By Liz Townsend
Editor’s note. This story from the March 2001, edition of National Right to Life News remains one of the one most amazing accounts I have ever read. Liz’s story is part of our year-long “Roe at 40” series in which we are reprinting stories from NRL News all the way to the year “the pro-life newspaper of record” was started—1973! If you are not a subscriber, please call us at 202-626-8828.
Suffering from uncontrollable crying and haunting visions, a California woman won a lawsuit against a Planned Parenthood clinic for a 1997 “botched abortion” that left one of her twin unborn children alive. The second baby was aborted more than two months later, when the woman – – after repeatedly being told that everything was normal – – discovered she was still pregnant.
As the court clerk read the jury’s February 28 verdict – – an award of $672,610 – – “the woman, whose fetus lost two limbs in the abortion attempt before being terminated months later, lowered her head and wept, convinced her three-year court battle was finally over,” the San Francisco Examiner reported. However, Planned Parenthood’s lawyer said the case will be appealed.
The two abortions have devastated the woman, a 28-year-old Yugoslav immigrant identified only as J.B. “She is like a shattered human being,” attorney Christopher Dolan told the Examiner. He said she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and will continue to receive psychiatric care.
The sad story begins in early December 1997 when J.B. had an abortion at the Planned Parenthood Golden Gate clinic in San Francisco. When she returned for a checkup on December 19, she was told that “she was fine, there were no complications,” said Dolan, according to the Washington Times.
But even at the time of the first checkup, J.B. still felt pregnant, with a swollen stomach and morning sickness. She called the clinic several times. Despite the insistence of clinic personnel that everything was normal, she demanded a pregnancy test, the Examiner reported. On February 18, 1998, a urine test showed there was still an unborn baby in her womb.
Since the pregnancy was now far into the second trimester, Planned Parenthood Golden Gate gave J.B. a list of late-term abortion providers, made an apology, “and shooed her out the door,” according to Dolan.
At Buena Vista Women’s Center, a sonogram showed J.B. that her second baby was still alive. But one arm and one leg had been sliced off during the first abortion that took the life of the twin’s sibling.
Dolan, whom NRL News could not reach for comment, told the Times that J.B. had been thinking of keeping the second baby until she saw the sonogram.
“She sees the ultrasound and has an emotional collapse,” said Dolan, according to the Examiner. “She has to go through a three-day procedure to terminate the fetus’ life, something that absolutely wrecks her.”
As the Examiner put it, “Though Planned Parenthood did relent and pay for the second abortion, J.B. was emotionally traumatized, something that would only get worse.”
Adding mystery to the case, Planned Parenthood Golden Gate refused to turn over medical documents that were crucial to the case, the Examiner reported, calling them “irrelevant.” However, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Douglas Munson declared the organization liable for J.B.’s pain and suffering without a trial because the group would not cooperate. The jury’s only decision was the amount of damages Planned Parenthood Golden Gate would have to pay.
J.B. told the Examiner that Planned Parenthood’s refusal to turn over the documents demonstrates its guilt. “If someone is covering up the evidence, it’s obvious they have something to hide,” she said. “Why would you wash your hands if they weren’t bloody?”
The jury awarded J.B. $672,610 for mental anguish, psychiatric care, medical costs, and lost earnings. “I think deciding the economic damages were fairly easy,” said jury forewoman Paula Brown, according to the Examiner. “But the non-economic part was more difficult. It’s not really easy to put a dollar amount on someone’s life.” However, since California law limits the amount of damages that can be awarded in medical malpractice cases, J.B. would only be able to receive $250,000.
“It’s definitely going to be appealed,” Lynn Stocker, attorney for the abortion clinic, told the Examiner. “Planned Parenthood disagrees with the verdict, and we will be appealing.”
Even if she receives the money, J.B. will need a long time to recover from her ordeal. Dolan said that since the abortions she “has been haunted by visions of babies being killed, has contemplated suicide, and cries uncontrollably at the sight of young children – – especially twins.”
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