After the conviction of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell on murder charges, Operation Rescue has been repeatedly asked if there is any evidence that similar practices exist at abortion clinics elsewhere in the nation. That documentation has now been released.
Operation Rescue arranged to have Life Dynamics, Inc. produce a video interview, released yesterday, with three informants who came to Operation Rescue as the result of our Abortion Whistleblowers Program, which offers a reward of $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of abortionists who are breaking the law.
The three informants, Deborah Edge, Gigi Aguliar, and Krystal Rodriguez, have come forward to tell of their horrific experiences working for abortionist Douglas Karpen, at one of three of his Texas abortion clinics, the Aaron Women’s Clinic in Houston. A fourth informant has co-operated with Operation Rescue, filing an affidavit about her experiences, but remains at this time anonymous.
As shocking as their stories are, these women did more than just talk; they brought forward evidence of illegal late-term abortions in the form of photos taken on their cell phones at the Karpen’s clinic on Schumacher Lane in Houston.
The photos were scandalous. They depicted two babies aborted well beyond the legal limit of 24 weeks in Texas. Their necks had been cut.
“The photos show babies that are huge, with gashes in their necks, indicating that these babies were likely born alive, then killed, just as Kermit Gosnell did at his ‘House of Horrors’ clinic in Philadelphia,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “In fact, there are numerous similarities between Karpen and the Gosnell case, including the disregarding of complaints by the authorities that allowed both men to continue their illegal operations.”
Signs of life
In both cases, the babies’ skin is pink, noting a lack of masceration, an early form of decomposition that happens in babies that die in the womb. Massive bruising on the extremities of one of the babies indicates the baby’s heart was pulsing with life when the trauma was inflicted likely when grasping instruments latched on to bring the baby down into the birth canal. The eyes of the other child are open in a nightmarish expression of pain, revealing development greater than 26-28 weeks. Both sets of photos were taken sometime in 2011.
The video interview of the three informants verified the worst.
“When he did an abortion, especially an over 20 week abortion, most of the time the fetus would come completely out before he cut the spinal cord or he introduced one of the instruments into the soft spot of the fetus, in order to kill the fetus,” said Deborah Edge, who worked as a surgical assistant for Karpen for about 15 years until leaving in March, 2011.
“I thought, well, it’s an abortion you know, that’s what he does, but I wasn’t aware that it was illegal…Most of the time we would see him where the fetus would come completely out and of course, the fetus would still be alive,” Edge continued.
How often did this happen?
“I think every morning I saw several, on several occasions,” she said. “If we had 20-something patients, of course ten, or twelve, or fifteen patients would be large procedures, and out of those large procedures, I’m pretty sure that I was seeing at least three or four fetuses that were completely delivered in some way or another,” said Edge, acknowledging that these babies would be alive.
She described how some babies would emerge too soon and would be alive, moving, and breathing. She also told of how Karpen would sometimes deliver the babies feet first with the toes wiggling until he stabbed them with a surgical implement. At the moment the toes would suddenly splay out before going limp. Sometimes he would kill the babies by “twisting the head off the neck,” according to Edge.
Women would be given doses of Cytotec, a drug that causes strong and unpredictable uterine contractions, and would deliver while they were waiting in line to see Karpen, some in toilets, one in the hallway.
“He just picked it up with one of those [chux] pads and put it in the trash bag,” said Krystal Rodriguez of the baby born in the hallway.
“As long as the patient had the cash, he was going to do it past 25 weeks,” she said.
But not all the babies came out intact. When there was difficulty, Karpen would dismember them, a process that was, according to the surgical assistant Deborah Edge, a bloody mess.
“Sometimes he couldn’t get the fetus out” she explained. “He would yank pieces – piece by piece – when they were oversize. And I’m talking about the whole floor dirty. I’m talking about me drenched in blood.”
Undercover investigation and a troubled past
It all began in early 2011, when Operation Rescue was conducting an undercover investigation of several Texas abortion clinics when it discovered that Karpen appeared to be violating the Texas informed consent law that required that abortionists give the state-mandated information personally on patient conference calls set up for that purpose. In addition to the improper use of a recording, he was not on the line to answer questions, as the law required. Operation Rescue’s Cheryl Sullenger filed a complaint with the Texas Medical Board concerning this violation.
