by Cheryl Wetstein
Thursday, March 1, 2004
A jury has ordered a Planned Parenthood clinic to pay $672,610 in damages to a San Francisco woman who received a botched abortion of her twins.
One fetus, was aborted during the woman’s visit, but the other twin was partially dismembered and left alive in the womb, according to testimony before San Francisco Superior Court Judge Douglas Munson.
The woman, a Yugoslav immigrant known only as “J.B.” in court papers, had the second fetus removed in a late-term abortion several weeks later.
She sued Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, which oversees nine abortion facilities in the San Francisco Bay area, for her pain and suffering.
On Feb. 21, the jury awarded the woman $650,000 for mental anguish, $1,870 in past medical costs, $14,500 for future psychiatric expenses and $6,240 in lost earnings.
California law limits damage awards to $250,000, so the 28-year-old woman will not receive the full judgment.
Her testimony was so horrifying that three jurors later said they “wanted to give her over $1 million,” Christopher Dolan, the woman’s attorney, said yesterday.
After the trial, Lynn Stocker, an attorney for Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, told the San Francisco Examiner that the verdict is “definitely going to be appealed.”
Neither Miss Stocker nor Planned Parenthood officials could be reached for comment yesterday.
The San Francisco verdict went unreported by wire services and news networks. News of the damage award drew mixed reviews from one pro-life group.
“We’re not in any way condoning the fact that the woman went to get the abortions,” said Ed Szymkowiak, director of STOPP International, a longtime critic of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
But charges of malpractice at Planned Parenthood “are nothing new,” he said, citing a 1997 book, “The Scarlet Survey,” by Kevin Sherlock, that details grievances filed against Planned Parenthood clinics.
Most abortion malpractice cases are settled out of court, with provisions that they not be discussed, said Mr. Sayrnicowiak. The San Francisco case, in which the trial went all the way to a jury verdict, was rare, he said.
Mr. Dolan said the woman came to a Planned Parenthood clinic pregnant with twins in early December 1997.
She had an abortion and was told to return for a checkup, which she did on Dec. 19. She was told that “she was fine, there were no complications,” even though she felt something was wrong, he said.
Around six weeks later, the woman returned to the clinic, complaining of a swollen stomach and morning sickness. At her requests a nurse performed a urine test and, was shocked to see that the woman was still pregnant.
Planned Parenthood workers referred the woman to another clinic that performed late-term abortions. It was there where the woman had a sonogram, which revealed that the second fetus was alive but missing “an arm and a leg,” said Mr. Dolan.
The woman, was considering keeping the remaining twin before the sonogram, but “felt she had no choice” but to abort it after seeing the results, he said.
The woman struggles emotionally, crying uncontrollably when she sees children, and is unable to function in a romantic relationship, said Mr. Dolan. “She testified on the stand that she hallucinated and saw blood all over her lower legs and pelvic area”.