Abortion Practitioner Loses Medical License: Called a "Clear Danger" to Women
by Steven Ertelt
October 14, 2010
Trenton, NJ (LifeNews.com) — After a nine hour hearing late Wednesday, the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners formally suspended the medical license of abortion practitioner and business owner Steven Chase Brigham. The board said he presented "a clear and imminent danger to the public health and safety."
"Dr. Brigham has consistently and repetitively engaged in manipulative and deceptive behavior designed to circumvent the requirements of the board’s termination of pregnancy regulation," the board said in its ruling.
It added that Brigham has "eviscerate[d] the protections that those regulations seek to afford to New Jersey patients."
The board took action after the state attorney general’s office filed a complaint against him.
Officials say he has concocted a scheme by which he evades the late-term abortion limits of the state of New Jersey and health and safety rules in the state by starting abortions in the state and then transporting the women to Maryland to complete them.
His New Jersey medical license has been suspended based on allegations that he illegally began abortions well beyond the 14 week limit in New Jersey and completed them at the Elkton, Maryland abortion center.
Brigham used an 88-year old disabled physician, George Shepard, Jr., who holds a Maryland medical license, to cover for the fact that he was doing abortions in Maryland without a license, which is a felony in that state.
Brigham admitted to doing abortions in Maryland, but argued that he believed it was legal for him to do so as long as Shepard was in the office. Shepard was deceptively listed on Brigham’s Elkton clinic records as the physician of record even though he suffered a stroke that disabled an arm, making it impossible for Shepard to participate or assist in the risky late-term surgical abortions.
"Why, when you had the option to perform perfectly legal abortions, you found it necessary to schlep patients to other states?" board member Paul Mendelowitz asked Brigham, according to the Gloucester County Times.
"I only did these things because I believed I had the approval of the New Jersey Medical Board," Brigham claimed.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s office told the board it found Brigham’s claims that he did not think he was breaking the law by practicing in Maryland without credibility.
The medical board agreed with Brigham’s request to transfer the case in an "expedited" manner to an administrative law judge.
Now, the pro-life group Operation Rescue, which has helped exposed Brigham’s practices at his abortion businesses in four states, is asking for criminal charges to be filed.
"Brigham has now admitted that he did in fact commit abortions in Maryland, where he is not licensed. Based on that, we renew our call for criminal charges in Maryland and add to it our call on the State of New Jersey to criminally charge Brigham as well," said the group’s president, Troy Newman.
"In addition to revocation, criminal charges are necessary because traditional discipline does not work on Brigham. The only thing that will stop his crime spree is to put him in jail where he belongs," Newman added.
"In addition, his abortion mills need to be closed in the interest of public safety. As long as they remain open, women remain at risk from Brigham’s dangerous and deceptive business practices," he continued.
Brigham operates abortion businesses in four states under the name American Women’s Services. In New Jersey, they are located in Elizabeth, Mount Laurel, Paramus, Phillipsburg, Toms River, Woodbridge and Voorhees.
Brigham was cited after a botched abortion left a woman requiring emergency hospitalization, and other cases of problems later surfaced.
Brigham’s attorney, Joseph M. Gorrell, argued the case should be dismissed and said that’s because Brigham has already been examined by the medical board on the same charges a decade ago.
The mid-1990s complaint was based in part on the 1994 New York case that resulted in the revocation of his medical license in that state. It detailed case after case of botched abortions and other miseries, describing what amounted to a shop of horrors operated by Brigham that also crossed state lines.
Brigham would insert laminaria in late-term patients at his office in Voorhees, New Jersey, then transport the women to New York for completion of their abortions.
The Washington Post indicates the board allowed the hearing to continue and rebuffed Gorrel, saying there were "substantial differences" in the cases.
Gorrell is also attempting to get Brigham off on the complaint by claiming administering drugs to begin the abortion procedure is not the start of an abortion but the preparation for one, and therefore Brigham is not technically starting abortions illegally in New jersey.
Deputy Attorney General Jeri L. Warhaftig argued the drugs made the abortions more dangerous, especially for taking women across state lines.
"Ludicrous," New Jersey Deputy Attorney General Jeri Warhaftig responded, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. He said the previous ruling "did not relieve [Brigham] of the burden of exercising good medical judgment or the obligation to play by the rules."
In the prior case, while the charges were serious enough for New York to revoke his medical license, New Jersey Administrative Law Judge Joseph F. Fidler, relying heavily on testimony from other abortion practitioners, dismissed virtually all of the charges with the exception of dishonesty for advertising that his abortions were "safe" and "painless."
Brigham argues that this settled the matter for good and that the Board has no right to return to the issue of laminaria insertion after 14 weeks at his unapproved facility. Judge Fidler’s ruling and the Board’s letter are viewed as if Brigham has been provided with unlimited prosecutorial immunity.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s office sees it another way, according to files Operation Rescue obtained.
It says Judge Fidler’s findings "did not, and could not, establish a standard of care for decades to come" and only applied to the case before him. It describes how Brigham’s recent actions have gone well beyond simple laminaria insertion to actually initiating abortions for which he is unqualified and/or are illegal in New Jersey.
"The 1996 Order of the Board does not accord [Brigham] free rein to engage in the violative acts alleged by the Attorney General," the brief read.
Brigham again submitted testimony in his defense from fellow abortion practitioner Gary L. Mucciolo of New York, who suggests that Brigham never violated the standard of care in the abortions that landed two women in the hospital.
"This is a case of one shady abortionist protecting another," said OR’s Newman.
The Inquirer newspaper indicates Brigham also filed papers in response to Maryland charges that he is practicing medicine without a license. The papers say Brigham was merely "engaging in consultation" and he asked the Maryland Board of Physicians to dismiss his case and allow him "to continue providing demonstrations, training, and assistance to Maryland doctors who seek his expertise and guidance."
Brigham’s late-term abortion scheme was discovered when a patient suffered a life-threatening complication in Elkton and had to be air-lifted to Johns Hopkins Medical Center for emergency surgery.
Two of Brigham’s associate abortion practitioners, Nicola Riley and George Shepard, Jr. have also had their Maryland medical licenses suspended for aiding and abetting Brigham’s illegal late-term abortion scheme and other violations.
Recently, the New Jersey attorney general’s office accused Brigham of violating standards of care for four additional women seeking abortions at his centers. One case involves a woman from Canada whose Down syndrome child was killed in a late-term abortion.
An Associated Press report indicates the new concerns revolve around an August abortion Brigham did on a 35-year-old Canadian woman who was 33 weeks pregnant at the time. The unborn child was healthy in all respects, medical records show, and was targeted for an abortion only because of the Down syndrome.
Brigham employed his technique of starting the abortion in New Jersey and he then instructed the woman to drive to Maryland herself to complete the procedure.
The medical records do not say who completed the abortion in Maryland, where Brigham is not licensed to practice medicine.
AP indicates Dr. Gary Brickner wrote an expert opinion in the investigation saying the abortion procedure "seriously violated medical standards of care and, to my knowledge, is not sanctioned by any statute or regulation." He said the abortion "did not involve a fetus with a lethal defect or a condition dangerous to the mother’s health."
The document AP cites also mentions another case involving a woman who was in the 24th week of pregnancy. She was slated to complete her abortion in Maryland but began experiencing heavy bleeding while staying in a New Jersey hotel room and she eventually delivered a stillborn baby in a local hospital.
The state’s complaint also says none of the abortion centers Brigham operates are licensed ambulatory care facilities, it points out he has no admitting privileges at any New Jersey hospital and he is not trained as an obstetrician or gynecologist.
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