The Chicago medical examiner has refused to release an autopsy report that could provide more details about what happened to a woman who died following a procedure at a Planned Parenthood facility last month. Tonya Reaves died 12 hours after having a second trimester abortion, bleeding to death from a perforation in her uterus. Transcripts of 911 calls obtained last week by pro-life group Operation Rescue show that Planned Parenthood employees never called emergency services to help Reaves, despite being warned by a dispatcher earlier in the day to call for help as soon as they needed it.
Pro-life groups who target safety violations at abortion facilities say Reaves' case offers the perfect example of abortionists' general disregard for life and women's safety. Some pro-life activists criticize a strategy they say places too much emphasis on protecting women who are trying to kill their babies. But Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, defends his group's new approach as the most effective campaign against abortion the pro-life movement has ever seen.
Reeves, 24, who was engaged to be married and had a one-year-old son, received an abortion at 11 a.m. on July 20. Although she reportedly continued to bleed after the procedure, no one at the facility called 911. But at 12:43 p.m., someone at the facility called 911 to report another non-medical incident, after first mistakenly calling 311. During the conversation, the dispatcher warned the woman on the phone to call 911 directly in the event of anything resembling an emergency. But when facility workers decided Reaves needed to go to the hospital--five hours after her abortion--they called a private ambulance rather than contacting emergency services, which could have gotten her help faster.
"What is most despicable about this is that Planned Parenthood started a procedure in which they had no ability to repair the damage they caused," Newman said. "It crosses from negligence to criminal negligence and homicide because they let her sit there and bleed for 5 hours before taking her to the hospital."
The medical examiner ruled Reaves' death an accident, but her family has hired a personal injury lawyer in preparation for a possible lawsuit.
Despite initially reporting on Reaves' death, no major news outlets have included mention of the 911 dispatches released by Operation Rescue. Newman believes that too few people are asking questions about what happened that day, and that Planned Parenthood wants to limit discussion of the incident as much as possible. But the delay in getting Reaves the medical care she needed proves the abortionist did not put her well-being first, Newman said: "Any medical practitioner's first priority is to protect their patient. Planned Parenthood's priority was to cover their rear end."
But Operation Rescue's critics, both in the pro-life movement and among those who favor abortion, accuse the group of hypocrisy for its advocacy for women's safety. "If they believe that abortion is murder, it doesn't make sense for them to make martyrs of women who, in their own framing, are murderers," wrote Amanda Marcotte in a column for Slate.
Newman argues that while the primary victims of abortions are the unborn, women receiving abortions also are victims. Pro-abortion activists would like to pretend that abortion injuries and deaths are unfortunate but rare, he said. But the push to hide any problems in the industry helps contribute to a dangerous environment where problems often are ignored, as in Reaves' case.
Operation Rescue's involvement in cases like Reaves' is a different approach from the "Summer of Mercy" campaign that first gained the organization national recognition. In 1991, the group organized tens of thousands of protesters to engage in sit-ins, barring entry to the doors of abortion facilities. Now, the group's main strategy focuses on local safety regulations for abortion providers. Employees and volunteers keep a constant watch on facilities for evidence of any failure to comply.
Newman describes the strategy as the most effective approach ever taken by the pro-life movement. Critics accuse groups like Operation Rescue of trying to make a "clean abortion." But Newman insists making sure abortion facilities comply with existing laws saves lives. Abortion facilities in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Alabama have closed in the last few months after failing to comply with local regulations.
"Where we are winning right now is on the local level. We gain momentum day by day, we see abortion clinics close day by day, and we're obviously winning because these abortion clinics are closing in droves."