National Catholic Register

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Abortion Business Death Raises Questions

BY GAIL BESSE

REGISTER CORRESPONDENT

October 21-27, 2007 Issue | Posted 10/16/07 at 11:55 AM

 

HYANNIS, Mass. — Pro-life activists and relatives of a woman who died as the result of an abortion here want the state to pursue a criminal investigation into the tragedy.

The reason for the death of Laura Hope Smith, 22, of Sandwich, went unreported in the local media, although 600 people attended her funeral. At least one girl decided against a scheduled abortion after hearing Smith’s story.

Smith was reportedly 13 weeks pregnant when she underwent the abortion Sept. 13 at the Women Health Center office of Dr. Rapin Osathanondh.

“I don’t want Laura’s death swept under the rug,” her mother said. Eileen and Tom Smith adopted their Honduran-born daughter at age 5.

“If Laura had died falling off a bike or in a car accident, it would have been in the paper the next day. This is a political hot potato,” she said. She was sought out and interviewed by a Cape Cod Times reporter two days after her daughter’s death, but the article never ran.

Osathanondh, the Hyannis abortionist, left Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston in 2001 following complaints that during a staff meeting he threatened to “execute” five nurses. He was not prosecuted for the alleged threats, according to Boston Herald reports.

The Thai-educated gynecologist declined two requests to comment on Smith’s death. A woman answering his office phone said “privacy laws” prevented the practice from even acknowledging patients’ names.

Mrs. Smith said, “My daughter walked into that office healthy and she left dead. I don’t want her death to be in vain.”

Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe said his office “reviews all deaths of this nature.” However, he’ll have to first receive the state medical examiner’s autopsy report, which may be released by late October.

The DA’s phone started ringing after Operation Rescue in Wichita, Kan., broke the news in a Sept. 27 e-mail. The pro-life Christian activist group contacted the family and publicized the story, urging people to call O’Keefe.

Dr. Mildred Jefferson, president of Massachusetts Citizens for Life, later also urged authorities to pursue any criminal investigation necessary to determine what happened.

Mrs. Smith said her daughter apparently died on the abortion table. Firefighters found her non-responsive when they answered the emergency call, according to the report she read.

Smith was brought by ambulance to Cape Cod Hospital. Pending the autopsy, the cause of her death is still not officially listed.


Met With Abortionist

But the story gave at least one young woman courage to cancel a planned abortion, a friend told Mrs. Smith.

The girl had been pressured by her family to abort her baby, which she didn’t want to do. After this, the girl told her parents, “I won’t go through with it. I don’t want to die.”

Smith was raised in Sandwich, although her parents later moved to New Jersey. They didn’t know she was pregnant until the night of her death when a friend placed a hysterical call to them.

Well over a week later, the abortionist contacted the family, Mrs. Smith said. She met privately for one hour with him in a Boston hotel lobby; he refused to allow even her husband to be there, she said. Osathanondh allegedly admitted that Laura died during the abortion but refused to admit he did anything wrong.

Smith said details of her daughter’s death appalled her, but she couldn’t discuss them on the advice of her lawyer. That Boston attorney did not respond to questions about whether a lawsuit has been filed yet or whether a reported complaint against Osathanondh had been filed with the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine.

Spokesman Russell Aims said the board investigates complaints by interviewing those involved, but he cannot confirm or deny whether one has been filed.

Because the abortion was in a private practice and not a state-licensed clinic, only the board, not the state Department of Public Health, has jurisdiction over it, Tom Lyons, spokesman for the Department of Public Health, said.

At least 347 documented maternal deaths from legal abortion are catalogued online by Life Dynamics, a Texas-based group that has exposed abortion-linked cover-ups such as child abuse and the sale of baby parts. These documented cases represent “only the tip of the iceberg,” as maternal deaths from abortion are hard to document, according to the group’s president, Mark Crutcher.

Said Crutcher: “Making abortion legal never made abortion safe.”


Gail Besse is based in Boston.