‘Gosnell is an extreme outlier when it comes to medical practice or abiding by the law,” said National Abortion Federation president Vicki Saporta in late April. The day after Saporta’s comment, the prosecution rested its case against Gosnell after spending weeks detailing the gruesome practices in his “house of horrors.” We learned that he had killed at least one woman and probably hundreds of viable babies — not to mention thousands of legally aborted children — over several decades.
Since then, many have argued that Gosnell is not an “extreme outlier.” Thanks to investigations sparked by the Gosnell case, evidence for that claim — much of it painstakingly collected by pro-life organizations, whose complaints have long been ignored by government authorities — is beginning to mount.
Much has been made of the spectacle of Gosnell’s operation, and rightly so. He operated a slaughterhouse, and he is not alone. But the investigations are beginning to show that even when an abortion clinic is not an abattoir, its personnel tend to engage in illegal or unsafe practices that endanger women, not to mention their babies. This article will attempt a partial chronicle of both degrees of malpractice.
First, the horror houses.
Just days after Gosnell’s conviction, reports emerged that the Texas Department of State Health Services, in conjunction with Harris County authorities, has been investigating Houston-area abortionist Douglas Karpen. Four former employees of Karpen’s claim that he conducted illegal late-term abortions. They have provided pictures to the watchdog group Operation Rescue that, according to the organization’s president, Troy Newman, “show babies that are huge, with gashes in their necks, indicating that these babies were likely born alive, then killed.” The nurses also claimed that he would kill babies by “twisting the head off the neck.” Karpen is still practicing, pending the results of the state’s investigation.
In August 2009, Newsweek published an adoring profile of late-term abortionist LeRoy Carhart. The “abortion evangelist,” as Newsweek called him, was a well-known abortionist who operated in several states. He was an associate of the late George Tiller, who was famous for performing late-term abortions, and who had been shot to death by an anti-abortion activist a few months before the Newsweek article appeared. Carhart, who had frequently worked out of Tiller’s Kansas clinic, became a sort of abortion-industry rock star; he even appeared (as an abortionist) in the 2010 movie Blue Valentine alongside Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams.
Carhart’s claims that he refuses to perform elective abortions after 24 weeks was debunked in a recent Live Action undercover video, which records him arranging to perform an elective 26-week abortion — strictly illegal in most jurisdictions — on a woman in Sioux Falls, S.D. The same video records Carhart claiming to have performed more than 20,000 abortions on women who were more than 24 weeks pregnant — frequently purely elective, often illegal under state law. He explains to his prospective patient that once the baby has received a lethal injection, there is nothing to worry about; it is just like “meat in a Crock-Pot.”
Those dangerous late-term abortions led to the deaths of two women on Carhart’s table. In 2005, 19-year-old Christin Gilbert died from complications during a 28-week abortion by Carhart in Kansas. And 29-year-old Jennifer Morbelli died in February of this year in Maryland when Carhart botched her 33-week abortion, although Maryland officials announced that there were “no deficiencies” in her care. Morbelli’s death came nearly four years after four former employees reported unsafe and illegal practices at Carhart’s clinic in Bellevue, Neb. That clinic remains open.
Then there is Timothy Liveright, who was recently declared a “clear and immediate danger to the public” by the Delaware Board of Medicine. Two of his former nurses had contacted Delaware authorities repeatedly over several months, seeking to report the “absolute nightmare” occurring at his Planned Parenthood clinic in Wilmington. They testified in late May before the Delaware state senate, claiming that the clinic was unsanitary and unsafe, that he had struck a patient, and that he had left sedated patients unattended; some of them “were found outside walking down Market Street dazed and confused.” Delaware’s Division of Public Health found his clinic in violation of 14 state health regulations.
And there is the notorious Eastern-seaboard abortion tag team, Steven Chase Brigham and Nicola Irene Riley. After Riley perforated a patient’s uterus and pulled out part of her bowels at a secret late-term-abortion clinic in Elkton, Md., investigators raided the clandestine facility. They found the frozen remains of 35 late-term aborted babies. The pair were arrested on murder charges, but the charges were dropped because it could not be proved whether the children were killed in Maryland or in Voorhees, N.J., where Brigham would induce labor, then caravan the women — in mid-labor — to Maryland, where Riley would help finish the procedure under Maryland’s laxer abortion laws. Riley’s license has been revoked by the Maryland Board of Physicians, but Brigham’s cannot be — because he was never licensed to practice there to begin with.