Sullenger submitted a statement to the TMB noting Karpen’s documented history of problems, including series of botched abortions stretching back to 1988 when 15-year old Denise Montoya hemorrhaged and died after a 26-week abortion done by Karpen.
She told the TMB of a documented incident on February 6, 2005, when a sewer broke at Karpen’s Texas Ambulatory Surgical Center, located at 2421 N. Shepherd in Houston, causing sewage to spill into the parking lot of a neighboring car dealership. Maribeth Smith, an employee of the car dealership said she is convinced she saw human body parts mixed in with the sewage. She took photographs, believing the human tissue came from the clinic.
“Whether it’s legal or not, it’s not right,” Smith said. “This whole area is nothing but raw sewage and bloody pieces. There were little legs coming out from one side.”
A Health Department worker called 911 to report a second spill at the same abortion clinic. When asked who she was with she told the dispatcher, “Health Department…and we handle normal medical waste, but this is beyond us. He says he can see fetuses and fingers and everything.” (Emphasis in transcript.)
Sullenger hoped that the history of documented abuses would help convince the TMB to act swiftly to protect the public.
Whistleblower comes forward
The following month, Deborah Edge contacted Operation Rescue with her first-hand account Karpen’s practices after she had smuggled one of Operation Rescue’s Whistleblower flyers out of his clinic, knowing that she needed to call.
In addition to the accounts of the illegal late-term abortions, other abuses Edge witnessed included:
- Falsification of ultrasounds to produce younger fetal ages of babies over the legal limit or older fetal ages to extract more money out of women.
- Fraudulent billing practices.
- Surgical equipment not properly sterilized.
- Reuse of disposable instruments.
- Unqualified workers drawing and administering drugs.
- Late-term abortions done at 28 weeks and later. (Texas law permits only to 24 weeks.)
- Lack of adequate nursing staff.
- Concealing poorly kept logs from inspectors to prevent deficiency citations.
- Hiring nurses through a temp agency to work only on days when inspections are scheduled.
- Mistreating heavy women and inappropriately touching attractive women while under sedation.
- Sexual harassment.
Edge explained that Karpen was able to evade detection by having his workers hide sanitation logs and other incriminating documentation from inspectors on the occasions they would come by the clinic.
“Karpen might have a little newer equipment and a little cleaner clinic, but his shoddy practices certainly mirror those of convicted murderer Kermit Gosnell. Certainly if anyone deserved Board discipline, it was this guy,” said Sullenger.
Another piece of evidence was an Excel file that contained four months of abortion billing information for 2011. That file was given to Operation Rescue by an anonymous informant. The abortions listed all indicated that several abortion funds, including the National Abortion Federation Fund, the Hershey Fund, the Lilith Fund, and others had been billed for part of the abortion fee. The allegation made by the informant was that Karpen was bilking the funds out of money by over-billing them. While that allegation could not be substantiated by Operation Rescue, the list was revealing as to the price of the late-term abortions that the women all said were done beyond the legal limit and the amount of cash taken in to the clinic.
March, 2011, listed 33 abortions that were partially paid for with abortion funds or other sources. Over $38,000 in cash was paid by patients. The file showed 5 abortions that cost under $1,000, 7 abortions that were between $1,000-2,000, 12 abortions that cost between $2,000-$3,000, and 3 abortions that were over $3,000.
The greater the gestational age, the higher the abortion fee. How old were the two babies whose abortions cost $3,700? The file didn’t say, but the high figure seemed to confirm the allegations that abortions were being done very late — much later than 24 weeks.
Due to legal issues raised by the former clinic workers, Operation Rescue contacted attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom, which handled many of the women’s legal concerns. Once the women quit their jobs, finances became an issue. Newman contacted Abby Johnson, whose new organization And Then There Were None, which offers support to former abortion clinic workers. She agreed to help the women with some financial assistance.
The additional information gathered from Edge and the other women was quickly added to the original Texas Medical Board complaint filed earlier. Sullenger discussed the new information with TMB Inspector, Leslie Coe, who seemed to be conducting an investigation. As the other Karpen employees came forward with similar stories, their affidavits were submitted to Coe along with the video of violations taken inside the clinic and the photos of the huge babies Karpen had aborted.
Everything seemed to be progressing through the investigative process. The women were interviewed and Sullenger spoke on and off with Coe, who seemed cooperative and willing to take more information as it came in.
