Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Lime 5 Story

Annie, God bless her, was praising Lime 5. Annie thinks that the modest improvements in informed consent that a few women have been reporting from abortion clinics recently may be in part of the degree to which Lime 5 raised people's awareness of the problem.

I'd like to think it made a difference.

How did it all happen?

Shortly after I went to work at Life Dynamics, Mark Crutcher poked his head into my office and told me that somebody from Henry Hyde's office had called, asking for a report on abortion malpractice. I was to get to work on it and have it ready in 30 days.

I can't even remember what I'd been working on at the time.

I started pulling documents from our files and sorting them, trying to get an idea of what we had. After I'd sorted them into individual cases, Tom Cyr, Scott (His last name escapes me!), and I started writing up summaries.

Within a few days, I went to Mark. "We don't have a report here. We have a book."

He told me, "So write a book."

Since clearly the project was going to take more than 30 days, Tom and Scott returned to their usual duties. I'd been hired as a writer, so writing up all of the cases fell to me.

Early on in the project, all I did was write summaries of the information in the documents. We had held a meeting and agreed that we would only include a case if we had a secular source. A pro-life source would be considered a good lead, but not enough to include the case in the book. Mona Passignano was assigned the task of tracking down secular sources for cases that were mentioned only in pro-life sources.

Mark put out a call to everybody on our mailing list: "Send us dirt on abortionists." He asked for anything: malpractice, deaths, tax evasion, you name it. Documents came flooding in. Mark reimbursed people for copying expenses. One man sent us so many boxes of documents from his years of research that Mark had to reimburse him thousands of dollars in copy and shipping costs.

I gave Mona every clue that could possibly lead to more information. Mona would go to work, ordering court docket searches, obtaining death certificates and autopsy reports, and becoming a detective of sorts. When the documents arrived, Marco Medina would enter them into the filing system and turn them over to Mona. Mona would track which documents she's requested had arrived, and then she'd put them in the huge pile in my office.

The pile was seldom less than three feet high.

The cycle continued. I would read the documents, highlight the important facts, enter the information into the computer, and either give the document back to Marco for filing, or pass it back to Mona with new leads flagged.

Along the way, I started cross-checking malpractice cases against National Abortion Federation member lists. I alerted Mark to the fact that a lot of the malpractice was being done by NAF members. The abortion-industry cover-up chapter grew out of that.

And still I read the documents, highlighted them, wrote summaries, passed leads on to Mona. Mona did searches and kept the pile of documents full.

I noticed that there was a lot of sexual misconduct among abortionists. I alerted Mark, who subscribed to a clipping service to search for more up-to-date cases nationwide. More documents came in.

Mona was frustrated by state laws on which documents were public record and which were not. And I noticed that the CDC had a "see no evil" attitude toward abortion. In fact, they seemed enamored of the practice. (Mona had ordered a complete set of CDC Abortion Surveillance Summaries early on, then obtained copies of all the articles they cited.) Another meeting was held, and Mona and I each got a new task on top of what was already keeping us so busy. Mona was to compile a list of CDC employees and see how many of them were active in abortion activism or practice. I was to learn how abortion morbidity and mortality data were collected and reported.

So while the documents continued to flood in, I set about contacting every state vital records office and health department. Some folks were helpful, some stonewalled me. New leads opened up. Mona compiled her list and went to work delving into people's backgrounds. She also researched exactly how it was that the Centers for Disease control were monitoring abortion in the first place.

From time to time Mona and I took a trip to a university library in Arlington, where Mona would copy journal articles and I would copy pages and pages from National Center for Health Statistics data books. And as we found more evidence of patterns of injury and death, I'd be off to the university libraries in Denton. ("Don't be running down rabbit trails," Mark would admonish me. "Go get what you're there to get.")

Just for good measure, we bought the complete archives of Studies in Family Planning and Family Planning Perpsectives, and Mona and I combed these for more information.

As we looked at the bizarre behavior of some abortionists, Mark set a task to Dzintra Tuttle (then Dzintra Brughman): to look into what it was like to be an abortion worker. A chapter grew out of that.

Life Dynamics was working hard on the abortion malpractice litigation support program at the time, and from this arose the chapter on barriers to women seeking justice.

