DENTON, Texas -- When Phoenix abortionist Brian Finkel was arrested in late October and charged with 16 counts of sexually assaulting patients at his abortion clinic, it was no surprise to Mark Crutcher.
Life Dynamics, Inc., the Denton, Texas-based pro-life group that Crutcher heads, recently introduced a new tactic in the fight against abortion by asking clinic workers to report illegal activities they observe going on in abortion facilities -- activities that Crutcher says occur at epidemic levels in such facilities.
Through picketing at abortion clinics and a new Web site, http://www.clinicworker.com/, Life Dynamics is attempting to alert clinic employees to signs of such criminal activity as income-tax evasion and insurance fraud, warning them that they could be liable if they know of such activity and do not report it.
"We work with a lot of people from the abortion industry and women who have been harmed by it," said Crutcher. "We discovered that the things we talk about on the Web site are rampant in the abortion industry: medicaid fraud, income-tax evasion, insurance fraud, sexual assault of patients, sexual harassment of employees."
In Finkel's case, six former employees and one current employee of his Metro Phoenix Women's Center have told investigators about inappropriate behavior by the abortionist, The Arizona Republic reported Oct. 26. The employees did not come forward, however, before the criminal investigation, which was based on patients' complaints to police.
Crutcher said people who work in abortion clinics often think they have nowhere to go with such information. "They can't tell their side and they can't tell us because they think we hate them. We wanted to dispel those myths and give them an opportunity to see that there is an avenue for them."
Life Dynamics says it will investigate instances of illegal activity if there is reason to be confident something is amiss. The group may be able to protect the identity of a clinic worker who contacts them, depending on the circumstances, Crutcher said. "We can't tell you what happens in every case, but we can give you advice that may keep you from going to jail."
In addition to reaching workers through the Web site, Life Dynamics is encouraging pickets at clinics on days when abortions are not being performed. Signs carried by picketers have messages like "Protect yourselves, clinic workers," and direct employees to the clinicworker.com Web site.
Crutcher said he thinks abortion advocates are nervous about the project. "Clearly, they don't want this information out there."
Pam Smallwood, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central Texas in Waco, which has been picketed by protesters carrying Clinic Worker signs, declined to respond to questions about the effort.
In the few weeks the program has been in place, Crutcher said he has received numerous requests for signs and information.
As of mid-October, the Web site had had 4,600 hits.
Having dealt with clinic employees in the past, Crutcher said he knows it will take time before they may be willing to share information with his group. "They may call several times till they get comfortable with you and feel like they can open up. We've already started a relationship with some who have called. To this point, they've told us about things going on, but they're not willing to come forward in doing anything about it.
"We know that through the creation of a relationship with them that eventually they will do so."
Some, he said, fear that they may be in trouble themselves. "That is a big motivation and rightly so. In certain types of criminal activity, if you know what's going on and don't report it and it's found out, you'll be in trouble."
Crutcher said he believes illegal activity at abortion clinics has gone unchecked in part because of such fear. However, he said many clinic workers also do not know what to look for or, if they do suspect criminal acts, do not know where to go with the information.
Angie McGraw, executive director of Ohio's Dayton Right to Life, which helped bring about the closure of the Dayton Women's Services abortion clinic earlier this year by monitoring non-compliance with state requirements on inspection and licensing of clinics, said she thinks the Life Dynamics effort is worth trying.
Even if a worker didn't want to report something potentially illegal while still employed by an abortion clinic, she said, such a person might consider doing so after leaving the job. "They may not act on it now, but it's not a bad idea to plant a seed if they would want to do something in the future."
Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, is involved in the Clinic Worker project and is promoting it on his own Web site. Based on his experience with people who have come out of the abortion industry, he is convinced the program will have a big impact.
"The approach is perfectly legal and moral," he said. "To those that do not think that this project is a good idea, I would urge that they pay attention to the results. After all, we're in this to win, and it doesn't matter who gets the credit. This project will bring many victories, and they will be dramatic."
Joan Appleton, a former abortion clinic nurse who now directs Centurions, a group offering spiritual, emotional, psychological, and practical help to ex-abortion workers, said although her organization does not seek such information from its clients, she welcomes any effort that helps close abortion clinics.
She said, however, that she does not think such a program would have affected her while she was in the abortion business because the clinic where she worked was legally above board in its practices.
A Dirty Industry
Crutcher thinks few, if any, abortion clinics are legally clean.
"Running an abortion clinic is like being involved in prostitution or pornography. There is no way you can clean it up," Crutcher said. "If they think they can clean up their act and stop doing all these things and get us off their back, they're simply wrong. If they clean up their act, they're out of business. They couldn't function without fraud."
Judy Roberts writes from Millbury, Ohio.