Pro-Life News in Brief
By Liz Townsend
Abortionist to Be Tried for Late-Term Abortion
The Michigan Court of Appeals cleared the way for former abortionist Jose Higuera to be tried for aborting a 28-week-old unborn baby in 1994. Lower courts had refused to allow prosecutors to charge Higuera with performing an illegal late- term abortion, ruling that Michigan's 1973 law barring abortions after viability was too vague and had been effectively repealed by court decisions in other cases, the Detroit Free Press reported.
However, the appeals court panel, on a 2-1 decision, ruled January 30 that the "Michigan law may be applied in cases where the fetus is believed to have been viable outside of the womb and the abortion was not needed to protect the life or health of the woman," according to the Free Press.
Higuera, who no longer lives in Michigan or practices medicine, performed a two-day abortion procedure on an unidentified woman in his Highland Park clinic on October 14-15, 1994, the Free Press reported. According to a case summary included in the appeals court decision, nurse Rebecca Black told authorities that she performed an ultrasound and determined the unborn child was 28 weeks old, and told the mother that an abortion might not be possible at that late date.
After Higuera repeated the ultrasound and determined the same date, Black testified, he merely told the woman the abortion would cost more. Higuera inserted labor-inducing laminaria into the woman's cervix and warned her "that if she went into labor before returning to his clinic the next day for completion of the abortion process she should not go to a hospital or call 911 for emergency service because 'they' [the hospital] would deliver a live baby for her," according to the appeals court decision.
The woman told prosecutors that she wanted the abortion for " purely personal reasons and she was aware of no medical need supporting an abortion."
After the abortion, Black testified, Higuera changed the woman's medical file, removing the ultrasound form dating the pregnancy at 28 weeks and replacing it with a form showing the baby's age to be 24 weeks.
Prosecutors are now free to begin Higuera's trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court. They have not yet announced a date.
Britain Legalizes Research on Cloned Human Embryos
Both houses of Parliament in Great Britain have passed a law allowing the cloning of human beings for use in medical research. The new law will allow experimentation on the tissues and stem cells of cloned embryos as long as the tiny humans are not allowed to live more than 14 days (see NRL News, Dec. 2000, p. 23).
The House of Commons passed the bill on December 19 with a vote of 366-174. On January 22, the House of Lords rejected an amendment to delay the research pending further study on the issue and approved the law 212-92.
"It is a sad day for ethical standards in science and respect for innocent human life in Britain," said John Smeaton, national director of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. " This country has cast itself into uncharted ethical waters."
The first government-approved testing on human embryos could begin within three years, according to the Irish Independent. Supporters of such research argued that it was needed to find treatments for diseases such as Alzheimer's and cancer, ignoring the promising experiments on adult stem cells that may prove to be a better source than cells of cloned embryos.
Abortionist Pendergraft Found Guilty of Fraud
An Ocala, Florida, jury deliberated for eight hours before finding abortionist James Pendergraft and his associate Michael Spielvogel guilty of conspiracy, attempted extortion, and mail fraud February 1. Prosecutors charged that the two men falsely accused a Marion County official of threatening them and demanded millions of dollars in compensation. (See NRL News, Jan. 2001, p. 22.)
Pendergraft owns five clinics in Florida, including the Ocala Women's Center. After his conviction, he told reporters that the clinics would remain open, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Even if Pendergraft goes to jail, another physician could administer his clinics and keep them in operation, a spokesman for the Florida Board of Medicine told the Sentinel.
Pendergraft and Spielvogel accused Marion County Commissioner Larry Cretul of threatening them before they opened their clinic in Ocala in July 1998.
When they filed a lawsuit later that year charging the county with refusing to provide enough security for the clinic, they told county officials that they would seek millions of dollars of damages and "bankrupt the county," repeating their accusations against Cretul, the Ocala Star Banner reported.
During the trial, Spielvogel admitted he lied about Cretul's threats, but he said Pendergraft did not know he wasn't telling the truth, according to the Star Banner. However, the jury convicted both men on all charges.
U.S. District Judge Terrell Hodges could sentence Pendergraft to up to 30 years in prison; Spielvogel could receive up to 40 years. A date for sentencing has not yet been set.
Two Men Convicted for Forced Abortion Attempts
Two men who tried to kill their unborn children by forcing abortion-inducing drugs into the mothers face jail time for their actions.
Dr. Stephen Pack pled guilty January 11 for injecting nurse Joy Schepis, who was pregnant with his child after a brief affair, with the abortifacient methotrexate outside the Bronx, New York, hospital where they both worked. (See NRL News, Dec. 2000, p. 27.) Schepis gave birth November 28 to a healthy baby boy, despite fears that the methotrexate could cause birth defects.
"The baby is doing well," Schepis told the New York Daily News. " But nothing can take away the pain. ... I'm just glad he accepted responsibility for what he did to us."
Pack could go to prison for no more than three years, Bronx Supreme Court Justice Ira Globerman said after Pack pled guilty, provided he has no contact of any kind with Schepis, receives a psychiatric evaluation, and does not get arrested before he is sentenced March 16, according to the Daily News.
In Manchester, Connecticut, Edwin Sandoval was convicted January 12 of seven felony charges for forcing two pills of misoprostol into his pregnant girlfriend's birth canal. Misoprostol is used in the RU486 abortion technique to cause uterine contractions and expel an unborn baby.
The unidentified woman accused Sandoval of inserting the pills during a forced sexual encounter in her home August 10, 1998, five days after she told him she was pregnant and he demanded she get an abortion, according to the Hartford Courant.
After Sandoval left, the woman noticed vaginal bleeding and went to the doctor, who found the pills and removed them. The baby was born in March 1999.
"Mr. Sandoval, in his selfishness, caring only about what he wanted, decided to decided to take matters into his own hands," assistant state's attorney Lisa Herskowitz said in closing arguments, the Courant reported. "He was going to give her an abortion even though she didn't want one." Sandoval is scheduled to be sentenced March 16, and could receive up to 95 years in prison.