The abortion/breast cancer link was breaking news. A chapter on that was added.

Acting on some deadline I don't recall, Mark started winding everything down. He hired three women as fact-checkers to help Lisa Dodson go through the chapters Mona and Dzintra had written, and my abstracts of malpractice and sexual misbehavior. Point by point, fact by fact, the checkers would go to the files, pull the documents, and verify each and every piece of information.

When the fact-checkers were finished, I printed out one more copy of my abstracts of malpractice cases, and Lisa Dodson and I were set to sorting them for Mark so he could assemble Chapter 1. I had wanted to sort the cases as had Anne Saltenberger had done for her book: by themes people could related to, such as teen abortions, maternal indications, innocent bystanders being caught up in cases, and so forth. Mark decided to go with type of injury.

The whole experience was very intense and draining for all of us. There were times Mona and I cried over what had happened to the women and girls who had trusted abortionists and been injured, raped, or killed. There were long days, late nights, and meetings to hash out issues: Should Mark be listed as the author, or all of us who did the writing? We decided that it was best if one person took responsibility for the content of the entire book. Should we name names? We decided not, for reasons Mark explains in the book.

And how did the book get its strange name? You can read about that here.

This is an abbreviated version, of course, and told from the perspective of just one of the team members. We all worked hard. We all had high hopes. We all got together in the break room and put together a mailing so that every single state senator and state representative in the United States got his or her own copy of Lime 5. Mark arranged with a member of congress (I'm sorry, I forget who) to have copies hand-delivered to each and every US Senator and Representative.

And at first there was outrage. At first, people really seemed to care. At first, it even looked as if there'd be a Congressional investigation of the CDC's appalling conflicts of interest in their abortion surveillance activities. At first. Ten years ago this month, when we released Lime 5, we thought we'd really make a difference.

I look around today, and it seems like it's just the same old same old. It doesn't feel as if anything has changed.

But some women are reporting improvements. Small ones. And sometimes you have to take what you can get.


paula said...

Who was the abortionist "John Roe 338"? Why was he not brought to justice for what he did?

Christina Dunigan said...

John Roe 338 was Robert Kast.

Kast was absent from Dadeland when the fatal abortion was performed on Ellen Williams, but he had already brought trouble on the clinic and himself.

In 1981, a 21-year-old woman identified as "Hattie M." had an abortion done by Robert Kast at Dadeland. She was told she was 16 weeks pregnant. After the abortion, which she was told was "complete and uneventful," she was sent home. She bled heavily that night, and her family called an ambulance. She was unconscious by the time the ambulance arrived. At the hospital, surgeons removed a mutilated male fetus of five months gestation. The doctor commented, "It looked like the baby had been half-eaten by a dog. The Miami Herald said that Kast knew that the abortion was incomplete, but expected Hattie to expel the remains of the fetus naturally. (Robert Kast is John Roe 338 in Lime 5.)

On October 31 of 1981, a girl identified as "Teresa R." was brought to Dadeland by her mother. Kast performed the abortion. Two months later, Teresa was diagnosed as still being pregnant -- 22 weeks along. Kast sent Teresa's mother out to have a cup of coffee, and initiated a second abortion on Teresa. Although he perforated her uterus, the clinic did not call an ambulance. Teresa's mother had to drive her daughter to the hospital, where the dead fetus was finally removed. Teresa continued to have pain from her injuries for 1 1/2 years, and finally, at the age of 16, had to undergo a total abdominal hysterectomy

A 20-year-old woman identified as "Deidre M." had to have a total hysterectomy after an abortion done on her at Dadeland by Kast. A jagged 2-inch hole had been torn in her uterus. She settled out of court for $150,000.

In the spring of 1982, Kast performed an abortion on a 15-year-old girl identified as "Dawn J." She called daily for a week, reporting pain and vaginal discharge. She was instructed to take Tylenol. It turned out she had a perforated uterus, and she wound up having to undergo a total hysterectomy because of her injuries. Her parents sued on her behalf and won a $195,000 settlement.

A woman identified as "Sharon S." underwent an abortion by Kast, who failed to detect that the fetus was not in her uterus but was in her fallopian tube. She sued.

So Kast faced lawsuits, which is about all you can really expect. Evidently women have a right to the kind of damage guys like Kast inflict.