Saturday, August 26, 2006

Pendergraft Appeals Suspension

The little blessing to the left is a photograph of a third trimester unborn child. It's a perfect illustration for this article.

Florida abortion provider James Pendergraft, whose license was suspended by the Florida Department of Health earlier this month, on Tuesday appealed the suspension to the 1st District Court in Tallahassee, the Orlando Sentinel reports (Shelton, Orlando Sentinel, 8/23).
Pendergraft's license was suspended earlier this month because he allegedly showed a "flagrant disregard for the laws of the state of Florida and a willingness to endanger the lives and health of pregnant patients."
Third-trimester abortions are illegal in Florida except to "save the life or preserve the health of the pregnant woman," in which case, the law requires that the procedure be certified by two physicians and that it be performed in a hospital.
According to the state, Pendergraft in 2004 and 2005 "endangered two female patients by performing third-trimester abortions outside a hospital setting and without concurring certification from a second physician."
Pendergraft's attorney Robert Buonauro said Pendergraft "operated within the (medical) guidelines and protocol" of the state and "had the appropriate certification" for the abortion he performed in July 2005.
Buonauro added that the woman involved in the 2004 abortion was in her second trimester (
Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/21).
However, state documents say that Pendergraft did not correctly identify the fetus' gestational age.
Pendergraft said the woman was at 22 or 23 weeks' gestation, but the state documents say the woman actually was at 25 to 27 weeks' gestation (Orlando Sentinel, 8/23).
The suspension means that Pendergraft cannot practice medicine until the state
Board of Medicine reviews his case (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/21).
Appeal Details
The appeal asked the court to review the health department's claims and to reinstate Pendergraft's medical license, the Sentinel reports (Orlando Sentinel, 8/23).
Pendergraft in the appeal said that he had the authority required to perform the procedures and that he had stopped providing third-trimester abortions after learning of the rule's requirements that they be performed in a hospital (
AP/Washington Post, 8/23).
Pendergraft's spokesperson Marti Mackenzie said that neither abortion involved a woman in her third trimester, adding, "[C]lose scrutiny" of the records of the woman involved in the July 2005 procedure "reveals the procedure was performed at 24 weeks and six days -- a second-trimester abortion."
The appeal also says the state filed the suspension with the intention of causing him "professional embarrassment and negative publicity," as well as "maximum disruption of services to patients" (Orlando Sentinel, 8/23).
Health department spokesperson Thometta Cozart said the agency had not yet reviewed Pendergraft's appeal and as a result could not comment (AP/Washington Post, 8/23).
The state
Agency for Health Care Administration last week also indefinitely restricted two clinics that Pendergraft partially owns from performing abortions and temporarily has restricted three others that Pendergraft partially owns, according to agency documents (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 8/21). Mackenzie said the lawyers are preparing separate appeals for each of the clinics (Orlando Sentinel, 8/23).

Before I even begin commenting I think any pro-life person with integrity needs to clarify that the vast majority of abortions occur in the first trimester. Over 90% occur in the first trimester with abortions after becoming increasingly rare with each passing week. Women having third-trimester abortions represent 1-3% of abortions performed depending upon which study you read and believe. I think that has to be honestly stated as part of having an intelligent exchange on abortion.

Most of the abortions that are performed in the latter stages of pregnancy relate to medical information gained about the baby. Genetic testing that has revealed a problem with the baby represents the most significant reason for these abortions. That is not to say that the baby has a life-threatening problem but often times the baby has a disability. The recent abortion of a baby with a harelip is probably the most recent example that came to national attention but usually the disabilities and challenges exceed that situation. I am not saying that to defend the abortion of disabled children so are valuable members of our human family but to be clear that most abortions performed at that stage are not for socio-economic decisions.

Moving on now!

Third trimester abortions are far more complicated procedures than ones performed in the first trimester. The complication rate for the mother is much higher than in earlier stages and to provide that procedure outside of a hospital is actually shocking to me just based on my belief that the acuity of care that is offered in a clinic is not sufficient. I think that the clinical judgement of someone who would make that decision and who would not partner with another physician in making that decision - if those are the correct facts - needs to be questioned. Those kind of practices, in my opinon, put a patient's life at risk. People who care about women's health - even if they agree with abortion - should be asking why such medical care would be provided to women.


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