The Malpractice Option

 

Dr. Charles Rice

 
  3/3/1994
 

Not many physicians are willing to kill unborn babies for a living. Pro-life protests at abortuaries and picketing of the homes of abortionists have brought social as well as economic pressure to bear on abortionists.

Perhaps the most useful deterrent against abortionists, however, is the threat of malpractice litigation. This reality drew recent notice when Life Dynamics (Denton, Texas) last summer mailed to 4,000 attorneys a 72-page guide on suing abortion providers for malpractice. According to the president of Life Dynamics, Mark Crutcher: "The dirty little secret is how many women are getting injured out there. I believe that a lot of women are suffering in silence because they don't know they can sue." Described in the guide are "lawsuit tactics" on how to "argue in court that woman experiencing depression or conflicts after her abortion has suffered 'emotional damages'." The manual also contains information about how to allege that abortion providers "do not obtain adequate informed consent from women who often experience the post-abortion syndrome of psychological Depression." On March 4th and 5th Life Dynamics will hold a conference on abortion malpractice litigation in Dallas.

The malpractice tactic was examined on CBS's Eye on America in December: "The doctors that we represent," said Center for Reproductive Law & Policy attorney Kathryn Kolbert "the doctors who are performing abortions today, are under siege." The malpractice tactic, however, is not a new invention. A pioneer group, Legal Action for Women (Pensacola, Fla.), active since 1985, illustrates the authentically grass-roots character of most effective pro-life activity. Mike and Vicky Conroy of Pensacola, Fla., formed LAW as an extension of their work in providing alternatives to women contemplating abortion. "Babies were being saved by sidewalk and telephone counseling," recalls Vicky, "but we were seeing women's lives destroyed also. We saw a way to put a dent in the abortion industry by targeting the motive, which was greed. We want to put the abortionists out of business by making them accountable for their own negligence." Mike, 44, and Vicky, 39, committed evangelical Christians, see their LAW activity as a ministry for Christ. They are active in the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola and, incidentally, they home-school their five boys and five girls, who range in age from 15 to 1.

"Part of the cost of doing business for the abortionist," Mike explains, "is malpractice insurance, and this insurance is expensive because the insurance companies are aware of the dangers of abortion. Each time an abortionist is sued, his insurance company must be notified. When an abortionist is sued repeatedly, his insurance company will drop him like a hot potato. He will then find it difficult, if not impossible, to be accepted by another insurance company at any cost."

Since 1988, LAW has distributed over 100,000 copies of its Abortion Malpractice Report, which provides reviews of malpractice cases against abortionists and details procedures that can be followed by women to obtain redress for abortion injuries. LAW, a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, also has a registry of cooperating attorneys who are willing to consider taking such cases. According to Vicky, "one-third of the abortionists practicing in the U.S. are not obstetrician/gynecologists. Many doctors are out-of-towners who ride the abortion circuit. They are not part of the local medical community. The woman, in most cases, is not allowed the privilege of consulting with the doctor before the surgery. Many times she doesn't ever know his name. Abortion is the only medical field that this happens in, and women need to know this." LAW receives numerous inquiries on its toll-free number, 1-800-U-CAN-SUE (1-800-822-6783).

Legalized abortion is a fraud on the public as well as on the women who are induced or allowed to kill their children. The Supreme Court has left open practically no legal means by which the people of any state can actually forbid a single abortion. The constitutionalization of abortion, however, has not wholly displaced the law of torts, which provides money damages for negligent injuries. The activities of LAW, Life Dynamics, and other pro-life agencies (including Free Speech Advocates, the American Center for Law and Justice and others) indicate that the malpractice option may be an effective way to deter baby killers by separating them from that which they prize most, i.e., money. Abortionists are hired murderers. If appeals to conscience have no effect, economic disincentives may do the job. Mike and Vicky Conroy and the others working in this field continue to render an essential service.

(Dr. Rice is a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame.)