Settlement conference hearings were scheduled and hopes rose, but the hearings were repeatedly delayed and reset over the course of months until finally they were simply were not rescheduled.
“I thought that the additional information had sent the case back to the investigative phase and that the Board just needed more time to process everything. Medical Boards take a very long time to work through things. After being involved in numerous Board actions against abortionists, the delays seemed normal,” said Sullenger. “But apparently they weren’t.”
But then something changed.
“It was like someone turned the spigot off. Ms. Coe stopped returning my calls and did not acknowledge my e-mails. I could not account for the change in attitude,” said Sullenger. “Then I got the letter dismissing the case and was completely stunned by it.”
The letter, dated February 8, 2013, stated:
The investigation referenced above has been dismissed because the Board determined there was insufficient evidence to prove that a violation of the Medical Practices Act occurred. Specifically, this investigation determined that Dr. Karpen did not violate the laws connected with the practice of medicine and there is no evidence of inappropriate behavior, therefore no further action will be taken.
“I couldn’t believe what I was reading,” said Sullenger. “How could anyone look at those pictures of the two babies and still say ‘there is no evidence of inappropriate behavior’? No one even bothered to sign the letter.”
With the TMB out of the picture, Sullenger sought an opportunity to get the women’s stories recorded and evidence released to the public, an effort that required her to negotiate unexpected delays.
Then, while Sullenger was in Philadelphia reporting on the Kermit Gosnell murder trial, Mark Crutcher of the Texas-based Life Dynamics, Inc., a close associate of Operation Rescue’s, was able to make arrangements to get the interviews recorded.
The Gosnell trial and his convictions on 3 counts of first degree murder for severing the spinal cords of babies born alive during abortions at his filthy West Philadelphia abortion clinic has focused the national abortion debate onto the question of whether Gosnell’s behavior was an anomaly. Often in the courtroom conversation amongst reporters, many with very liberal world views, would shift to questions about whether others like Gosnell were out there breaking the law and subjecting women – and their viable babies that the law was supposed to protect – to unspeakable atrocities.
“Douglas Karpen is so like Kermit Gosnell that it is uncanny, from the illegal late-term abortions, to killing babies born alive, to even the sewers clogged with fetal remains,” said Sullenger. “But the most disturbing thing is that we know there are others out there who are maybe even worse than Gosnell and Karpen, who just have not been caught yet. How many? There’s just no way to tell, but that thought should give everyone pause to think. Can we really afford to allow abortion clinics to run amok without accountability? When we do, we get places like Gosnell’s ‘House of Horrors” and Karpen’s apparently illicit operation. The ones that pay the price for the lack of enforcement and oversight are those who can’t defend themselves from exploitation by men like them.”
While states continue to enact pro-life laws that are designed to provide greater oversight and accountability to an out-of-control abortion industry, the matter of enforcement still remains the biggest challenge to bringing abortionists like Gosnell and Karpen to justice.
For years, Gosnell evaded accountability, shielded by a political atmosphere that ignored complaints and refused to inspect clinics out of fear of limiting access to abortions. That political climate was one in which Gosnell thrived. Karpen appears to enjoy the benefits of a similar political climate in Texas, which has inexplicably chosen to ignore a total of four former employees and the images of the babies Karpen dispatched in a similar manner that earned Gosnell two life sentences in prison.
Operation Rescue has finally made public Karpen’s identity in order to attempt bypass the stonewalling of the TMB and bring him to justice.
“We are asking all those who were appalled by the details of Gosnell’s behavior that have come out throughout the trial to take action to bring Karpen to justice in a court of law,” said Newman. “We know that it is possible to prosecute him because of the outcome of the Gosnell trial. We just need prosecutors like those in Philadelphia who are willing and courageous enough to enforce the law.”
Please take the time to contact the authorities below and ask for a full-scale investigation into Douglas Karpen’s abortion business.
Mike Anderson, District Attorney Harris County, Texas
1201 Franklin Street, Suite 600, Houston, Texas 77002-1923
Greg Abbott, Attorney General of Texas
Office of the Attorney General
PO Box 12548
Austin, TX 78711-2548
Voice: (512) 463-2050
Texas Medical Board
Tower 3, Suite 610
Austin, TX 78701
Voice: (512) 305-7010