4 Md. Abortion Clinics Shut Down, 3 Docs Suspended

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File photo of a doctor's office. (credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

File photo of a doctor’s office. (credit: Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON — Four affiliated abortion clinics in Maryland have been shut down and three doctors have had their licenses suspended after a patient died at one clinic and regulators found lax procedures at all four, according to documents filed online by two regulatory agencies.

The clinics in Baltimore, Cheverly, Frederick and Silver Spring were initially shut down in March. They were later allowed to reopen, but they were shut down again in early May after state regulators received a complaint about a patient who was given a drug used to induce abortions without a doctor present, according to documents posted online by the state Office of Health Care Quality, which regulates the clinics and ordered them to close.

The patient died following an abortion at the Baltimore clinic, regulators said in the documents. After undergoing the procedure on Feb. 13, the awake but “still very drowsy” woman was left in the care of an unlicensed medical assistant, during which time she experienced cardiopulmonary arrest.

Neither the doctor who had performed the abortion, Iris Dominy, nor the assistant used an automated external defibrillator on the patient, although Dominy attempted CPR, the regulators said. The woman died later at a hospital. A week later, regulators found that the defibrillator machine didn’t work, and the clinic employees hadn’t been trained on how to use it.

Dominy is one of the three doctors whose licenses were suspended, according to separate documents posted on the Web by the Maryland Board of Physicians.

Her license was suspended because unlicensed employees at the clinic were dispensing drugs to patients, the regulators noted, not due to any wrongdoing related to the patient who died.

The clinics are operated by Associates in OB/GYN Care, a limited-liability corporation, and affiliated with American Women’s Services, the New Jersey company controlled by Dr. Steven Brigham, an abortion provider whose license has been suspended or revoked in five states. Brigham lost his New Jersey medical license in 2010 after regulators discovered an arrangement under which he would begin second- and third-trimester abortions in New Jersey, and then have the patients drive themselves to Maryland the next day to complete the procedures.

Brigham has been vilified both by abortion opponents and abortion rights supporters, and Maryland adopted stricter regulations of abortion clinics following the revelations about his clinic in Elkton, where the two-state abortions were completed. He was charged with murder for late-term abortions allegedly performed there, although the charges were later dropped.

Richard Bardos, an attorney who represents Associates in OB/GYN Care, said Brigham is not the owner of the clinics or the LLC. He declined to identify the owners.

But Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, or NAF, which represents abortion providers, said it was common knowledge among providers that the Maryland clinics belong to Brigham. NAF has refused to certify the clinics because of their association with him.

A call to the listed Maryland phone number for Associates in OB/GYN Care on Wednesday was routed to an American Women’s Services call center. A message left there for company representatives was not immediately returned.

“It’s not surprising that his four Maryland clinics have been suspended,” Saporta said. “We have been an advocate for his substandard clinics being shut down wherever they operate in the country.”

In addition to Dominy, regulators suspended the licenses of Drs. Michael Basco and Mansour Panah.

According to the Maryland Board of Physicians, Basco was on duty at the Baltimore clinic on May 4 when an unlicensed clinic employee performed an ultrasound on a patient. The ultrasound revealed that the woman was carrying more than one fetus.

The employee then gave the woman misoprostol, a drug that’s used to induce abortions, board members said in the documents. After the patient took the drug, Basco arrived and determined that the patient needed a surgical abortion because the multiple fetuses had made her uterus larger, the board said. Basco told the patient she would have to go elsewhere for a surgical abortion, they said.

Basco and other OB/GYN Care staff told regulators it was standard procedure in the clinics for patients to be given misoprostol at 11 weeks gestation or later, regardless of whether a doctor was present, the board wrote.

Panah, the medical director for the clinics, previously had his license suspended by the board in 1988 for sexual contact with three patients and again in 1995 for sexual conduct with another patient. In 2011, he was placed on two years of probation by the board for failing to meet appropriate standards for delivery of quality medical and surgical care.

Bardos, who also represents Panah, said the allegations related to wrongdoing at the abortion clinics do not involve his client. He said the previous sexual contact cases “involved kisses.”

Marc Cohen, the attorney for Dominy, also said that most of the allegations were broad and do not directly involve his client, and that the patient’s death at the Baltimore clinic was not her fault. He said the allegation that unlicensed workers administered drugs on her watch was false.

“She’s a well-trained, well-qualified and well-experienced doctor,” Cohen said. “There just appears to be something that happened to that particular patient, but there wasn’t anything wrong with the procedure as far as we know.”

An attorney for Basco could not immediately be located.

A hearing on the suspensions of the doctors’ licenses is scheduled for next Wednesday. Bardos has requested a hearing before an administrative law judge on the closure of the clinics. That hearing has not yet been scheduled, he said.

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(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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