Houston Chronicle’s breakthrough story on abortionist Douglas Karpen

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. While my family and I are on vacation, we are running some of our favorite NRL News Today stories from the last four months, entries from our “Roe at 40″ series, and an occasional update.

Abortionist Douglas Karpen

Abortionist Douglas Karpen

When pro-lifers first started writing about the notorious Kermit Gosnell, who’d eventually go on trial and be convicted of three counts of murder, we made the point repeatedly that there were others out there performing late abortions with histories of medical malpractice suits—and worse.

The latest example is Houston abortionist Douglas Karpen. A breakthrough was made yesterday when the Houston Chronicle ran an investigative piece written by E. Joseph Deering. While including assertions that charges against Karpen were much ado about nothing, more importantly the article also provided not only a detailed history of malpractice claims but also “troubling allegations of a woman’s death caused by a botched abortion as well as allegations of a late-term procedure that went awry, with a baby being born and living for six months before dying.”

That and what Deering described as “the videotaped assertions of three former employees and a series of gruesome photographs of mangled and well-developed fetuses.”

The Daily Mail described the former employees’ allegations as

“delivering live fetuses during third-trimester abortions and killing them by either snipping their spinal cord, stabbing a surgical instrument into their heads or ‘twisting their heads off their necks with his own bare hands.’ Other times the fetus was so big he would have to pull it out of the womb in pieces.”

To which Deering added

“the three women who once worked for Karpen accuse him of routinely performing abortions later than the law allows and then ending the life of the fetus once it was removed from the patient’s body.

“They also accuse the clinic of falsifying ultrasound results to indicate an abortion would be legal; concealing logs from inspectors; failing to keep instruments sterilized; exaggerating the age of a fetus in order to get a higher fee; and improperly disposing of medical waste.”

(The allegations bear an uncanny resemblance to the charges leveled against Gosnell, now serving three consecutive life sentences.)

The assertions were so troubling that Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst issued a statement in which he said, “I read with disgust about the allegations of … Karpen performing illegal late-term abortions surrounded by appalling sanitary conditions in his clinic.” Dewhurst went on to state, “The Harris County authorities should perform a full-scale investigation and take action against those who broke state law.”

Deering reported three examples of renewed interest in Karpen’s behavior. (1) The Harris County District Attorney’s office said it will have “several people” look into the claims. (2) Likewise for the State Department of Health Services, which described its investigation as “a very high priority.” And (3) “A group of 20 Texas legislators sent a letter last week to the Texas Medical Board asking that it investigate Karpen again in light of the allegations made by the former employees, calling their claims ‘disturbing, to say the least,’” according to Deering.

Pro-abortion critics dismissed the accusations and/or the video as “little more than old wine in a new bottle”; a “witch hunt, plain and simple, from disgruntled former employees”; and bullying, Deering reported. But his story was much fairer to the charges than one would have expected and looked at how Karpen is seen by other abortionists and clinic owners.

For example, “Other Texas abortion providers say that Karpen is distant from the mostly tight-knit Texas community of clinic owners and is not seen at statewide provider meetings or national conferences,” Deering writes. “They also say he is not a member of the National Abortion Federation, an industry group that promotes standards and best practices and requires inspection of clinics before membership is accepted.”

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Moreover Deering ends his story with details about four lawsuits brought against Karpen. One involved the 1989 death of a 15-year-old girl following the abortion of her baby who was 25 ½ weeks old. Another charged Karpen with being hostile when a minor changed her mind after the abortion had begun in 1991. The girl went elsewhere delivered her baby who died six months later.

A third lawsuit, this time in 1995, was filed by a woman “alleging that he had perforated her cervix during a late term abortion,” Deering wrote. The woman “also alleged that she believed she was later in her pregnancy than the 24 weeks Karpen purportedly had told her.”

Karpen was brought to the public’s attention when Karpen “was sued for performing an abortion on a minor who used a fake ID to establish that she was 18, a legal requirement at the time,” according to Deering. The family “contended the ID card, obtained from a grocery store, obviously was not legitimate.”