Abortion Doctors that Have Lost Their Medical License


Most adults know that abortion brings out the worst in a small minority of troubled and mean-spirited souls. Most adults probably don’t know that some Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) have been cited for giving inaccurate information, using scare tactics and outright lies about abortion and distorting scientific data. And unless they’re tuned into all the news about reproductive rights, many may have likely missed the news in Texas. It’s one with high entertainment value for the carnivalesque atmosphere created by conservative legislators working feverishly to pass egregious laws that make access to abortion increasingly difficult. It was quite the show. Senator Wendy Davis made headlines with her 11-hour filibuster to kill the bill. In a nod to the absurd, fearing the wrath of prochoice women, state troopers confiscated tampons, maxi pads and other potential projectiles from those who are entering the Texas capitol to watch the debate and vote on a controversial anti-abortion bill. Guns, however, which are typically permitted in the state capitol, were still being allowed. In a nod to the absurdity of the Texas ban on all things menstrual, MSNBC newscaster Melissa Harris-Perry wore tampon earrings during her Sunday broadcast.

And it’s likely that most adults don’t tune into all the daily news about abortion. If they did, however, they would know about the horrific legal machinations in Kansas, definitely a 21st century witchhunt, against Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus. Like I said, abortion brings out the worst in people. As Amanda Marcotte wrote, To understand how dark and ugly and mean-spirited the anti-choice movement is, it helps to understand that, for anti-choicers in Kansas at least, having an opponent murdered is not enough. Now, the anti-choicers have set their targets on Dr. Neuhaus.

Slide1In May, it’s likely that most missed the action of Republican members of two congressional committees—the House Judiciary Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee—who wrote letters to the departments of health and attorneys general in all 50 states, asking for thousands of pages of information about how each state monitors and regulates abortion. It was another witchhunt or, as Sharonna Coutts writes in RH Reality Check, a congressional fishing expedition. This time, however, the expedition was metaphorically capsized. In page after page, the states returned information that disproved their Gosnellian fears of infants being born alive after abortion. State after state returned information that demonstrated that abortion is highly regulated and safe.

I’m wondering what these Republicans will do with this information. In June, The College Republican National Committee released a report on Monday outlining the major challenges facing the GOP as it seeks to rebrand and redefine itself in the aftermath of the 2012 election. The survey criticizes the party’s singular focus on “big government” and “tax cuts” and calls on Republicans to become more tolerant and open on issues like same-sex marriage and women’s reproductive health. And guess what? From the evidence, the Republicans have largely ignored that report. I’m guessing they’ll ignore the findings from the departments of health and attorneys general as well. Facts are mere obstacles to their dogged determination to obliterate women’s constitutional right to abortion.

The Wichita Divide

Hyperbole.

I always liked that word, although it was years before I understood its meaning.  And, of course, like most Americans I always mispronounced it by saying “Hyper Bowl.”

Speaking of…yesterday, a friend of mine told me about yet another book on abortion called “The Wichita Divide: The Murder of Dr. George Tiller and the Battle over Abortion” by one Stephen Singular.  I will admit right up front that I have not read the book in its entirety and probably never will.   Immersed in the issue for years, I never read any of the books about abortion except – to be honest – to go to the index to see if I was mentioned.

So, I may be totally misrepresenting Mr. Singular’s thesis but the gist is that the city of Wichita and the state of Kansas are now hotbeds in the battle over abortion rights.  Actually, he refers to these spots as the hosts in a new “war.”  Other authors and columnists also commonly refer to the current state of the battle over abortion rights as a “war.”

Hyperbole.

I will admit that there may have been some semblance of a “war” in the 1980’s and 1990’s when abortion clinics were being bombed and abortion doctors were being stalked, threatened, attacked and killed.  It was domestic terrorism, pure and simple – and I was in the middle of it.  But I put the word “war” in quotes because, to me, a war is when two sides are engaged in the battle.  In that case, the bombs were being planted and the shots were being fired by one side only.  Yes, to be fair, the attacks were coming from a violent fringe of the anti-abortion movement, but it was a one-sided assault nonetheless.   We never shot back.

