Doctor fights for freedom in rights of abortion clinic

By Galvin Kennedy

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case in October originating from Rockford which will determine if states have the right to enforce regulations on abortion clinics.

Dr. Richard Ragsdale of Rockford lost his lease to operate out of Rockford Memorial Hospital in 1985. He consequently investigated several other places from which to operate only to meet with cumbersome regulations, said Kathy Louis of the Winnebago, Ill., Right to Life Organization.

Ragsdale’s practice ended up at what is known as the abandoned Turner School Building in Rockford.

John Maier, attorney for the Right to Life Organization and the initial attorney for the Ragsdale v. the State of Illinois case, said, “Dr. Ragsdale successfully argued in front of a Chicago federal judge for an injunction to suspend state regulations on clinics.

“Basically, he argued that the regulations pose too much of a burden on the abortion clinic, which consequently makes the clinic charge higher prices thereby overriding the woman’s right to an abortion,” Maier said.

“Since the first week of January 1986, Ragsdale has performed about 50,000 abortions and has not had to comply with any state regulations,” Louis said.

The case, also known as Ragsdale v. Turnock, will be heard in front of the Supreme Court after the opening session Oct. 2. Bernard Turnock is in charge of the state enforcement agency.

The injunction was first appealed to the 7th circuit court of Illinois, which upheld the Chicago judge’s decision.

As the law stands now, “the state is not allowed to enforce any of its regulations regarding these types of facilities,” Maier said.

“If Ragsdale loses this case,” Louis said, “a significant number of clinics across the country will have to close down because a lot of them do not comply with state regulations and some cannot afford it.”

“If Ragsdale were to win, the state regulations would be permanently adjoined with the injunction and never be enforced,” Maier said.

“We expect the court to rule for the state, which would only affect Ragsdale in that he would have to go through the procedure of applying for a permit and bring his clinic up to the necessary state standards.”