By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. This ran earlier this year. It is particularly relevant both because it helps us understand how abortionists who maim women continue in business and because Steven Brigham (who we write about elsewhere today) has a legion of apologists and excuse-mongers.
Over the years we’ve talked multiple times about abortionist Steven Brigham, including Tuesday (“Abortion apologists try to shift blame for notorious abortionists from themselves to pro-lifers”). We write about him because he’s lost his license in multiple states, maimed who knows how many women, and is Houdini-like in his ability to escape sanctions.
Of course we can assume that our opposite numbers also care about the women Brigham (and the abortionists who’ve worked for him in four states) have injured and exploited. But there is another reason they have written more of late about Brigham, who is fighting yet again to get his suspended New Jersey license reinstated: Kermit Gosnell. His three murder convictions were the worse black eye the abortion industry has suffered in decades. They must distance themselves from the man who operated what the District Attorney labeled the “House of Horrors.”
Contrary to what the Planned Parenthoods insist, Gosnell and Brigham, two peas in a pod, are not the only abortionists who are unskilled, untrained, and uncaring. This uncomfortable truth (for the abortion industry) is admitted near the end of Eyal Press’s 10,000-word-long story, “Steven Brigham’s abortion clinics keep being sanctioned for offering substandard care. Why is he still in business?” which appears in the February 3, 2014, New Yorker.
As we talked about Tuesday, the first of Press’ self-assigned tasks is to demonstrate that it’s really the fault of pro-lifers that the likes of Brigham and Gosnell exist. Here’s Press’s explanation of how it all came to pass:
“The caricature of clinics as ‘abortion mills’ run by venal profiteers has long been a staple of the anti-abortion movement. As a result, pro-choice activists understood the potential dangers of drawing attention to any facility that might reinforce this stereotype. One clinic director told me, ’We know the anti-choice community will manipulate any story, however minor, to paint the entire abortion-care community with the same brush.’ Politicians could cite such stories as justification for imposing burdensome regulations. Yet clinic owners also knew that some providers saw what they did as a business, not as a social mission. As reputable doctors, hospitals, and medical schools increasingly distanced themselves from abortions, it became more likely that substandard providers would fill the void.”
If I understand his point, pro-lifers’ accusations were self-fulfilling prophecies. Label abortion clinics “abortion mills” and suddenly “substandard providers” will “fill the void” left when the “good people” leave or never get into the trade.
Really? Not to belabor the point, but quacks have been a part of the abortion trade going back to the first days after Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton were handed down. Think about what you have to do in abortion and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it attracts those kinds of people.
And those predators exist today. Look at what self-described “pro-choicers” who at one time worked for Planned Parenthood of Delaware recently said.
Nurse Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich testified that there are some “startling similarities between the situation with Planned Parenthood of Delaware and Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s clinic in Philadelphia.” What were those similarities? “Both operated extremely hazardous abortion clinics and their respective states refused to close them despite repeated warnings,” according to the News Journal. (Emphasis mine)
Another similarity—uncannily like what is you read not just about Gosnell but also in Press’ account about Brigham—is the behavior of abortionist Thomas Liveright. Mitchell-Werbrich told columnist Kristen Powers that she saw him
“’slapping a patient,’ and placing patients on ‘operating tables still wet with the blood from the previous patient.’ He refused to wear sterilized gloves during procedures and would sing ‘hymns about sin to girls during the painful dilation phase of an abortion’ and play ‘Peek-A-Boo’ with patients. She said he ‘rushed abortions’ and allowed ‘sedated patients to wander down [the street] dazed and confused.’”
There’s much more, but let’s go back to Press’s question: why do the likes of Steven Brigham (and Kermit Gosnell and Thomas Liveright and who knows how many others) stay in business?
The initial cover story in Press’ account is, as we wrote Tuesday, that it’s difficult to air dirty laundry in public when the “anti-abortion movement” caricatures clinics “as ’abortion mills’ run by venal profiteers.” In other words, in almost all cases they won’t tell authorities no matter how horribly these guys act for fear of giving “ammunition” to pro-lifers.
But, truth be told, if you read Press carefully, you can divine five reasons for their unconscionable silence that have nothing to do with pro-lifers, all of which reflect badly on pro-abortionists.
#1. The aforementioned cowardice. If you read others stories (especially about how abortion advocates went out of their way not to blow the whistle on Gosnell), you’d think there was a virtual army of “abortion rights advocates” trying to get Brigham out of the abortion trade. There weren’t that many. More common was the response of equally notorious abortionist LeRoy Carhart, who specializes in late, late abortions.
