News & Politics

Neb. Couple Sues Colo. Abortionist After Baby SKULL Left in Woman's UTERUS

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An abortionist in Colorado left a 24-week-old baby’s skull in her mother’s uterus, causing her to bleed and eventually require a hysterectomy — leaving her unable to bear children. The mother and father are suing the abortionist in federal court, and the trial is ongoing.

“Today will be day six and it is scheduled for ten days,” a spokeswoman for U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer told PJ Media in a phone interview Wednesday.

The Nebraska couple traveled to Boulder, Colo. to procure a late-term abortion which would have been illegal in their home state. In 2015, they filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver, Colo., accusing abortionist Dr. Warren Hern and the Boulder Abortion Clinic of medical malpractice.

In court records, the couple’s attorney, Terry Dougherty of Lincoln, Neb., told the story. He said the couple’s doctor had told them in November 2013 that an MRI had shown the couple’s baby boy was missing part of his brain and would live less than a year if he survived the birth process. Delivery also posed significant health risks to the mother.

“After difficult conversations with each other and their medical providers [they] determined that it was in the best interest of [her] health to terminate the desired pregnancy,” Dougherty wrote. In coverage, the Lincoln Journal-Star withheld the couple’s name due to the sensitive nature of the story, and PJ Media has decided to follow that lead.

Dougherty said the couple traveled to the Boulder clinic, and Hern performed the abortion on December 6, 2013. According to the lawsuit, the abortion was agonizing: it caused the woman to vomit and pass out from the pain. Worse, she had no knowledge of the skull left in her uterus. She been in the 25th week of pregnancy.

The following spring, the wife experienced break-through bleeding, and her doctor changed her birth control, thinking it was hormonal imbalance. An ultrasound revealed the true cause: a 4-centimeter-long object, the curved portion of a baby’s skull, in her uterus. The woman went on to have a hysterectomy, which permanently ended her ability to conceive children.

Dougherty alleges that Hern breached his standard of care by declining to warn the woman of an increased risk that bone fragments (like part of a skull) could be left behind if he performed the abortion even though she failed to dilate more than 1 to 2 centimeters.

The couple alleges medical malpractice, and is suing for money damages for medical care, physical pain and mental suffering, as well as permanent injury, including the loss of the woman’s ability to conceive children.

Hern’s attorney, Cook Olson, denied medical malpractice, but spent a great deal of the pretrial brief raising concerns about jury selection.

“Abortion is a controversial issue in United States culture and politics,” Olson wrote. “The right to an abortion in the second term of pregnancy is of particular controversy … resulting in various state legislative restrictions.”

The abortionist’s attorney proposed that potential jurors be questioned privately by attorneys and the judge on their positions on abortion and their experiences with it. Potential jurors were given questionnaires on their abortion views.

Even some pro-life activists would acknowledge that the doctor’s warning about delivery threatening the mother’s life might justify abortion in this case. Perhaps abortion views might lead the jury to look on Dr. Hern with a stigma, but leaving skull fragments in a woman’s uterus should seem abhorrent, regardless of a pro-life or pro-choice position.