Abortion

Abortion

The first time I met Doctor Tommy Tucker he was sitting at a slot machine in a casino in Puerto Rico.  I had talked to Tucker over the phone a few times, knew that he performed abortions in Alabama and Mississippi and could tell he was quite the character.  We were in Puerto Rico at the invitation of a large pharmaceutical company that had flown about 100 doctors to this exotic locale to try to convince them to prescribe the company’s birth control pills.  I was invited because I represented those doctors.  Tommy and I hit it off right away and he invited me to visit him in the south when possible.

Several months later, the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue announced they would be “Marching to the Gates of Hell” to shut down Tucker’s clinic in Alabama.   So, I decided to fly down to give him and his staff moral support.

When I arrived at the clinic, there were several hundred protestors swarming all over the street, blocking traffic.  The police were clearly overwhelmed and, worse, didn’t seem to care that things had gotten out of hand.  I walked through the crowd into the clinic, which included a number of pro-choice escorts who were bringing in patients, and saw Tucker in the reception area.  We chatted for a while then at one point he got up and walked over to the cash register.  He dipped his hands into it, pulled out a stack of cash and handed it to the receptionist, telling her to “go out and buy some pizzas for the escorts.”   While it was well-intentioned, I was uncomfortable with Tucker’s actions because I knew that that income would go unreported.

The next night, he took me downtown to some sleazy gambling joint.  As we walked in, he pulled out a stack of one hundred dollar bills wrapped tightly in a rubber band.  He pulled out a handful and gave them to me, telling me to “knock yourself out.”   I counted the money with my sweaty palms and it added up to $1,400.  I didn’t’ spend any of it and gave it back to him at the end of the night.

At about 1:00 a.m., we left to head for our hotel.  Suddenly, Tucker, who was driving and was pretty drunk, groaned that we were “being followed.”  I looked back and right behind us on a quiet dusty back road were three cars.  Tucker accelerated and got back to a four lane highway.  We were easily going 90 miles an hour at this point, but one of their cars actually pulled up beside us and a guy in the back seat rolled down his window, stuck his finger out and aimed it at us, as if he were shooting a gun.  Ultimately, we skidded into our hotel parking lot and they disappeared.

The next morning, we got into our car to leave but all of a sudden the same cars emerged and blocked us into our parking space.  We could not move.  Tucker was totally cool, while I was freaking out.  He said he had to go back to the hotel and call the police (no cell phones in those days) but before he got out he reached into his glove compartment and handed me a revolver.  “Here, use this if you need it.”   I asked if the gun was loaded and he replied “shit, yeah, what the hell would I do with an unloaded weapon?”   I put the gun back, not wanting any part of it.

The police ultimately arrived about an hour later and they were clearly not thrilled at the prospect of having to help this well known “abortionist.”  They just chatted it up with the good ole boys who were blocking us in and, after another hour, the group left.

When we got to the clinic, he had to walk through a gauntlet of hundreds of screaming, angry protestors but he was calm all the way in.  I asked him how he did this and he just shrugged.

I always had a sense that Tucker was trouble.  He was clearly a risk taker, living on the edge.  I always saw him as the “abortionist” as characterized by the anti-abortion movement.  But I couldn’t prove anything because I was not there in his clinic on a daily basis.   Also, he was the only doctor in those two states who performed abortions.  He was a “circuit rider” who went from clinic to clinic helping women.  I just decided to ignore him.

Eventually, things caught up to him.  I learned he had drug issues and possible connections to the mob.  Then, his license was restricted because of accusations of “gross malpractice or repeated malpractice in the practice of medicine.”  He was placed under voluntary restrictions when he was charged with underestimating the fetal age in two women and for perforating another woman’s uterus.  He ultimately faced charges of unprofessional and unethical conduct in Alabama and Mississippi prompted by the deaths of several patients, one of whom was 21 year old Michelle Jordan, who died after Tucker attempted to remove Norplant from her arm.

I heard that because of all the legal issues, he had gone virtually bankrupt.

Then, he just disappeared – and to this day I have no idea whatever happened to Tommy Tucker.