Saturday, February 07, 2009

Anniversary: Shanda's abortion nightmare

I believe that if a woman decides to have a termination, it should be done safely, legally and with some dignity. -- P. Scott Ricke

"Shanda" was 25 years old when she went to Ricke for an abortion on February 7, 1987 at his Women's Surgical Clinic in Arizona.

During the abortion, Shanda said, the head of the fetus became lodged. She was screaming in pain, but Ricke refused her request for painkillers by telling her that he didn't have any. She asked to be taken to a hospital, but Ricke told her that since her pregnancy was more than 24 weeks along, beyond the 24 week limit most hospitals observed, no hospital would take her.

Ricke made as many as 40 unsuccessful attempts to start an IV, and asked Shanda for advice about how to deal with the lodged head (wanting her to decide if crushing the head would be the right course of action).

After three hours of attempts to remove the head, Ricke wrapped the body of the fetus -- which was hanging out of Shanda's vagina -- in a towel, and loaded Shanda into an employee's car to be transported to the hospital.

The Assistant Arizona Attorney General investigated the case, and asserted that during the three hours he spent trying to dislodge Shanda's fetus, Ricke left her several times to do other abortions. After packing Shanda into a private car for transport, Ricke remained behind at his clinic to do three more abortions before following Shanda to the hospital and completing her abortion there.

The Assistant Attorney General said that by attempting to abort a 28-week, 2.4-pound fetus in this manner, he failed to minimize risks and jeopardized Shanda's health. Ricke's attorney countered that the fetus was only 24 weeks old, and that it had a less than 50% chance of survival. Ricke was disciplined by the medical board.

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