But, to define today’s situation in Wichita or the nation as a “war” is laughable.  Nationally, although there are some exceptions, the average abortion clinic no longer has to deal with anti-abortion protestors.  If they do, it’s usually a handful of octogenarians who barely have enough energy to yell “Don’t Kill Your Baby!”   After taking their morning medication, these “warriors” will grab their twenty year old sign, take the bus out to the clinic and, depending on the weather, stand out front in a pathetic effort to “save babies.”  Of course, the

y rarely succeed.  It’s actually a sorry scene compared to years ago when anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue could conger up hundreds of people at a moment’s notice to block access to a clinic.  Protestors were regularly arrested and sent to jail.  On the other hand, I’ll bet you that not more than 10 people have been arrested in the last few years for blocking access to an abortion clinic.  At the same time, folks like Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue, Joe Scheidler and Pat Mahoney have virtually disappeared.  In fact, here is a question for you:   can you name one national anti-abortion leader?

On the other side of the coin, the abortion clinic escort movement, which helped many women get through the crowds of pro-lifers, has also virtually disappeared.  Of course, that is good news in that there is no great need for these courageous folks who volunteered their time to help women obtain an abortion.

I have no doubt that another doctor will ultimately get killed, a clinic will be vandalized, and some staffer will one night get a death threat.  But – and I don’t mean to sound cavalier about this – this is part of the territory.  When a person signs up to work in an abortion clinic, they understand the risks.  It’s the same for a firefighter or a policeman.

But, despite the occasional incident carried out by some bored pro-lifer, for the life of me I cannot fathom how anyone can suggest that there is some kind of “war” in Wichita or anywhere else over the abortion issue.    It might sell a book or two, but it’s a totally silly suggestion.

Hyperbole.

Lobbyists on Capitol Hill

“We must stand up to the special interests in this country!”

How many times have you heard a politician utter this phrase? Invariably, it is always followed with a rousing round of applause, perhaps even a standing ovation. Yes! Let’s get those blood sucking, sleazy lobbyists who represent those blood sucking, sleazy special interests! Lynch ‘em!

I don’t know who is more stupid – the politicians or the voters. Or maybe they both deserve each other.

So, who are these “special interests” that we all hate so much? Well, in the context of this world famous blog we need to recognize groups like the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League and the National Right to Life Committee. These groups spend hundreds and thousands of dollars (if not millions) each year promoting their agenda and/or fighting the other side’s scurrilous attempts to bring down our Republic. So, when President Obama or Speaker Boehner assure us that they will no longer cow-tow to the special interests, what exactly does that mean? I mean, it sounds really good, doesn’t it? But let’s get past the rhetoric and play this out for a second.

First of all, EVERYONE has some kind of special interest in something, don’t they? Of course they do. And, if I recall the First Amendment, EVERYONE has the right to express those interests to their Member of Congress or any other elected official. So, if Mark Jones of Brooklyn, New York writes a letter to his Congressman opposing higher taxes, he is expressing his views on an item of “special interest” to him. When Billy Bob Horsehide of Butte, Montana sends an email to his Senator about gays in the military, he is conveying his “special interest” in that issue. EVERYONE has a special interest in something so I don’t understand why everyone says we need to eliminate the “special interests.”

Then, let’s say that Mark Jones is also anti-abortion but he doesn’t have the time or perhaps inclination to write a letter expressing his opposition to the “legal killing” that is going on in this country. Instead, he sends $100 to the National Right to Life Committee. Then, the NRLC sends its cadre of lobbyists to Capitol Hill to meet with Members of Congress to express their concern for the “unborn.” Mark is only using a larger organization of like-minded individuals to convey his position on an issue of importance to him. What the hell is wrong with that? Is the NRLC one of those “special interests” that pro-life Speaker John Boehner would seek to eliminate? I think not.

