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Safe and legal safe and legal safe and legal. Such has been the constant refrain of the pro-abortion lobby. Abortion advocates have convinced much of the country that they are the guardians of women's health and safety, just as they are the guardians of women's "rights." Yet even a cursory look at litigation since Roe v. Wade shows that abortion advocacy groups, like Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation (NAF), have consistently championed the rights of the industry, its clinics and doctors, over the health and safety concerns of women.
In recent months abortion groups opposed the Child Custody Protection Act (CCPA) by raising the specter of back alley abortions. The modest bill, designed to bolster state laws on parental involvement in minors' abortion decisions, was dubbed the "Teen Endangerment Act." The groups claim that teenage girls, unwilling to tell parents of a pregnancy and unable to travel alone to an out-of-state clinic, would be forced to risk their lives turning to unscrupulous, incompetent back alley doctors operating in filthy offices. The CCPA died before enactment, but it is nevertheless worthwhile to test the claim that legal and safe are equivalencies. One need only examine the conduct of abortion providers and clinics recently mentioned in the mainstream press to find out precisely who is endangering whom.
There was a time when you could count on reporters not to know or care much what happened behind clinic doors. But the times are changing for America's abortion practitioners. One little slip-up you misjudge an unborn baby's age by three months, you lose a patient or two to a perforated uterus, you defraud a few insurance companies and BAM! Today's newshounds are baying at your door. Before you know it, reporters are digging into your whole sordid history: malpractice claims, hearings before state medical boards, censures, suspensions, OSHA violations. As if the notoriety weren't bad enough, the era of tolerant medical examiners (key phrase: "perforations happen") is ending. Now they're beginning, occasionally, to hold abortionists to standards approaching those of the rest of the medical profession.
An attorney defending California abortionist Gordon Goei posted an Internet plea on the WHAM (WomenUs Health Action & Mobilization) ALERT! website for corroborating evidence that "physicians who perform later abortions are under attack from the California Medical Board." But who needs a conspiracy theory when abortionists from one end of the country (e.g., New York, New Jersey and Georgia) to the other (e.g., Arizona and California) are behaving so badly?
Case in point: John Biskind of the A-Z Women's Center in Phoenix. Recall that last June, while attempting to do a partial-birth abortion on a baby whose age he estimated at 23.6 weeks, Dr. Biskind discovered the little girl to be nearly full-term, weighing 6 pounds, 2 ounces. He delivered her intact, but not before he had fractured her skull and deeply lacerated her face in two places. No one died. No big deal, if not for the unwelcome exposure it brought to Dr. Biskind and the clinic. It wasn't long before inquiring reporters unearthed a few hoary skeletons. And now, the rest of the story:
In addition to "letters of concern" from the Arizona Medical Board (AzMB) for sending a patient home mid-abortion when he discovered her "10-week old" fetus was late-term, and for signing blank, undated prescription forms the AzMB found gross negligence in the 1995 death of a woman whose uterus was torn 8 cm (more than 3") during a 20+week abortion. And in April 1998 Dr. Biskind aborted the 26-week unborn child of Louann Herron, although Arizona prohibits abortions at 26 weeks and beyond, absent documented risk to the mother's life or health. Victoria Kimball, an RN then employed by A-Z Women's Clinic, states that Dr. Biskind knew of the baby's age from two prior ultrasounds, but instructed an assistant to take another ultrasound from a different angle to make the baby appear younger than 24 weeks. After viability (23-24 weeks), Arizona requires that a second physician be present to care for the child if a live birth occurs, and mandates that a fetal death certificate be filed.
The abortion was completed at 12:40 p.m. and Ms. Herron was taken to a recovery room. No doctor and no nurse was present. One and a half hours later, alarmed medical assistants (two of whom were new and untrained) alerted Dr. Biskind that the patient was still bleeding. He ordered medication to control the bleeding and left the clinic for the day. Hours later frantic assistants called 911. Paramedics gave CPR, but it was too late to save Ms. Herron. The AzMB was still investigating this incident when Dr. Biskind finally earned his 15 minutes of fame by miscalculating another baby's age by almost 3 months.
