by Steven Ertelt
December 3, 2007
Orlando, FL (LifeNews.com) — Florida abortion practitioner James Pendergraft has been fined $10,000 and will lose his medical license for one year over an illegal late-term abortion he did in 2005. That’s the decision of the Florida Board of Medicine, which handed down the decision about the notorious abortion practitioner on Friday.
The board also will place Pendergraft’s license on a three year probationary period following the suspension, but he plans to appeal the decision.
Pendergraft runs five abortion facilities and his abortion centers in Ocala, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale were shut down for a brief time during an investigation into alleged illegal activities.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration prohibited abortions at those and his two Orlando abortion businesses because Pendergraft was alleged to have done two illegal abortions.
The illegal abortions supposedly occurred at the Orlando centers in 2004 and 2005, but the Florida Board of Medicine threw out the charges related to the 2004 abortion.
However, the board said Pendergraft failed to follow state laws on an abortion he did on a woman’s baby who was about 27 to 28 weeks into the pregnancy.
Florida only allows such late-term abortions to be done in a hospital and only with the certification from two physicians asserting that the woman’s life is in danger from the pregnancy.
However, Pendergraft did not get a second doctor to sign off on the abortion and he did it at his Orlando Women’s Center, which is a private abortion business and doesn’t have the same ability as a hospital to treat women who are victimized by botched abortions.
According to state records, the baby involved in the 2005 abortion allegedly had severe physical and mental problems.
Pendergraft spokeswoman Marti Mackenzie previously told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper 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."
Florida officials 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.
Meanwhile, Pendergraft 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.
And 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.