Asheville abortion clinic reopens after suspension

After a mid-July inspection revealed 23 violations that effectively suspended women's health care services at Asheville's Femcare, the only abortion provider in Western North Carolina, the clinic has reopened.

According to employees at Femcare, which is owned by Dr. Lorraine Cummings, the clinic's official statement at this time is, “We are pleased to be back open.”

The clinic received state approval to reopen its doors after being closed since July 31. A recent N.C. Department of Health and Human Services memo sent to Femcare announced that health and safety conditions at the local clinic “no longer present an imminent danger to the health, safety, and welfare of clients,” effective Aug. 21.

When Femcare was inspected in July, the state’s 49-page report noted that the facility failed to keep anesthesia delivery systems in good working conditions, among other things, specifically citing torn masks and tubing that were found "held together with tape" — putting patients at risk for pain and physical harm.

After the General Assembly passed a controversial abortion bill, Xpress confirmed that Femcare was the only clinic in the state that would comply with the law's new requirement that all abortion providers meet the same standards as ambulatory surgical centers.

Following the summer inspection and the clinic's temporary closure, critics of the bill said the inspection was a surprise. However, neither politics nor changes to state health regulations influenced either the timing of the recent survey of Femcare or the loss of the Asheville abortion clinic's medical license, according to state officials.

“On average we're able to inspect the medical component of abortion clinics every three to five years — and that's on average. So obviously, this is about six years,” DHHS Communications Director Ricky Diaz told Xpress on Aug. 1. Before the most recent state inspection, Femcare was last reviewed in 2006, when it was found in violation of personnel and quality assurance rules but was not shut down.

In addition to providing abortions up until the 12th week of pregnancy, Femcare provides a range of women's health services from screenings for sexually transmitted infections to annual exams, according to the clinic's website.

— Caitlin Byrd can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 140, or at cbyrd@mountainx.com.

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