1978: Series exposed unsafe abortions
February 13, 2008
In 1978, the Chicago Sun-Times wasn't interested in the morality of abortion when it spent five months looking at the procedure. The paper wanted to know: Were women who had abortions here receiving the safe, competent care the U.S. Supreme Court said they were entitled to back in 1973?
What Sun-Times investigative reporters Pam Zekman and Pamela Warrick — working with the Better Government Association — found in their series "The Abortion Profiteers" was, in some cases, downright terrifying.
The Sun-Times/BGA team had people work undercover in six Michigan Avenue clinics. The team uncovered incompetent and unqualified doctors who performed abortions without giving their patients anesthetics. Sometimes, it made no difference if a woman was actually pregnant — she'd still be sold an abortion.
In one truly horrifying case, a couple was sent to a disreputable Detroit abortionist whose dog accompanied the nurse into the operating room — then lapped up blood from the floor.
The series prompted immediate action. Within two weeks, two abortion clinics were closed down, a doctor's license was revoked, a criminal investigation was launched and a governor's task force was appointed to re-evaluate the state's regulation and licensing of abortion clinics and counselors.
One abortion doctor highlighted in the Sun-Times' series renounced his work and became a member of the Moody Church on North La Salle. The doctor, Arnold Bickham, once described himself to Zekman as "the most notorious physician in this city." He indicated he made $1 million a year performing abortions.
His medical license was temporarily suspended because, according to the state, he had operated on women who weren't pregnant and rushed abortions so much that he didn't even wait until the anesthesia set in.
Bickham eventually quit the church and returned to performing abortions. His medical license was revoked in 1988. He later became an administrator at Chicago Public Schools.
Sun-Times front page from 1978: Chicago Sunday Sun-Times, 12Nov1978
The Abortion Profiteers: Making a killing in Michigan Av. clinics by Pamela Zekman and Pamela Warrick, copyright 1978.
Behind the Tiffany tinsel and Gucci glitter, the abortion business is booming on the Magnificent Mile.
In the shadows of shoppers bustling from store to store, anxious, desperate women make their way to appointments at Michigan Av. abortion mills.
Some are pregnant; some are not. It doesn't matter. Most of them will be sold abortions.
For the abortion profiteers, there is money to be made and no time to waste.
The women don't know it yet, but they are about to put their lives on the abortion assembly line.
FIVE MONTHS AGO, The Sun-Times and the Better Government Assn. began the first in-depth investigation of Chicago's thriving abortion business since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion on Jan. 22, 1973. We found:
* Dozens of abortion procedures performed on women who were not pregnant and others illegally performed on women more than 12 weeks pregnant.
* An alarming number of women who, because of unsterile conditions and haphazard clinic care, suffered debilitating cramps, massive infections and such severe internal damage that all their reproductive organs had to be removed.
* Incompetent and unqualified doctors, including moonlighting residents, medical apprentices and at least one physician who has lost his license in one state and faces revocation here.
* Doctors who callously perform abortions in an excruciating 2 minutes, when they should properly take 10 to 15 minutes, and doctors who don't even wait for pain-killing anesthetics to take effect.
*Referral services that, for a fee, send women to a disreputable Detroit abortionist, whose dog, to one couple's horror, accompanied the nurse into the operating room and lapped blood from the floor.
* Clinics that either fail to order critical postoperative pathology reports, ignore the results, or mix up the specimens.
*Dangerously shoddy record keeping by aides who falsify records of patients' vital signs and who scramble or lose results of crucial lab tests.
*Counselors who are paid not to counsel… Turn to Page 4 [not included in image content]
And 30 years later, not much has changed…
CLINICAL INSANITY. After years of allegations and malpractice suits, an abortion site in Southern California is being exposed in the Los Angeles Times.
It began in the 1990s when Santa Ana's Clinica Medica Para Mujer de Hoy, under the management of Bertha Bugarin, was charged with 12 personal injury suits & a wrongful death.
Bugarin was arrested by authorities last year and charged with practicing medicine without a license on 5 patients.
Adding to the outrage, police discovered that Bugarin may have operated up to nine businesses, targeting low-income Hispanic women, and at least 4 of them have employed doctors with histories of "malpractice complaints, addiction, or medical board actions."
Among the sickening details, the doctors have been charged with sexually exploiting patients, leaving portions of unborn babies inside women's bodies, operating under the influence of alcohol, and delivering a dead baby using a vacuum procedure after refusing to perform a cesarean section.
FRC's initial research shows that a handful of these sites have received millions in U.S. taxpayer funds – likely under the federal Title X family planning program.
The lack of regulation for these abortion clinics is appalling.
Women are literally dying in the hands of these abortionists, and the government's response is to throw more money in their direction.
Without stiffer penalties and a genuine commitment to the health and safety of women, this barbarism will continue to go unreported and unpunished.
"No abortion facility should ever be free to ply its trade on American women with the forced complicity of American taxpayers."
[Abortion clinics [sic] operator is charged [LA Times]; 11Feb08 FRC; http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition