Friday, May 10, 2013

MSM Sees No Evil: Diane Sawyer and the Non-Story of Lawson Akpolonu

Much has been made lately of the mainstream media's "see no evil" attitude toward covering the appalling, gruesome, and spectacularly newsworthy trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell.

The MSM have gotten defensive, insisting that they're covering it adequately and that they're absolutely not showing any bias whatsoever. Gosnell, evidently, just isn't much of a story as far as they're concerned.

I'm completely non-surprised by the non-coverage. I've seen the "Let's not cover this" process unfold before me. My work at Life Dynamics seriously lowered my expectations regarding the media.

In March of 1995,  we got a call from one of Diane Sawyer's assistants. Ms. Sawyer, we were told, had heard rumors that some abortion facilities were selling abortions to women who were not, in fact, pregnant; they just thought they were.

We told Ms. Sawyer's assistant that this was a slow news day kind of story. Whenever a local newspaper or TV station wants to do a sensationalist little story, they send female reporters to local abortion mills with male reporter's urine specimens, and they document being told they're pregnant and the attempts to sell them abortions.

We supplied the assistant with what he asked for -- a list of abortionists who were still practicing even after having been caught selling abortions to women who were not pregnant. But we also included a list of abortionists who were a serious public health threat and were still practicing, suggesting that these fellows might make a more news worthy project than rehashing something local news organizations across the country had been doing for over twenty years.

While I was compiling documentation and verifying that certain quacks were still in practice, we got a call from a nurse in California. She told us, "I'd always thought that the stories of seedy abortion mills were just a bunch of bogus stories made up by right to lifers. But I just quit a job at one of those seedy mills, and I want to report this guy before something terrible happens."

This nurse told us that she had answered a help wanted ad placed by Dr. Lawson Akpulonu, and had been hired on the spot on January 14, 1995. After four hours, she was so appalled that she quit. After wondering what to do and who to contact, she saw an advertisement for Life Dynamics' abortion malpractice litigation program, and decided that we were the right people to call.

Akpulonu, she told us, had the filthiest clinic she'd ever seen. She saw life-threatening conditions including rusty instruments, instruments cleaned with dishwashing liquid, lack of lifesaving equipment, no apparatus for administering anesthesia, and cockroaches in the operating room. Scott helped her to prepare a complaint for the California medical board. In her complaint, she reiterated what she'd told Scott, and warned the medical board:
"Akpulonu performed five abortion procedures. ... I saw old specimens, apparently from earlier abortions performed the day before, in urine sample glasses stored in the medicine cabinet. ... When Akpulonu began the abortion procedures, he did not allow anyone else in the room with him. There was no nurse or assistant with him.... After the procedures, Akpulonu asked me to empty the products of conception from the gauze bag attached to the vacuum aspirator into containers. ...he referred me to the medicine cabinet. The only containers in that cabinet that could have held the specimens were the plastic urine sample glasses. I followed instructions and then asked an intern if that was the standard procedure at the clinic. She said it was. The specimens sat on the counter for several hours. ... Based upon what I saw in the short time that I was there, it does not appear that Akpulonu is sending any specimens to a pathology lab. ...I truly believe that someone will become seriously injured if something is not done immediately."

We also asked her if she would be willing to talk to Diane Sawyer about what she'd seen. She said absolutely, that she wanted this guy exposed for what he was before something terrible happened to any of his patients. We contacted Diane Sawyer's assistant and faxed him a copy of the complaint the nurse was about to file -- a real scoop on a breaking story, to get a copy of a complaint before the medical board even got it.

The next day, Diane Sawyer's assistant called us back, told us that Miss Sawyer had reviewed all the material we'd sent her, and had decided that these seedy abortion facilities were "a non-story."

A few days later all hell broke loose.

The medical board in California went public with a complaint from a patient they identified as "A. A." While under anesthesia for an abortion by Akpulonu at his Midland Medical Center on January 28, 1995:
"A.A. awoke to find respondent raping her; he had penetrated her vagina with his penis. Respondent gave patient A.A. a shot and she went back to sleep. When patient A.A. woke up a second time, she saw respondent next to her. She saw his erect penis out of his pants. She tried to push him away. ... Respondent then gave her another shot and she went back to sleep. When patient A.A. awoke for a third time, she found her sweater had been removed and her bra partially pulled down exposing her right breast. Respondent was caressing patient A.A.'s body. ...when patient A.A. tried to scream, respondent placed his hand over her mouth. Respondent told patient A.A. she had a beautiful body. He said she was a very nice girl and a very sexy girl while he continued rubbing her inside her blouse and bra. He kissed her right breast. He then placed his business card inside her bra and said she could call him anytime"

More reports of abuse started pouring in from other patients once A.A. had the courage go come forward.

A patient identified as "T.O." said that the anesthetic injection was supposed to induce sleep but only made her drowsy. Akpulonu ordered the nurse to leave the room and performed the abortion. "[Akpulonu] began to massage patient T.O.'s vagina with his hand. Patient began to cry. [Akpulonu] also began to rub her thighs and buttocks and he fondled her breasts through her blouse. ... [T.O.] could feel him rub his groin up against her exposed vagina. He had his pants on at the time. Patient T.O. continued to cry. She asked respondent what he was doing and pushed his hand away."

Another former employee stepped forward and told the Medical Board that Akpulonu did not sterilize instruments and used untrained assistants in surgery, and that he flushed fetal remains down the toilet, allegations similar to those made by the nurse who contacted Life Dynamics. This former employee also alleged being hired with no medical training or experience, and being required to assist in surgery. Unlike the nurse who quit after only four hours on the job, this employee remained on the job for an entire three weeks.

Had Diane Sawyer decided to look into this "non-story," she'd have found a history of filth and quackery. Repeated inspections over four years found deplorable conditions including:
  • Instruments were not being sterilized; they were cleaned by flushing them out at the tap or sloshing them around in a container of water -- sometimes without even so much as using soap.
  • Single-use instruments were being re-used.
  • Akpulonu performed abortions alone, with no assistant present in the room.
  • Fetal remains were flushed down the toilet or down the garbage disposal.
  • "The clinic smelled of rotting tissues, the surgery room was splattered with blood and some other rooms were filled with dust."
  • "Rat droppings were found in the surgery room and in the hall."
  • "Respondent brought his entire staff into the examination room to observe a patient who had a severe case of genital warts."
  • There was no emergency equipment on-site and the emergency exit was locked.
And by the way, Akpulonu's qualification for being the owner, manager, and abortionist for a California clinic was that he was a podiatrist.

Ms. Sawyer would have quickly uncovered this situation, as did we, with a single fax to the California medical board. She either did not bother to investigate, or had reviewed this four year string of disgusting inspections and had still dismissed it as "a non-story."

After the allegations of patient A.A. became public, a warrant was issued for Akpulonu's arrest on charges of rape. He fled. His whereabouts are still unknown. He and his facility, much like Gosnell and his "house of horrors," remain "a non-story."

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