Cortney O'Brien

In a case of neglect and botched oversight in Virginia, the Department of Health has twice failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act requests asking about potential cases of sexual abuse in one of the state’s abortion clinics.

The Family Foundation, a pro-family advocacy organization which seeks to establish a safe, prosperous and wholesome climate for families while protecting religious liberty, is the bold organization that has asked the Department of Health to investigate the possible cases of sexual abuse at the Roanoke Medical Center for Women. The incidents date back to December 2012, when the clinic allowed teenage minors to have abortions without their parents’ consent, an illegal offense in the Old Dominion. The disturbing details:

On 12/18/12 at approximately 9:00 a.m. during a review of clinical records, the survey team discovered 3 (three) of 4 (four) patients who received a procedure to terminate pregnancy were minors and no evidence of parental consent was present in the clinical record. Patient #2 had a procedure to terminate pregnancy in November 2012, and was 16 (sixteen) years of age at the time of the procedure. There was no documentation/evidence in the clinical record of any written informed consent obtained from the parent/guardian of Patient #2 for the procedure. On 12/18/12 at 9:30 a.m., Staff #2 stated, “I don’t know why this one wasn’t done. I don’t know how it slipped through the cracks…” Patient #4 had a procedure to terminate pregnancy in December 2012, and was 14 (fourteen) years old at the time of the procedure. There was a document in the clinical record, “Certificate of Acknowledgement - Consent Letter” which had been signed but was not notarized by the facility proving/validating the identity or relationship of the signee as the parent/guardian of Patient #4.

Gaining knowledge of these alarming incidents, The Family Foundation filed the first of two FOIA requests in January of this year to Marissa Levine, M.D, the Interim State Health Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Health. Townhall obtained that document:

Dear Dr. Levine:

The Virginia Department of Health’s response to The Family Foundation's October 25, 2013, Freedom of Information Act request for inspection reports of Virginia’s licensed abortion facilities demonstrated violations of both the parental consent and sonogram laws at the Roanoke Medical Center for Women. The Family Foundation is concerned that the law is not being followed at the Roanoke Medical Center for Women and thus the health and safety of its patients are in jeopardy.

The unnerving tone in this FOIA is obvious. It merited a quick response. Yet, astoundingly, the Health Department has yet to acknowledge it. Perhaps what makes their indifference in this case even more shameful, is the number of people CC’ed on the FOIA. The document, provided by The Family Foundation, shows that at least 15 people on the Virginia State Board of Health saw the request. Yet, silence. The Family Foundation is demanding answers:

“Until evidence to the contrary is presented by the Department of Health, one can only conclude that the abortion center not only violated the state’s parental consent law, which is documented, but additionally that the Department of Health failed to fulfill its responsibility to report possible child sexual abuse,” said Victoria Cobb, President of The Family Foundation. “Upon completion of the abortion center inspection report, Department of Health officials should have immediately recognized the possible case of abuse and reported it. Even if they somehow missed it, after the situation was brought to its attention by The Family Foundation, the Department of Health has provided no documentation that it took legally required action and now is also stonewalling transparency requests. A request to the Department of Health for documentation revealed that there’s no record of any officials investigating whether or not the Roanoke Medical Center fulfilled state law by reporting at least one possible case of child sexual abuse.”

Not only is the Health Department’s lack of interest immoral, it is also potentially illegal, for it can be seen as a violation of the Commonwealth’s mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse law.

The Virginia Code (§ 63.2-1509) states that any person licensed to practice medicine in the Commonwealth

shall report the matter immediately to the local department of [Social Services] when the physician ha[s] reason to suspect that child is an abused or neglected child. …

As a result of the Department of Health’s oversight, TFF is filing a petition with the Richmond Circuit Court. Here is part of that petition, which The Family Foundation provided for Townhall. As you’ll see, they’ve bolded the areas of most relevance:

“Unless a public body or its officers or employees specifically elect to exercise an exemption provided [under FOIA] or any other statute,…all public records shall be available for inspection and copying upon request.

Any public body that is subject to this chapter and that is the custodian of the requested records shall promptly, but in all cases within five working days of receiving a request, provide the requested records to the requester.”

It has now been ten working days since TFF sent its request to the Health Department.


Cortney O'Brien

Cortney O'Brien is a Townhall web editor. Follow her on Twitter @obrienc2.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography