Cover Story

Red zone defense

"Red zone defense" Continued...

Issue: "Babies are back," Jan. 29, 2011

In Pennsylvania, which now has a pro-life governor for the first time in eight years, legislators are expecting to look at a bill opting out of abortion coverage in the new healthcare exchange. Charlene Bashore, legislative director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, said his allies may sponsor legislation modeled after Nebraska's fetal pain law and its legislation offering ultrasounds to pregnant women who are considering abortions. Although Pennsylvania had some strong pro-life Democrats in the House, the switch from Democrat to Republican is significant because a pro-life advocate, Mike Turzai, is now majority leader.

In Kansas, Democratic Governor Mark Parkinson last April vetoed a bill that would have kept out late-term abortion businesses, would have allowed patients or family members to sue abortionists more readily, and would have required abortionists to report more details to the state of abortions performed after the 21st week of pregnancy. But now former U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, a Republican, sits in the governor's chair and has said he will sign any pro-life bill the Kansas legislature passes.

The Oklahoma legislature last year passed a bill requiring an ultrasound to be shown to the patient prior to an abortion, and it's likely that legislators in Kansas and other states will do the same.

As the public mood changes, some existing laws are now being enforced, thanks to people with determination. Eileen Smith is one of them: After her 22-year-old daughter Laura died in 2007 on the operating table of Rapin Osathanondh, an abortionist who was a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health, Smith's lawyer told her that calls to the district attorney and medical examiner were probably futile. But the mother-who was living at her sister's house and falling asleep at her computer each night in her quest for justice-persisted.

Prosecutors eventually charged Osathanondh with manslaughter, alleging that he failed to monitor her while she was under anesthesia, delayed calling emergency services when her heart stopped, and later lied to try to cover up his actions. The state Board of Registration found that Osathanondh did not have any means of monitoring the heart of Smith, who was 13 weeks pregnant, and did not have oxygen or a functioning blood pressure cuff in the room. The Board also alleged that he "failed to adhere to basic cardiac life support protocol" and did not call an ambulance in a timely manner.

Laura Smith's father, Tom Smith, described how he and his wife adopted Laura after she was left in an orphanage in her native Honduras and later abused by an American couple. He said she sang in a choral group and was in demand to sing the national anthem at school ball games.

On Sept. 13, 2010, just as his trial was about to begin, and facing a potential prison term of 20 years, Osathanondh pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He received a sentence of six months in prison and a ban on ever again working as a doctor or teaching medicine. The plea bargain required him to pay the Smiths $1 million out of his own pocket along with the $1 million the insurance company paid out.

Eileen Smith had an opportunity in court to give a victim's impact statement. She turned to Osathanondh and said that she prayed he would turn to God's mercy so that he didn't have to fall on God's justice. Smith has become a national speaker on pro-life issues: Mothers who turned against abortion after hearing Laura's story sometimes send her pictures of their babies, which leads Smith to conclude that Laura "didn't die in vain. God is using her death to save babies, and that's a comfort to me, that justice continues to be done."

Some cases against abortionists advanced in other states as well last year. The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts (KSBHA) had announced in 2009 a closing of the file on late-term abortionist George Tiller after a gunman killed him. Pro-life advocates thought the file on the other medical professional involved in Tiller's practice-Ann Kristin Neuhaus, the physician who signed off on the late-term abortions Tiller performed-also was closed.

Last July, though, the KSBHA informed Cheryl Sullenger, senior adviser for Operation Rescue and the person who filed the complaint against Neuhaus, that the case was still open and that it was pursuing charges against Neuhaus. According to the KSBHA petition, Neuhaus now faces charges of failure to perform adequate patient review, failure to keep adequate medical records, and medical negligence. Lisa Corwin, public information officer for the KSBHA, said that after each side presents evidence at hearings in April and May, the Office of Administrative Hearings will make a recommendation to the KSBHA and it will determine an appropriate action.

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