Even as state legislators in North Carolina wrangle over new proposed statewide restrictions on abortion, health officials shut down one of the state's few remaining abortion clinics on Wednesday. According to Asheville's ABC Channel 13, FemCare women's health center in Asheville had its license suspended after the facility failed to pass a licensure inspection.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services -- an agency whose director, Dr. Laura Gerald, abruptly resigned Tuesday -- announced in a press release that it found "egregious violations of existing rules that revealed an imminent threat to the health and safety of patients."
These 23 violations cited reportedly included nitrous oxide masks held together with tape, a scrim of dust on one piece of equipment, an un-mopped floor and paperwork issues that WRAL called "multiple violations of policy requirements for personnel records, training records and standing agreements with other providers."
FemCare, as an ambulatory surgical center, is subject to more stringent rules than other clinics that provide abortions. Employees say that this was the first state inspection of the facility since August of 2006. The violations are reportedly items covered under existing law, not the new abortion restrictions that have been signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R).
Officials shut down a clinic in Charlotte in April and another in Durham in June. The Charlotte clinic has since reopened.
A spokesperson for the state health department said that Gerald's resignation is unrelated to the clinic closures. Gerald, who was appointed by Democratic ex-Gov. Bev Perdue said that she was leaving for other reasons, but nonetheless, disagrees with the direction of the agency under McCrory.
“I acknowledge I have significant differences and disagreements with many of the policy and administrative directions I see unfolding in North Carolina and in the Department of Health and Human Services," she wrote in her letter of resignation.
“These differences are making it increasingly impossible for me to continue to be effective in my current role. Nonetheless, I ultimately believe that we all want to see the state continue to move forward,” Gerald said.
[image of 'Closed' sign via Shutterstock.com]