Lobbyists

Then let’s take Obama. He also has made a big deal out of promising the American public that he also will eliminate those nasty “special interests.” Let me show you how absurd that notion is. Say pro-life Congressman Chris Smith introduces a bill that eliminates abortions after 24 weeks and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee indicates that he would like to move the bill for a vote. The committee is primarily pro-life so there’s a good chance that the bill will pass. Are you telling me that when a staff person at the White House hears about this bill, he is just gonna sit back and not give it another thought? No way, Jose. In the real world, he will pick up the phone and call – dare I say it – the LOBBYIST for NARAL to get their thoughts on the prospects for this legislation which ultimately could wind up on the President’s desk. The staff person will ask the “experts” about the impact of the bill, he will ask if the pro-choice Members of Congress on the committee should offer some amendments to mitigate the impact of the proposal. In other words, the White House staff will actually strategize with their allies in the pro-choice movement. They may even have a meeting in the Old Executive Office building with all of the pro-choice lobbyists!

Indeed, that’s how it worked years ago when I was a LOBBYIST for the abortion provider movement. I was constantly in touch with President Clinton’s liaison with the “women’s groups.” The point is the White House or those on Capitol Hill do not work in a vacuum. Nor should they. So, all of this stuff about getting rid of the “special interests” is horse hockey, pure and simple. In fact, I would take it a step further – “special interest “ groups are part of our democratic system, they are a way for the little guy to join other like minded little guys and convey their message to their elected officials.

What the heck is wrong with that?

Abortion.com Banned!

People who work in abortion clinics know what it’s like to be discriminated against.  Oh, I’m not talking about discrimination in the legal sense.  I’m just talking general “discrimination.”

For example, it is not unusual for a local business to refuse to serve the local abortion clinic.  It may be a cleaning service that does not want to clean the clinic at night.  It might take a long time for the director of the abortion clinic to find someone who would be willing to construct a website for them.  In some more extreme cases, the local police might not react as quickly as they normally do when called to control an unwieldy group of protestors.  It’s just all part of being in the abortion business.

Now, I am hearing of another form of possible “discrimination” against abortion providers – by Facebook.

Let me explain.

This blog is associated with the website, www.abortion.com.  That site is a directory of abortion clinics across the country.  The clinics pay a fee to be placed on the site, much like they pay the Yellow Pages to be listed in their books.  A while ago, the manager of the website decided to create a Facebook page.  As of two weeks ago, that Facebook page had over 100,000 “friends,” an incredible amount of people.

On a regular basis, the manager of the site (or one of the “friends”) would post a comment in an effort to generate a conversation.  For example, he might post something like “how do you feel about late term abortions?”   In response, dozens upon dozens of people would comment.  Many of them were anti-abortion, which was perfectly okay because it engendered some very lively debates.

Indeed, at times it would get downright hot and heavy.  Unfortunately, some people used foul language but if they did, they were immediately warned by the manager and removed if they ignored the warnings.   Then, a number of anti-abortion nut balls would flood the site with inane comments, repeating them over and over again.  I think the word is “trolling.”   The manager spent an inordinate amount of time deleting the troll’s comments.  In addition to all of this activity, the Facebook page was used to advertise for www.abortion.com in the hopes of directing women to reputable abortion clinics.

Then, suddenly, about a week ago the Facebook page disappeared.

Gone.

Just like that.

The manager and his staff immediately tried contacting Facebook to find out why the site was taken down.  It was puzzling.  After all, there are a number of other abortion related Facebook pages out there.  Indeed, some of the anti-abortion pages are incredibly gross.  So, it was very hard to figure out why they were shut down without notice.

Compounding the problem is that it is virtually impossible to talk to anyone at Facebook because they are so insulated.  There may be some bullshit “contact us” button but you know that your message will wind up on the computer of some teenager in some Third World country who is getting paid $5 an hour.  Go ahead, try it yourself.  Try contacting Facebook.

So, where does that leave us?

I cannot imagine why Facebook took down this page.  But, no matter what the reason, it is incredibly arrogant to close down a page with that many fans without even notifying the manager.  Who are these anonymous people who make these decisions willy-nilly?   Or sure, I understand it’s their company but, c’mon folks, where are your manners?

I can only conclude that Facebook was getting somewhat uncomfortable with the page for some reason.  The cynic in me would say that the powers that be are anti-abortion and were concerned that an abortion rights page was getting so much visibility.  And, if I can prove that is the case, then I am ready to lead a pro-choice revolt against this company whose owner recently named “Person of the Year” by Time Magazine.

