What follows is more of the never-ending sordid tale of James Pendergraft. If you follow pro-life news, you already know that the state of Florida closed five of his abortion clinics this week and suspended his license to practice medicine. Pendergraft was convicted of extortion in 2000 after he filed several frivolous lawsuits against a host of individuals. My connection with Dr. Pendergraft is through Roy Lucas, the lawyer who wrote the winning argument for Roe v. Wade.
In 1999, four lawsuits were filed by Roy Lucas on behalf of several abortion clinic owners throughout the state of Florida naming Melbourne area pro-lifers as defendants. I chronicle these events in Abortion Wars. The language of these lawsuits was so paranoid it is hilarious. However, in the process of suing the city of Ocala, Pendergraft threatened to bankrupt the city, lied under sworn testimony, and was eventually convicted of extortion.
Behold, the wicked brings forth iniquity;
Yes, he conceives trouble and brings forth falsehood
He made a pit and dug it out,
And has fallen into the ditch which he made.
His trouble shall return upon his own head,
And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown.
- Psalm 7:14-16
State restricts five abortion clinics
MIAMI — Authorities suspended a doctor’s license and restricted five clinics he operates from performing abortions after he allegedly performed two of the procedures inappropriately, state agencies said.
But a spokeswoman for Dr. James Pendergraft challenged the allegations and said he was “the target of government agencies determined to limit the access of Florida women to safe and legal late term abortions.” Marti Mackenzie said he planned to appeal the order, hoping a court would postpone the license restrictions.
He allegedly performed the two third trimester abortions in 2004 and 2005, according to an emergency license suspension order filed last week by the Health Department. He also prescribed drugs without appropriate authorization, the suspension order states.
The Agency for Health Care Administration has restricted new patients from obtaining abortions at clinics Pendergraft is part-owner of in Orlando, Ocala, Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, according to AHCA documents. The restrictions at three of the clinics are to last until at least Wednesday, but are of indefinite length at the two clinics in Orlando, AHCA spokeswoman Brandi Brown said.
“The clinics can do regular gynecological visits with patients … but they cannot perform any new abortions,” Brown said. “They can do any post-operative procedures on anyone who had an abortion before the order went into effect.”
The emergency suspension means Pendergraft will not be able to practice medicine until the Florida Board of Medicine reviews his case, Health Department spokesman Fernando Senra said.
Pendergraft’s lawyers plan to file an appeal in the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee, Mackenzie said. It had not been filed as of Thursday.
The 12-page suspension order said Pendergraft allegedly performed an abortion on a woman identified only as R.W. and did not obtain a second opinion required by law for the third trimester abortion. That procedure was also performed outside a hospital, a requirement for a third trimester abortion, according to the order.
In another instance, clinic records said a woman given drugs to abort her fetus was 22 weeks pregnant, in her second trimester, but the fetus she delivered at home was later determined to be between 25 and 27 weeks old and therefore subject to third trimester restrictions, the order said.
But he had appropriate medical documentation for the first abortion, Mackenzie said. It was performed after the woman learned her fetus was in the breech position, had a swollen head, no lungs and one kidney, according to Mackenzie and the emergency order.
Doctors at another hospital had referred the woman to Pendergraft and written appropriate letters, she said. Appropriate steps were followed in the administration of medication, she said.
Mackenzie also questioned the techniques used to determine that the fetus of the second woman was more than 22 weeks old.
“Florida law sets the standard for what constitutes a safe late-term abortion,” Brown said. “The actions taken by AHCA are in an effort to ensure that late-term abortion procedures are performed safely and in the appropriate settings.”
Pendergraft and an associate were convicted in 2001 over a federal lawsuit they filed against Marion County claiming their clinic was not given adequate protection against anti-abortion protesters. County officials said the lawsuit was part of an extortion plot in which they were expected to pay Pendergraft and the associate to close the clinic.
Pendergraft was sentenced to three years, 10 months in prison, and had served seven months, before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction in 2002. The appeals court left open the possibility of federal prosecutors retrying both men on a conspiracy count.
Pendergraft later agreed to plead guilty to a charge of impeding justice.