Scratch a little deeper and you find that: County Court records show seven lawsuits that name Biskind, the A-Z clinic or Dr. Moshe Hachamovitch, the clinic's owner. The A-Z clinic also was fined for 12 health hazards in 1996 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Two lawsuits and complaints against Dr. Hachamovitch arise from the deaths of patients from abortions in his Texas and New York clinics. A 15-year-old girl underwent an abortion at his Houston A to Z Women's Services in February 1994. Four days later she was admitted to a hospital with symptoms of blood poisoning fever, chills, abdominal pain, and nausea. Doctors found a cervical tear and post-abortion infection. Despite intensive treatment, she died on March 2 from the infection.
Another case in point: Recent press reports have exposed Dr. Steven Brigham's systematic insurance fraud and tax evasion, for which he was sentenced to 120 days in jail, five years' probation and restitution. But they don't mention that he lost his medical licenses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Georgia and Florida for acts committed within each state (including life-threatening botched abortions).
Notwithstanding his New York license revocation, Dr. Brigham continued to operate clinics in Colonie (a suburb of Albany, N.Y.) and Nanuet, about 15 minutes north of New York City. He also performed second trimester abortions in New Jersey despite a 1994 order from the N.J. medical board limiting him to first trimester abortions (up to 14 weeks).
The complaint against Dr. Brigham before the N.J. State Board of Medical Examiners alleges that he committed "repeated acts of negligence, gross negligence, malpractice or incompetence, and engaged in the use of dishonesty, deception, or misrepresentation as well as professional misconduct" (Interim Decision and Order, Feb. 7, 1994). In May 1992, while aborting a 24-week child at the Flushing Women's Center, Dr. Brigham perforated the mother's uterus, failed to recognize the complication and "inflicted extensive damage on the patient, jeopardizing the patient's life and health. The patient was transferred by ambulance to a hospital for emergency surgery to repair an 8-10 cm [3-4 inch] uterine laceration, bilateral pelvic peritoneal lacerations, disruption of the sigmoid mesentery, transmural laceration of the sigmoid colon and extensive damage to both ureters" (Interim Decision and Order).
In November 1993, Dr. Brigham lacerated the uterus of a 20-year-old woman at his Spring Valley, N.Y. office during the abortion of her 26-week child. The patient vomited, passed out, and bled severely for three hours before being taken to a hospital, in shock, where an emergency hysterectomy was performed.
Brigham's alter ego in New York, Dr. Mark Binder, did abortions at Brigham's clinics in Colonie and Nanuet. A Statement of Charges against Dr. Binder by the N.Y. State Board of Professional Medical Conduct (Sept. 1996) alleges eighteen specifications of gross negligence, gross incompetence, conduct evidencing moral unfitness, and fraud.
Binder instructed an ultrasound technician to falsify readings on gestational age so that fetuses over 24 weeks would appear to be under New York's legal age limit.
Binder scheduled a patient for an illegal third-trimester abortion (26-27 weeks) at the Nanuet clinic for the first day's insertion of laminaria and the Colonie clinic (150 miles away) for the second insertion of laminaria on the following day. The procedure was scheduled the third morning in Colonie. When Binder found himself unable to complete the abortion, and having no hospital privileges or back-up physician in the Albany area, he made the patient wait two hours (with no further examination or monitoring) while he saw to the rest of the morning's abortions. He then instructed the patient's husband to drive her to Beth Israel Hospital in New York City, accompanied by a staff member with limited medical training. In addition to his grossly negligent treatment of the patient, Dr. Binder was found to have made false statements and records at every step. Based on these and other findings, his N.Y. license was revoked and he was fined $25,000.
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