February 26, 2001
volume 12, no. 57

Woman Wins Botched Abortion Lawsuit vs. Planned Parenthood

    SAN FRANCISCO, CA (San Francisco Examiner from - A woman who remained pregnant following a botched abortion three years ago has been awarded $672,610 from Planned Parenthood. As the court clerk read the jury's award Wednesday, the woman, whose unborn child lost two limbs in the abortion attempt before being aborted months later, lowered her head and wept, convinced her three-year court battle was finally over.

    And it is, but only for now. An attorney for Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, which oversees nine abortion facilities in the Bay Area, vowed to appeal the award. "It's definitely going to be appealed," Lynn Stocker said Thursday.

    But for the time being, the case is finished.

    "I feel that there is justice after all," the 28-year-old woman said following the decision Wednesday. (The woman, is referred to only as "J.B." in court records.)

    The three-week trial dealt only with how much J.B. was owed for her pain, not whether Planned Parenthood was liable. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Douglas Munson ordered the pro-abortion organization be held responsible for its failure to turn over critical medical documents to J.B. and her lawyer.

    Stocker said she would not comment on why Planned Parenthood refused to turn over the documents, saying only that the organization felt they were "irrelevant" to the woman's case. But J.B. said the documents -- which include internal Planned Parenthood procedures and her medical records -- must have contained something the pro-abortion organization didn't want her to see.

    "If someone is covering up the evidence, it's obvious they have something to hide," J.B. said. "Why would you wash your hands if they weren't bloody?"

    The woman, a Yugoslav immigrant, described her experience in her testimony and in the original lawsuit.

    In October 1997, she discovered she was pregnant and went to Planned Parenthood. But the "care" she received at the abortion facility was less than ideal, said her lawyer, Chris Dolan. The first-trimester abortion J.B. sought went awry.

    Medical experts testified that J.B. was probably pregnant with twins. But the abortion she underwent in December 1997 only fully aborted one child. Though she was told the abortion was complete, J.B. said, she still felt pregnant two weeks later in a follow-up exam, and called several times for advice. Each time, she was told that her symptoms were normal.

    But on Feb. 18, 1998, J.B. demanded a urine test. The same nurse who had long assured her nothing was wrong came back horrified. J.B. was still pregnant, her lawyer said.

    She had been carrying the unborn child for nearly six months. The Planned Parenthood facility does not do abortions late in the second trimester, so she was given an apology, a list of places who would do abortions in the second trimester, and shooed out the door, Dolan said.

    Though Planned Parenthood did relent and pay for the second abortion, J.B. was emotionally traumatized, something that would only get worse.

    An ultrasound at a Buena Vista, California abortion facility revealed the remaining unborn child had only one arm and one leg. "She sees the ultrasound, and has an emotional collapse," Dolan said. "She has to go through a three-day procedure to terminate the fetus' life, something that absolutely wrecks her."

    Since that abortion, Dolan said, his client has been haunted by visions of babies being killed, has contemplated suicide, and cries uncontrollably at the sight of young children -- particularly twins.

    "She is like a shattered human being," said the attorney, adding that J.B. has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. "She has been unable to be in a relationship since this happened. She can't get in close proximity to a man without shaking and, sometimes, vomiting."

    The trial began Feb. 2, and the jury returned its verdict after two days of deliberations. They awarded her $650,000 for mental anguish, $1,870 in past medical costs, $14,500 for future psychiatric expenses and $6,240 in lost earnings.

    "I think deciding the economic damages were fairly easy," said Paula Brown, who served as the jury's forewoman. "But the non-economic part was more difficult. It's not really easy to put a dollar amount on someone's life." In the end, however, Brown said the jury went with Dolan's recommendation, finding it was fair.

    Fair or not, the award will be reduced, due to a 1975 California law that limits non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000. Though upheld by the courts on several occasions, the cap has never been increased. Brown, surprised by this, said the law bordered on the ridiculous. "If it's our judgment it's our judgment," she said. "The 12 people in that room fought for that verdict."

    Another juror, Isobel Jones, who appeared on the edge of tears as she discussed the case, said the trial was emotionally wrenching. Jones, a corporate lawyer who is herself 28 weeks pregnant, wonders why she was picked for the case at all.

    "I don't know how I did it, but I was told by the judge to be fair, and by God I did it," she said.

February 26, 2001
volume 12, no. 57
Pro Life News
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