My antennae is up – is it possible that, once again, abortion providers are being discriminated against?

Okay, I know this is gonna sound corny but I really would like to take this time to give “thanks” to a few people who I believe have made significant contributions to the fight for reproductive rights.

Ellie Smeal

ELLIE SMEAL:  For as long as I can remember, Ellie has been the head of the Feminist Majority Foundation.  For many years before we met, she was an outspoken leader for the Equal Rights Amendment but at some point she segued over to the abortion rights cause.  For a woman with so much inf

luence in the halls of Congress and in the White House, Ellie is one of the most unassuming people I have ever met.  Years ago, when the anti-abortion terrorists started blowing up clinics and shooting our doctors, it was Ellie and her Foundation that stepped up to provide security for the abortion clinics.  She was the one who arranged security briefings at the Department of Justice and spent a lot of money to protect the providers in the field.  She was not always successful in her efforts, but she never stopped trying.

SENATOR BOB PACKWOOD:  Okay, before you say it, I know Packwood was kind of a sleaze ball.  I

Senator Bob Packwood

remember as well as anyone the sexual harassment, the womanizing and all of the other stuff.  But, I have to say that before the allegations came to light Bob Packwood was always there for the pro-choice movement.  He was our leader, no doubt about it.  He was one of the first elected officials to go out there and say the frigging “A” word.  He led the filibuster against the proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned abortion.  Indeed, I remember how he actually pissed some other pro-choice Senators off because he wanted to be the ONLY Senator out there engaging in the filibuster.  Such was his ego.  Ultimately, under his leadership we sounded defeated the constitutional amendment.

DOCTOR GEORGE TILLER:  So much has been said about the late George Tiller.  Let me just say that he was a man of his convictions.  He did not hide, he spoke honestly about his work, he vigorously defended the right of a woman to obtain a late term abortion.  He was a politically savvy physician who contributed thousands and thousands of dollars to help elect pro-choice candidates.  He supported the national organizations that supported the abortion providers.  He was our leader – plain and simple.

DAVID GUNN, JR:  After his father, Doctor David Gunn, was assassinated as he approached his abortion clinic in Pensacola, David Gunn Jr. burst onto the national scene.  Many people in the abortion provider community did not know his father, but we all quickly “adopted” David, Jr.   The first time that most people saw him was when he appeared on “The Donohue Show” just a week after the murder.   Millions of people came to admire the young man who sat on the stage stoically while he listened to Mr. Paul Hill suggest that his father’s murder was “justifiable homicide.”  After that appearance, David went on a speaking tour (despite struggling with an obvious stutter) and raised money for a number of abortion provider organizations.  At one point, he even offered to have his photo taken to be used in a full page New York Times ad to raise money for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers.  Over the years, David and I became good friends but today I have no idea where David is.

THE NOVEMBER GANG:  This small “support group” of abortion rights activists took me under their wing when I joined the National Coalition of Abortion Providers.  For years, they served as my moral compass and my political conscience, both professionally and personally.   I was able to let my hair down with these folks and got through some very rough times because of them.   Many thanks to Renee, Charlotte, Claire, Peg and the others…..

Finally, thanks to my spouse and my two boys for putting up with all of the “stuff” that they had to endure when I was out there representing the abortion provider cause.  You have no idea what they went through over those years.

On January 22, 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Roe v Wade decision which declared that the constitutional right to privacy extended to abortion.  Supporters of legal abortion rejoiced, although some did object to the fact that the decision allowed some restrictions on the procedure.  At the same time, the pro-life movement declared it as a dark day in history.

Over the next few years, however, the pro-life movement actually took “possession” of January 22.  They started organizing large rallies on that day across the country and ultimately launched the annual “March for Life” where hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers came to Washington, D.C. to express their opposition to legal abortion.  The pro-choice movement could only watch feebly from the sidelines.

