Supreme Court rejects appeal of abortionist convicted of murder

By Liz Townsend

Editor’s note. We’re using our year-long “Roe at 40” series to highlight stories that were particularly well-received by the readers of National Right to Life News and/or of especial current relevance. Abortionists on trial is a type of story that fills the bill on both counts. This story by Liz Townsend appeared in the February 2000, edition of NRL News.

fetalmodesinhandreAlicia Ruiz Hanna, the unlicensed California abortionist convicted in 1994 of second-degree murder in the death of a 27-year-old mother of four, lost her last chance of appeal when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her case January 10. Hanna will continue to serve her sentence of 16 years to life in state prison.

“We are pleased,” Orange County Assistant District Attorney Rick King told the Los Angeles Times. “It appears now that we have our final chapter.”

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals also rejected Hanna’s appeal on June 10, 1999. The appeals court ruled that the jury had “ample evidence” that Hanna showed a “wanton disregard for life” and therefore her conviction was justified, according to the Associated Press (AP).

Hanna owned the Clinica Femenina de la Comunidad in Santa Ana. Despite having no license or medical training, she began performing abortions by herself to cut costs after the clinic got into financial trouble, the AP reported.

Angela Nieto Sanchez died January 19, 1993, after Hanna injected her with an unknown drug intended to abort her one-month-old unborn baby. Sanchez immediately suffered seizures and died as two of her children, Maria, 12, and Martin, 3, waited for their mother in another room.

Refusing to call 911, Hanna started cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which failed to revive the unconscious Sanchez, according to the testimony of clinic receptionist Irasema Mendoza. Hanna then attempted to give Sanchez oxygen from an emergency canister, but the canister was empty, the Orange County Register reported.

“I told her to call the paramedics,” Mendoza testified to a grand jury, according to the Register. “I took the phone to call the paramedics … but Alicia grabbed it away from me and hung up… . She told me not to call them because I was going to get her into problems.” Mendoza received immunity for her testimony.

Hanna’s appeal was in large part based on her contention that the testimony about her refusal to call 911 should not have been allowed at the trial. The appeals court rejected this argument, ruling that the “jury was entitled to believe” the testimony, the AP reported.

Sanchez’s children waited in the clinic for hours without knowing what happened to their mother. Finally, Mendoza said their mother had left the clinic and they called their uncle to pick them up, according to the Times. When their mother still hadn’t returned home by 10 p.m., Maria Sanchez testified at the trial that she returned to the clinic along with her aunt and two friends.

Arriving in the parking lot, they saw Hanna and Mendoza “dragging something out of the clinic” towards her mother’s car, Maria testified. “I asked [Mendoza] where my mother was. She said she didn’t know. Then I went around the car and I saw my mother.”

Angela Sanchez was finally taken to a hospital and pronounced dead on arrival at 11 p.m. Doctors said she had been dead for hours, according to the Register.

The jury at Hanna’s trial found her guilty on December 12, 1994, of second-degree murder and attempting to perform an illegal abortion on Sanchez and two counts of performing illegal abortions on other women. Superior Court Judge Everett W. Dickey sentenced Hanna on January 27, 1995, to 15 years to life for the murder count and an additional 16 months in prison on the other abortion counts.

At the sentencing hearing, Maria Sanchez told the judge that she continued to suffer as a result of her mother’s death. “I’m destroyed emotionally,” she said, according to the AP. “I will never forget these horrible crimes.” District Attorney King told the Times that Sanchez’s four surviving children now live in Mexico.