by Steven Ertelt
August 25, 2006
Tallahassee, FL (LifeNews.com) — Florida state officials have said that three of the five abortion businesses run by embattled abortion practitioner James Scott Pendergraft can reopen. That means abortions will be allowed again at his facilities in Ocala, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale but his two abortion centers in Orlando are prohibited indefinitely from doing abortions.
Earlier this month, the state Agency for Health Care Administration prohibited abortions at all five places because Pendergraft is alleged to have done two illegal abortions.
The state suspended Pendergraft’s medical license, but he has appealed the decision and his attorneys are confident the suspension will be lifted while the case move forward.
Pendergraft’s abortion centers in Orlando, the EPOC Clinic on Virginia Drive and Orlando Women’s Center on Lucerne Terrace, are so confident he will be allowed to resume abortions that they are scheduling abortion appointments for as early as next week.
Pendergraft spokeswoman Marti Mackenzie told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper that other abortion practitioners can do abortions at the two Orlando businesses.
Pendergraft’s lawyers filed an appeal with Florida’s First District Court in Tallahassee and they question why an "emergency" order was necessary based on the two abortions done in 2004 and 2005.
The appeal says the state did not need to close down Pendergraft’s five abortion centers. The attorneys said those abortion centers were closed "despite the presence of other licensed and qualified practitioners at the facilities available."
On Wednesday, LifeNews.com reported that the Orlando Womens Center, one of Pendergraft’s two abortion facilities in the city, was scheduling abortions.
In the two illegal abortions Florida officials say he did, Pendergraft failed to get a second opinion from a physician before doing an abortion in July 2005 on a woman who was 28 weeks pregnant. That abortion took place on a baby with severe physical deformities at OWC.
Florida law says late-term abortions are only legal to protect the life or health of the mother and not in cases when the unborn baby has physical or mental handicaps. Such abortions must be done in a hospital unless two physicians certify in writing that the abortion is needed right away to save the woman’s life.
Mackenzie told the Sun-Sentinel that the woman’s life was in danger in that case and that she was sent to Pendergraft for the abortion by two doctors who had previously examined her. She indicated the woman was told by an unnamed hospital that she couldn’t have the abortion there.
"People sought him out because of his expertise so she could have this necessary termination as quickly as possible," Mackenzie told the newspaper. "I strongly maintain that not only is [Pendergraft] not a danger to women, he is their only salvation in these cases."
Later, Mackenzie told the Associated Press that Pendergraft hoped to appeal the suspensions and get a court to lift them. She indicated the appeal would be filed with the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee.
She claimed he was "the target of government agencies determined to limit the access of Florida women to safe and legal late term abortions."
The state also took actions against Pendergraft over a 2004 abortion in which he said a woman was 22 weeks pregnant. He gave her a drug to take at home to initiative contractions and begin the abortion.
The woman ended up having the abortion at home before she could go back to the abortion center and a hospital later estimated the age of the baby at 25 to 27 weeks, according to the newspaper.
The state said Pendergraft "endangered two female patients by performing third-trimester abortions outside a hospital setting and without concurring certification from a second physician."
Mackenzie said Pendergraft disputes the findings on the age of the baby.
A representative of the Agency for Health Care Administration told the Orlando newspaper that Pendergraft’s two abortion centers there are prohibited "indefinitely" from doing abortions while the other three, in Tampa, Ocala and Fort Lauderdale, could resume doing abortions next week.
AHCA spokeswoman Brandi Brown said "The clinics can do regular gynecological visits with patients … but they cannot perform any new abortions."
She also told AP, "They can do any post-operative procedures on anyone who had an abortion before the order went into effect."
Mackenzie said women scheduled for abortions would be referred elsewhere.
Pendergraft will not be able to practice medicine until the Florida Board of Medicine reviews his case.
This isn’t the first time Pendergraft has been in trouble with the law.
He was convicted in 2001 over a lawsuit he and an associate filed against Marion County.
The suit claimed the abortion business wasn’t given proper protection from threats of violence but county officials told the court the lawsuit was part of an extortion plot in which the county would have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to Pendergraft.
Pendergraft received a sentence of three years and 10 months in prison but was released after just seven months when the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction.
He admitted in federal court that he obstructed justice by supporting a business associate he knew was lying and hoped to get money from local officials by claiming pro-life advocates were threatening him and his business.
Also, in 2005, a woman filed a lawsuit against one of Pendergraft‘s abortion facilities saying it refused to call emergency personnel to help her or her baby, born on the second day of a two-day abortion procedure.
They charged Harry Perper, the abortion practitioner who began the abortion process, and Pendergraft with violating state law.
Attorneys for the law firm Liberty Counsel, who represented the woman, said a doctor should have been present during the second day of the abortion procedure. They say abortion business staff failed to provide adequate care and they cite unsanitary conditions at the facility.
Related web sites:
Florida Health Department Info