Abortion

In late 1997, as a staff person for the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, it dawned on me that the next January 22nd would be the 25th anniversary of Roe v Wade.  I started to think about how we could “take back” that day.  Remember that this was a time when abortion providers were under attack.  The bullets were flying, clinics were being bombed, every day was another battle in the constant war.  Ironically, I came up with the idea of actually having a party, a celebration commemorating the work of the doctors and staff at the abortion clinics.  Indeed, for years at the annual NCAP conference, we always had a dinner dance to help us wind down after a full day of seminars and lectures.

But I started wondering why we shouldn’t go a step further?  I had been in Washington, D.C. long enough to know that other organizations, from the realtors to the bankers, regularly had formal, black tie parties.  Why couldn’t we do the same thing?  Why not have a real “grown up” party?

At first, some of our members were reluctant.  It was almost as if it would be a sacrilege for the doctors and staff to “dress up.”  But within a few weeks, the idea spread like wildfire.   On email and over the telephone, people started talking about what they were going to wear, how they needed to rent a tuxedo and other logistical issues.  While they were still nervous opening up their car doors, I could tell they were even more nervous about how they were going to do their hair that night.

To make the evening extra special, I booked the main ballroom at the famous Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C.  I then spent weeks looking for a live band and finally found one that I liked.   Everything was in place.

Since they were in town anyway, we offered our members a series of lectures during the day.  They sat through speeches on “head and heart” counseling and how to advertise on the Internet, but it was clear that no one was concentrating.   They were thinking of their “coming out” party.  Finally, the time arrived.  My staff and I got there early and stood at the door greeting folks as they shuffled in.  I was literally taken aback.  I had gotten to know these folks intimately, had talked to them for years about the protestors and the murders, was accustomed to seeing them in their scrubs or casual “clinic wear,” but now they were coming into the room with flowing gowns and jewelry that had been in storage for years.  Instead of bullet proof vests, the male doctors now had shiny tuxedos.  They were different people.  They were finally having fun, getting all “gussied up” as one person put it.  The music, the food and, yes, the booze flowed all night.

A few weeks earlier, I had spoken with a writer for the “Style” section of the Washington Post and she thought it was fascinating that abortion providers would even consider having a party.  I invited her to come and she readily accepted.  The next morning, after a very long night of revelry, our conference attendees had copies of the Post delivered to their hotel rooms and there on the front page was an article entitled “Dinner Break From a Hot Issue.”   The joy of those interviewed jumped from the pages.  Doctors who drove to

Abortion

their clinics with blankets over their heads for security purposes openly talked to the reporter about the great time they were having for that one evening.   Clinic owners spoke candidly about how proud they were of the work they performed.  Directors of clinics talked about the women they served and about whose gown they were wearing.   We had created an alternate world for one magical evening.

Within a few days, everyone was back at their clinics.  Waiting for them were the local protestors, the anonymous phone calls, the nasty unsigned letters and the myriad of issues that come up daily in a medical facility.  But for weeks, they just talked about “the party.”

On that night, we had taken back Roe v Wade.

Abortion Brigham

Abortion Brigham

Steven Chase Brigham,

a physician whose medical license has been revoked, relinquished, or temporarily suspended in five states, is now facing regulatory and tax troubles that could jeopardize his chain of 15 abortion clinics.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health this month ordered Brigham to permanently shut his four clinics in the state for repeatedly employing unlicensed caregivers.

Lawyer Julia Gabis, who represents Brigham in the Pennsylvania case, contends that the order violates his constitutional rights and reflects selective enforcement against abortion providers. The department rejected those arguments.

“We intend to appeal this decision to the Commonwealth Court,” Gabis said in an e-mail.

Brigham also has to deal with the IRS. In April, it placed $234,536 in liens against him for failing to pay payroll taxes from 2002 to 2006. His company, which does business as American Women’s Services, has six clinics in New Jersey, including the headquarters at 1 Alpha Ave., Voorhees.

John Zen Jackson, a lawyer in Warren, N.J. who represented Brigham in a lawsuit against him by his accounting firm, did not respond to requests for comment on the liens.

Brigham, 53, has rarely given interviews about his legal scrapes, which go back as far as 1989 and have pitted him against medical boards, creditors, landlords, patients, and others. He declined to be interviewed for this article.

Brigham graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1986. By 1990, when abortion became the focus of his practice, he was licensed in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, and Georgia, public records show.

