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Illegal procedures

"Illegal procedures" Continued...

Issue: "Playing with capitalism," May 23, 2009

Rand was just one among several troubled abortionists Bugarin employed, including Nicholas Braemer, who in 1987 removed only one of a baby's arms from its mother's womb before declaring the abortion complete and sending the 27-year-old patient home. The next day, the mother gave birth to a one-armed, stillborn child.

Bugarin also appointed as Clinica Medica's medical director Dr. Laurence Reich, a convicted sex offender. Both men voluntarily surrendered their medical licenses but continued performing abortions at Bugarin's clinics. Authorities arrested Reich at Bugarin's Panorama City clinic in 2008.

When she ran out of willing doctors, Bugarin, who had no medical training, began scheduling and performing first- and second-trimester abortions herself.

During her April 24 sentencing hearing, Bugarin, a Hispanic woman wearing a blue prison jumpsuit and chains around her waist, sat at the defense table, head down, long dark hair shielding her face like a curtain. I sat in the gallery with Luis Mendoza, the man who had prayed outside Bugarin's clinic and tried to persuade her to change careers.

We listened as prosecutor Gina Darvis noted for Judge Gill the calculated, profit-oriented nature of Bugarin's acts and the extreme danger in which she had placed patients. In turn, defense attorney Kay Sunday portrayed her client as a hardworking entrepreneur who had only gotten a little overzealous in her attempt to make her business succeed.

Judge Charles Gill didn't buy it. Sunday had argued for a sentence of two years, a term that would essentially absolve Bugarin of consequences for her San Diego crimes since the longer Los Angeles sentence would supersede it. Instead, Gill sentenced Bugarin to six years and eight months, a stint that replaces the L.A. term and doubles the amount of time she'll spend behind bars. When Gill pronounced the sentence, Sunday put her arm around her client. Bugarin's shoulders heaved with silent sobs.

Afterward, in the corridor, I asked Mendoza how he felt about the outcome. Given the number of women injured and babies killed in Bugarin's clinics, "it was a bit disappointing," he said. "But I want to focus on the positive. She is serving significant time and maybe that is what will change her heart."

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