Carhart recalls for Press meeting Brigham at an National Abortion Federation meeting, in the early 1990s
“’He came and asked me if I would train him to do second- and third-trimester abortions.’ After learning that Brigham had limited experience doing first-trimester abortions, Carhart cautioned him against the idea. Privately, he was taken aback: ‘He seemed like a nice person, but I was amazed that somebody would, you know, want to learn how to fly a jumbo jet before he learned how to fly an airplane.’”
If, as even Press admits, the dangers (to the woman) increase the later in pregnancy the baby is aborted, if you really cared about women (as Carhart insists he does), why wouldn’t you move heaven and earth to stop a man who is not even a gynecologist?
#2. It is not pro-life state authorities who turn a blind eye to the Brighams and Gosnells. As we wrote repeatedly in our coverage of Gosnell, the 261-page Grand Jury report was a searing indictment of the Department of Health, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the Department of State, and fellow doctors, especially those at nearby hospitals who treated Gosnell’s victims.
What Gosnell was doing was not a mystery, not cloaked away in anonymity. There were plenty of people who knew and whose testimony could have shut Gosnell down. They chose not to for a host of reasons, including “for political reasons,” to quote the Grand Jury. (That’s a reference to when a pro-abortionist became governor of Pennsylvania.)
Making sure there were no “barriers” to women seeking abortions was not only Job #1, it was the only job.
Read Press’s story and you also find example after example after example of Brigham wriggling out of corners, brazenly evading state laws and orders from medical authorities. It is impossible to believe that if they really wanted to, they could not have put Brigham permanently out of business.
On the other hand, Press’s story lets the cat out of the bag. Not long after New York revoked his license in 1994, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners prepared to render judgment on whether it should revoke Brigham’s license, too.
Brigham, naturally told an administrative-law judge that, well, these things happen in what Press euphemistically calls “advanced-gestation abortions.” Who knows what would have happened if it were Brigham’s word alone, but, Press writes, he lined up
“Michael Policar, a respected gynecologist and a former national spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, [who] testified on Brigham’s behalf. The injuries that the New York board had attributed to negligence, Policar said, could have happened to patients ‘in the best of hands.’ (Policar told me that he had reviewed the medical records for only two patients, and had never vouched for Brigham’s general competence.) Several other physicians offered similar testimony.”
The judge ruled in Brigham’s favor. Press has other stories coming out of Maryland of colossal indifference to women or a resolute inability (unwillingness?) to follow through to keep Brigham and his associates from flimflamming what minimal laws on abortion existed in Maryland.
#3. Brigham could sell ice cubes to Eskimos. Handsome, youthful looking, a former athlete, he oozed charisma and sincerity in his interviews with Press, who admits he was almost taken in.
“Brigham was cordial and ingratiating, and he never raised his voice. He seemed so convinced of the purity of his intentions and the bad faith of his detractors—they were either protesters or competitors, he said—that, while he spoke, it became difficult to imagine otherwise.”
Brigham deflected every criticism of his outrageous behavior, attributing it to those crazy pro-lifers or his greedy competitors. The syllogism goes something like this.
Pro-lifers are awful and liars to boot.
Pro-lifers accuse Brigham (and his associates) of treating pregnant women horribly.
Thus since pro-lifers are liars, Brigham must be innocent.
Or, as Press puts it, Brigham would have you believe he “was a dedicated doctor, and the zealotry of the religious right was responsible for his troubles.” Of course, there is not a shred of truth to this bogus evasion.
#4. What else explains why women go to the likes of Brigham (besides those awful pro-lifers and “unnecessary” laws)? Shame. They believe they deserve this because of the “stigma” of abortion.
Yet the middle class professional Press uses to illustrate that it is not just poor women who are exploited by Brigham– while “passionately pro-choice”—is” embarrassed” not by pro-lifers but by the fact that she’d already had an abortion.
“I’m twenty-eight years old, and I can’t figure it out yet?”
#5. Brigham is invincibly confident, self-assured, a man who never gets rattled. The rationales/justifications/rationalizations he offers Press sound eerily like what Gosnell told reporter Steve Volk after he was convicted. They transform themselves into martyrs to a higher cause, incapable of seeing (or at least admitting) the trail of victims they leave in their wake.
I disagree completely with Volk that Gosnell’s “case is more complicated than most media portrayals allow.”
But he could have been speaking of Brigham when he concluded, “Yet, up close, his story is worse than we knew—a lesson in how self-righteousness and cold rationalizations blur distinctions between man and monster.”