Pennsylvania was the first setback. In a confidential 1992 settlement, Brigham agreed to permanently give up his license amid an investigation of his practice in Wyomissing.

Despite this restriction, Brigham continued to own and expand his abortion business in the state.

In 1994, New York took his license, finding him guilty of “gross negligence” and “inexcusably bad judgment” involving two late-pregnancy abortions. The patients suffered life-threatening bleeding and required emergency hospital operations, public records show.

Brigham maintained offices in New York through 1995 but failed to file state business taxes, a misdemeanor for which he was sentenced to 120 days in jail and $8,188 in restitution, public records show.

In Florida, Brigham lost his license for not disclosing New York’s action. California put him on probation and ordered extra training; instead, he let his license lapse, as he did in Georgia.

New Jersey suspended Brigham’s license in 1993, citing the same botched abortions as New York, plus other charges. After three years of defending himself against an action by the state Attorney General’s Office, Brigham won full reinstatement of his medical privileges.

Pennsylvania’s latest disciplinary action came July 7 when Deputy Secretary of Health Robert Torres permanently banned Brigham and any corporation in which he has a controlling interest from providing abortions in the state. Torres’ order cites repeated violations of the state’s medical licensing rules.

American Women’s Services does about 3,600 abortions a year in Pennsylvania, state records show. It has clinics in Pittsburgh, Allentown, Erie, and State College. Until last month its website also listed 11 locations in Philadelphia, Bristol Borough, King of Prussia, and Willow Grove where patients could rendezvous for “free transportation” to a clinic.

Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation, said this week, “We applaud Pennsylvania’s decision.”

Her trade association, which has 400 abortion providers that meet its clinical standards, has long criticized the quality of care at Brigham’s clinics.

The most recent violation cited in the July 7 order occurred in 2008, when a woman who was not a nurse worked as one in the Pittsburgh clinic, according to Health Department charges.

During hearings early last year, Brigham contended he had been duped. He testified that he did not know the applicant’s name when he verified the license number she provided to his office administrator. As a result, he verified the wrong person’s license.

Asked why he did not specifically check the applicant’s name, he said, “It didn’t dawn on me. I mean, I just, I didn’t. . . . I don’t know. I guess I don’t have a good explanation.”

In his legal pleadings, Brigham argued that even if there were a licensing violation, it was minor. Shutting him down, he contended, would be “excessive” and “drastic.”

But the 2008 violation was far from minor, health officials decided, in the context of his previous lapses.

In 1997, Brigham employed an obstetrician-gynecologist who was under suspension for, among other things, sexually molesting patients.

“We contacted Dr. Brigham, and he said he wasn’t aware that the license was suspended,” recalled Kenneth Brody, the department’s chief counsel. The department accepted that explanation and did not discipline Brigham.

In 2004, Brigham again pleaded ignorance. He said he was unaware that a physician who had done more than 1,600 abortions at American Women’s Services clinics in Pennsylvania had previously retired his license and thus was not paying into the state’s medical malpractice insurance fund.

That time, Brigham had to promise the department that from then on, his company would go to special lengths to verify medical credentials. He agreed that any further slip-ups would be grounds for barring him from having abortion facilities “directly or indirectly” in the state.

In issuing the shut-down order last week, Torres rejected one last legal argument that Brigham added to his pleadings early this year: He claimed the case had become moot because in January, he transferred ownership of his Pennsylvania clinics to a newly created company headed by a 70-year-old woman in Toledo, Ohio.

Permission to run abortion clinics “may not be transferred as part of a sales transaction,” Torres ruled. Any transfer “would be void.”

During Brigham’s travails, his enterprise has continually evolved. Over the years, he has created at least 20 corporate entities – some with names such as Peaceful Corp., Goodness Inc., and Kindness Corp. – and added clinics in Virginia and Maryland.

The IRS now has a big claim against all of it.

“We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid,” say April IRS notices demanding $234,536 for unpaid payroll taxes. “Therefore, there is a lien in favor of the United States on all property and rights to property belonging to this taxpayer for the amount of these taxes, and additional penalties, interest, and costs that may accrue.”

Next Page »