
The District abortions clinics recommended by Planned Parenthood and the D.C. Medical Society, although the two groups state they make no "warranties" about the quality of medical care at the clinics, are:
Hillcrest Clinic and Counseling Service, 3230 Pennsylvania Ave. SW (581-4000); New Summit Medical Center, 2520 L ST NW (337-7200); Preterm, 1990 M St. NW (425-1700); Washington Hospital Center Women's Clinic, 110 Irving St. NW (541-6087); Washington Surgi-Clinic, 1100 22d St. NW (659-9403); and Women's Medical Center, 1712 I St. NW (298-9227).
In Maryland, two clinics were inspected and approved, Sigma Reproduction Health Center, 11119 Rockville Pk., Rockville (881-4700) and Alternatives, 8605 Cameron St., Silver Spring, (587-0880).
In Virginia two clinics were inspected and recommended, Northern Virginia Women's Medical Center in Fairfax (280-1500) and Alexandria Women's Clinic, 110 S. Whiting St., Alexandria, which opened in May and is the area's newest clinic (370-0550).
Eight of the 10 approved clinics also were inspected and recommended last year. Two are new, Alexandria Women's Clinic and Alternatives in Silver Spring. The five clinics that declined to participate in this year's voluntary inspection program are Abortion Associates in Hyattsville and National Health Care Plan Inc., both of which said in April they planned to participate; the Silver Spring Abortion Clinic, which also declined to be inspected las t year; the Columbia Hospital for Women, at 2425 L St. NW, which said there had been a "misunderstanding about the evaluation and would be happy to participate in the future," according to Planned Parenthood's summary report. The District's city-owned hospital, D.C. General, also declined to take part in the program again this year because its officials have said they did not want additional patients referred to their already overcrowded abortion clinic.