Last week, the Daily Beast wanted readers to “meet the woman in charge of the last abortion clinic in Mississippi.” Why the introduction to Diane Derzis, who “embraces the moniker” of “abortion queen”? Her clinic was facing closure for failing to be in compliance with a new Mississippi law.
The piece falls short of helping us to make a true acquaintance, glossing over critical pieces of information for anyone who wants to get to know Derzis and what motivates her. The “abortion queen” is no altruistic champion of women. Derzis, quite literally, profits from abortion. And her Mississippi clinic is not the first to face closure for endangering women’s health.
While the article shares several irrelevant details about Derzis including that she “loves yard sales, [and] thrillers to take her mind off tough days” it makes no effort to describe what is only vaguely referred to as “the law” that threatened to close her clinic. Understandably, Derzis’s failure to meet a health and safety standard designed to protect abortion patients does not exactly fit with the gosh-don’t-you-love-her-and-her-smoker’s-laugh theme. However, a serious piece of journalism would have tackled the issue, not created a sideshow.
The Mississippi law requires that doctors at abortion clinics have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Why? To ensure that women have continued care in the face of an emergency. Abortion is an invasive surgical procedure that can lead to numerous and serious medical complications. Far from being a “small-bore but potent restriction,” as the Daily Beast would have readers believe, abortion-clinic regulations, such as Mississippi’s admitting-privileges requirement that Derzis’s clinic fails to comply with, are designed to meet the medical needs of patients and protect women from abortion providers who would place profit over health and safety.
Instead of addressing the merits of the law, the Daily Beast praises Derzis’s for things like her “knack for design.” Readers are told that the clinic’s waiting room is painted with bright purples and yellows, and that red leather furniture helps create a “happy, warm feeling.” According to Derzis, “the ambience of the clinic . . . goes a long way.”
Bright colors and plush chairs may help Derzis sell more abortions, but they do absolutely nothing to ensure the health of her patients. The fact that “her home with its Jacuzzi tub and skyline view was featured in a Birmingham paper recently” suggests Derzis’s business is personally lucrative but offers no assurance that the women who walk into her clinic will go home safely.
The Daily Beast’s profile is a classic case of the media’s irresponsible abortion distortion. No other industry, let alone medical office, would be given a free pass to violate a health and safety standard because of “ambience.” There would never be a campaign to defend a dentist failing to comply with a safety regulation because of her top-notch waiting-room reading material. And the Daily Beast would (hopefully) not publish an article centered on a theme such as “Who cares that the restaurant is endangering customers by serving expired meat? The lighting in the dining room is exceptional!”
Derzis is no stranger to having a clinic shut down for putting the health and safety of women in jeopardy. Her “New Woman All Woman” clinic in Birmingham, Ala., was closed in May 2012 after a state Department of Public Health investigation found serious problems including two instances where patients were given overdoses of a drug, requiring the women to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
Of course, the Daily Beast did not mention any of the details contained in the 76-page deficiency report issued by the Alabama Department of Public Health (which was not the first report finding the abortion queen’s clinic in violation of health and safety standards); it only published Derzis’s account that the closure of her Alabama clinic was “a witch hunt.”
The fate of the Mississippi clinic remains to be seen. While the Mississippi law is technically in effect, a federal judge issued an order on Friday permitting Derzis’s clinic to stay open — for now. However, the order requires the physicians in Derzis’s employ — including those “circuit rider” abortionists traveling from out of state to perform abortions in her clinic — to get admitting privileges. Failure to meet the new law’s requirements within a “reasonable time” (not to exceed six months) could still cause the clinic to close its doors.
No coat of paint or comfy couch will act as a substitute for the important safety measure.
— Anna Franzonello is staff counsel at Americans United for Life.