The two abortion practitioners who have been charged with murder for doing late-term abortions in the state of Maryland had long, sordid pasts including brushes with the law and putting women’s health at risk.
Steven Chase Brigham and Nicola Irene Riley have been charged with murder related to the deaths of viable babies at an illegal secret abortion clinic that the pair operated in Elkton, Maryland. Brigham is currently in the custody at the Camden County Jail in New Jersey and Riley was arrested and is currently in the custody of the Salt Lake County Jail in Utah. Both are awaiting extradition to Maryland.
Brigham was charged with five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of second-degree murder. Riley was charged with one count of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder. The charges are the result of a Grand Jury investigation.
While late-term abortions are not illegal in Maryland, those who kill viable babies killed in the commission of crimes can be charged with murder in that state.
Brigham operated a secret late-term abortion clinic in Elkton, Maryland, even though he had no license to practice in that state. He hired Riley to do late-term abortions there and at his abortion clinic in Baltimore. Brigham would start the late-term abortions at his office in New Jersey, then caravan the laboring women to Elkton where the abortions would be completed. The clandestine abortion scheme was discovered after a woman suffered a life-threatening botched abortion in August, 2010. When police raided the Elkton abortion clinic, they discovered the remains of 35 aborted babies, one of which was 33 weeks gestation.
Operation Rescue immediately organized grassroots efforts calling for charges against Brigham and Riley and worked behind the scenes to ensure that the case moved forward. Operation Rescue dug deeper and discovered that Riley had lied about her criminal background to gain licensure in three states. At the time of their arrests, Brigham and Riley were banned from doing abortions in any state.
Brigham is no stranger to causing problems with his abortion clinics. Brigham has had his medical license suspended in other states for killing and injuring women in botched abortions.
Back in May, inspectors found Allentown Medical Services had multiple health and safety problems that could endanger women’s health and it continues to operate amid the complaints. Officials indicated the abortion facility received citations concerning using unsterilized instruments on women, having drugs and reproductive devices on hand that were past their expiration date. Abortion clinic inspectors also found blood splattered on the walls and floor of a freezer, according to a report the Pennsylvania Health Department made public.
Troy Newman of Operation Rescue provided more details about what was found.
“Violations found during an inspection that took place on May 26, 2011, discovered out-of-date medicine, metal instruments with a brown material in the hinges and inside the supposedly sterile packaging, surgical instruments tossed in unsterilized drawers, and surgical instruments stored in a “musty” smelling suitcase in broken wrappers – all of which were considered by employees to be ready for use on patients,” Newman said. “Also discovered was a freezer where “Infectious Waste”, (the remains of aborted babies), was stored that was smeared with what an employee acknowledged was blood and contained a thick layer of frozen blood in the bottom. Dirty recovery room blankets and a dangerous lack of patient monitoring were also documented. No plan has been to correct these egregious violations has been filed, yet the abortion clinic continues to operate.”
The abortion facility operates under the name Allentown Medical Services but it has new owners. It changed hands after Brigham was prohibited from operating in Pennsylvania because of so many botched abortions and violations of health and safety laws for medical clinics. He gave up his Pennsylvania medical licensed because of problems in 1992 but was allowed to operate abortion centers administratively until the state finally clamped down on that practice.
State officials said AMS “failed to maintain a safe and sanitary environment” and devices used in abortions had been sterilized but not wrapped to ensure they stayed that way. Several packages of surgical instruments “had an accumulation of brown debris in the hinge areas and brown staining on the inside of the packages” even though an AMS employee told officials they were sterilized and ready for use.
In July, 2010, Brigham was banned by the State of Pennsylvania from operating or controlling any abortion clinics in Pennsylvania, citing violations that endangered the public. Brigham circumvented the order by transferring ownership of his clinics to Rose Health Services, a company said to be owned by Brigham’s mother.
“There are certainly ongoing relationships between Brigham and the remaining Pennsylvania abortion clinics. We believe those relationships violate the Pennsylvania Health Department’s order,” said Cheryl Sullenger, Senior Policy Advisor for Operation Rescue. “We are looking into what legal action can be taken to stop his dangerous Pennsylvania abortion mills from operating.”
He gave up his Pennsylvania medial licensed because of problems in 1992 but was allowed to operate abortion centers administratively until the state finally clamped down on that practice.
Brigham’s only current medical license is under suspension in New Jersey after Maryland authorities discovered he was operating an illegal bi-state late-term abortion scheme that landed one patient in the hospital in September of last year. Police later raided Brigham’s clandestine clinic and discovered the remains of 35 aborted babies, one as old as 31 weeks. The Elkton Police Department opened a murder investigation, which remains active.
Brigham continues to operate troubled abortion clinics under the banner of American Women’s Services in New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia.
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. The state wants his license permanently suspended.
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 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.
Attorney General Paula Dow wants Brigham’s license suspended and he has already agreed to stop practicing medicine at his abortion centers in Voorhees, Woodbridge, Phillipsburg and Toms River.