N.J. probes abortion doctor’s practice

By BEN NUCKOLS • Associated Press • September 10, 2010

VOORHEES — In early August, three women, each of
them more than four months pregnant, sought
abortions from Dr. Steven Brigham at his Voorhees
clinic. Instead of turning them down, authorities
said Brigham used a novel scheme to take advantage
of the disparities in state abortion laws.

He started the late-term abortions at American
Women's Services Inc. clinic at 1 Alpha Avenue,
where he wasn't permitted to perform them, and
finished them a day later in Maryland, where the law
is more permissive, authorities said.

One of the abortions, however, didn't go as
planned, and Maryland officials ordered Brigham, 54,
to stop practicing medicine in the state. Police
raided his offices and yanked two of his colleagues'
licenses in Maryland, and New Jersey authorities are
also seeking to take his license away.

Richard W. Westling, one of Brigham's attorneys,
said abortion doctors are frequently scrutinized and
his client stands behind his work.

"The matters currently being investigated involve
procedures that Dr. Brigham believes were legal,"
Westling said. "We are cooperating with the various
investigations and believe that a full airing of all of
the facts and legal issues is necessary before any
conclusions are reached."

Brigham's license has been suspended or revoked in
several states, but he has managed to continue
operating more than a dozen clinics. The new
allegations stunned even those familiar with his
notorious reputation, who said they had never
heard of a doctor initiating an abortion in one state,
then finishing it in another.

"His record is the most egregious one I know of in
the field," said Vicki Saporta, president of the
National Abortion Federation, an association of a
bortion providers, which has been warning
authorities about Brigham's practices since the mid-
1990s.

"He operates in his own economic interests and not
in the best interests of the women who seek his
care," Saporta said.

New Jersey permits all licensed doctors to perform
abortions for fetuses 14 weeks and younger, but
Brigham and his clinics lacked the certification
needed to perform a different procedure that's used
for later-term fetuses.

Maryland law is more flexible. Licensed physicians
can perform abortions at any time before the fetus is
deemed capable of surviving outside the womb, and
abortions of viable fetuses are permitted to protect
the life or health of the mother or if the fetus has
serious genetic abnormalities. Doctors generally
consider fetuses to be viable starting around 23
weeks.

New Jersey authorities claim that Brigham was
violating state law simply by beginning second-
trimester abortions in that state. Documents show
Brigham began dilating the cervix in New Jersey,
then removed the fetus the next day in Maryland.

While it's common for late-term abortions to be
performed over two days, documents show that
Brigham didn't even tell his patients they'd be going
to his clinic in Elkton, Md., about 60 miles away. He
simply led a caravan of vehicles, instructing patients
or their relatives to follow him, documents show.

Brigham graduated from Columbia University
medical school in 1986. He's the owner of the
Voorhees clinic and has 16 abortion clinics in New
Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The abortion business can be lucrative for the
relatively few doctors who perform the procedure
regularly, according to research by the Guttmacher
Institute. The median price in 2005 for an abortion
at 10 weeks was $430, and at 20 weeks, when the
procedure is more complicated, it was $1,260, the
Guttmacher Institute found.

Brigham charged $2,045 to the New Jersey patient
whose abortion was botched, documents show.

Authorities said Brigham's scheme could have
continued if they hadn't discovered the botched
procedure at his Elkton clinic.

An 18-year-old woman who was 21 weeks pregnant
had her uterus ruptured and her bowel injured, and
rather than call 911, Brigham and his colleague Dr.
Nicola Riley drove the woman to a nearby hospital,
where both were uncooperative and Brigham refused
to give his name, authorities said.

Documents filed in Maryland suggest that Brigham
and his staff frequently performed late-term
abortions. A search of the Elkton clinic revealed a
freezer with 35 late-term fetuses inside, including
one believed to have been aborted at 36 weeks.
Police who searched Brigham's offices in Voorhees
found only two medical records related to those
fetuses, documents show.

Brigham hasn't been cited for any wrongdoing
related to the storage of the fetuses.

A medical student who observed Brigham's work at
the Elkton clinic told investigators that she saw him
perform about 50 abortions there between January
and August, and that the majority involved women
in their second or third trimesters.

Allegations against Brigham first surfaced in 1992
in Pennsylvania, where he agreed to give up his
license amid an investigation of his practice,
according to published reports.

In 1993, he botched two late-term abortions in New
York, and his license was revoked for gross
negligence. According to public records, a 20-year-
old patient had to undergo an emergency
hysterectomy, and the other patient had her colon removed.

His Florida license was revoked in 1996 after he
secretly took over for a colleague who was killed by
an anti-abortion activist.

And in July, the Pennsylvania Department of Health
ordered him to close his four clinics in the state,
saying he employed unlicensed caregivers.

He's also had tax problems. In 1998, he was
sentenced to four months in jail for failing to file
corporate income tax returns and bilking insurance
companies in New York.

In April, the IRS placed more than $234,000 in liens
against him for failing to pay payroll taxes. He's
also subject to tens of thousands of dollars in state
tax liens.

Riley, meanwhile, had only been working with
Brigham for less than a month at the time of the
botched abortion. She was hired in July, she told
investigators, and she flew from her home in Salt
Lake City, Utah, to Maryland every other week to
perform abortions.

Kirt Linneman, executive director of the Maryland
chapter of the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, an anti-
abortion group, said that while he believes all
abortions are immoral, women who seek them
should receive adequate care.

"We are appalled at the lack of regulation and
oversight of the abortion industry," Linneman said.

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