James Pendergraft (Photo courtesy Operation Rescue)
When a sidewalk counselor at James Pendergraft’s Orlando, Fla., Women’s Center abortion clinic encountered a man who told her he was delivering his baby’s body to the clinic, she called police but they declined to investigate, and there is reason to believe that decision violated at least two laws that should have been controlling in the situation, according to an expert on the issue.
Officials with the Orlando police department declined to return multiple messages left by WND, and declined to respond to a written question officials told WND to submit about the situation.
It developed on Feb. 9, when counselor Patte Smith was in the area near the rear entrance to the building, as she has been for more than a decade, trying to convince those headed to the abortion business to change their minds about destroying unborn life.
In this particular case, she told WND, the man was approaching and he “looked very shaken, looked like he was in a daze.” She approached him as close as she could, since sidewalk counselors are not permitted on abortion business property, and the man already was approaching the door.
“I explained the induction of labor medication doesn’t do anything to harm the infant, that there was still time to change their minds,” she told WND. “He said, ‘You don’t understand. This is my baby.’ And he lifted up the bag that he had in his hands, a white trash bag, kind of clean and brand new, with something that was wrapped in the bottom. It could have been a towel or a small blanket wrapped what was at the bottom of the bag, a towel that had been amber, but it had bled through…”
“We knew that it was his baby. I asked, ‘Please come over to me, to give the baby to me so we can bring the body to someone who cared,’” she said. “He said, ‘No, this is my business.’ At that moment the back door of the abortion clinic opened and (clinic worker) Sonia Merced merely put her hand straight out.”
In a report by WND columnist Jill Stanek, she documented that Smith tried desperately to intervene.
“Don’t,” said Smith. “Don’t give the baby to her!”
Merced turned to Smith, and using obscene language, told her to shut up, and whisked the bag and dead baby inside.
The counselor first advised off-duty Orlando police officer Charles May, working as a clinic guard, of the situation, then called 911 to report the baby’s death. However, Smith said when the officers responded, they didn’t investigate, and didn’t take custody of the body.
In those moments, two laws that may have been controlling, one state and one federal, apparently were ignored, according to Mathew D. Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law.
The first was a Florida state prohibition on late-term abortions outside of hospitals, and the second was the federal Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which requires medical assistance for any child born alive, even if that happens during an abortion procedure, which in this case apparently involved the woman taking drugs to induce labor. Smith said in those cases sometimes the babies are delivered before women can return to the business.
Now, with the probable destruction of the body, an investigation never will reveal whether the abortion was a late-term procedure in violation of state law, or whether the infant was born alive and medical help was withheld, in violation of federal law, he noted.
Smith told WND that she later talked with the Orlando Police Department’s Lt. Laura Houston, who told her that the police simply don’t get involved in the abortion industry. WND messages left for Houston weren’t returned. And when WND reached a Sgt. Barb Jones in the department, she told WND to submit questions in writing, which was done, but no response was returned.
Staver said there actually were three laws that should have been followed in the situation where there is a report of the death of an infant. “First, the state of Florida has a law that late-term abortions, in the third-trimester, must be done by a licensed physician in a hospital. And that’s a (potential) criminal penalty.”
He said such an abortion would have been illegal for the clinic to do, or for Pendergraft to supervise, because of the hospitalization requirement, because Pendergraft has no hospital privileges.
In fact, he noted, Pendergraft is under investigation at this point for allegedly violating that very state requirement: performing late-term abortions at a clinic and without a physician’s attendance.
But he noted an autopsy on the child would have been necessary “and called for in this case,” to provide those answers.
The second law, the federal act, also should have been controlling in the situation. “That law says that if an infant is born alive, there is a requirement to provide life-sustaining treatment to that child,” he said. The law may have proven to not be applicable, given a stillborn infant, but once again only tests on the body could have determined that, he noted.
He also suggested that an investigation should have included the type of medication – reportedly Cytotec – used by the clinic to trigger the delivery of the child, because Pendergraft does not have the required permission to prescribe controlled substances, and is under investigation on allegations he’s done that, too.
“I think law enforcement does have a responsibility to investigate,” Staver, who has previous experience with the clinic, told WND. It was just a few years ago when Liberty Counsel handled a complaint on behalf of “Angele,” a woman who had gone to Pendergraft’s clinic for a late-term abortion.
Her child was born alive in the clinic, and clinic workers refused her frantic pleas to provide medical help, or get someone who could.
The woman herself eventually called 911 for help, but Staver said when officers arrived, “they were met by some workers of Dr. Pendergraft’s. Those staff said ‘Everything is under control,’ and the officers did not come in to the facility.”
“I felt so bad. I felt so helpless. I had been so wrong to come here… I wanted to fix and change everything once I saw Rowan’s precious little face and body,” Angele later told Life Site News.
When clinic workers refused to help, or call 911, she tried to comfort her son. “I stroked his precious little head and kept telling him I loved him and we would be okay,” she said. She eventually fetched her cell phone, holding the baby still attached by the umbilical cord, but Rowan died before help arrived.
Pendergraft, who spent several months in prison for extortion before his conviction was overturned based on problems with the evidence, then was targeted by a complaint filed by Liberty Counsel on behalf of Angele.
Staver blamed society’s “calloused” attitude toward abortion for the officer’s actions. “It’s an attitude that’s developed. If it’s abortion, their first response to anything is that ‘Everything’s fine.’”
“I think we need to develop a culture of life, and a conscience that respects the dignity of these unborn children,” Staver said. “We’re callous to the fact that abortions exist. We put our head in the sand to the barbaric actions (within abortion businesses).”
Smith reported that when officers arrived to her call, they took the young man aside, and then went back inside, and then disappeared.
She called their office, to be told no report was filed. One of the officers confirmed the young man admitted telling Smith there was a body in the bag, but the officer said the man was just “f——” with her.
The officers didn’t look in the bag, didn’t ask to look in the bag, didn’t review video from cameras filming everything that goes on outside the clinic. Smith said Houston told her that officers simply don’t have any jurisdiction in the matter of baby’s body in the vicinity of an abortion clinic.
“Abortion is legal and we are not going to investigate, period,” Smith said Houston told her.
Smith said she just had to speak out about the trauma she witnessed. “The public has a right to know that infants are born at home and are carried in bags to the backs of abortion clinics,” she told WND.
Stanek noted that the incident followed by just days a situation in Lawrence, Mass., where Amber Abreu, 18, was charged with taking Cytotec illegally to abort her baby. The baby girl was between 23-25 weeks old, weighed one and a quarter pounds, and was aborted alive. Named Ashley, she died four days later at Tufts-New England Medical Center, and Abreu is facing the possible charge of homicide.