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Friday, June 12, 2015

Learn your pro-life history: Ladies Center of Clearwater v. Reno

I happen to be a lawyer, and on occasion I come across abortion-related cases in the course of completely unrelated research. I thought this one might be of interest to you.

Let's go back in time to Ladies Center of Clearwater v. Carol Ann Reno, 341 So.2d 543 (Fla. 2d DCA 1977). The case concerned a child who was conceived by Ms. Reno and a David Keller.

Florida's Second District Court of Appeal
Reno purchased an abortion from Ladies Center of Clearwater. The child survived. Reno sued the abortion business and abortion doctor Francis Swain for her medical bills, damages for emotional trauma, and the expenses associated with "support[ing] said unwanted child until she reaches her majority."

Not surprisingly, the abortion business was not interested in accepting any responsibility for its actions. In a rather ingenious move, it sued Keller, the baby's father. Its logic was that Keller was ultimately responsible for the situation since he failed to use effective contraception, and therefore Keller, not Ladies Center, should have to pay Reno.

The court didn't buy that argument, and Keller successfully defended against the abortion center's claim. Florida's Second District Court of Appeal affirmed.

One judge, Joseph McNulty, dissented. He worried that by placing the entire financial burden on the abortionist, the abortion industry would have a terrible incentive to ensure that no babies survive. In his words, "I would do nothing that might inspire abortionists to attain greater efficiency in the taking of life."

So, where are they now?

McNulty's judgeship ended later that year. He has since passed away.

The court's opinion doesn't say what became of Reno's lawsuit against Ladies Center of Clearwater, but a contemporaneous newspaper article reports that she received an out-of-court settlement. The same article states that the abortion business faced several additional lawsuits by women who suffered uterine perforations and other injuries, and that it had changed its name to Women's Community Health Center. No such business is operating in Clearwater today, although it's certainly possible that there were further name changes. (There are still two abortion centers in Clearwater, according to Abortion Docs.)
  
I don't know where Francis Swain is today, or even if he is still alive. I have no indication that he is currently an abortionist.

I also don't know what became of Reno, Keller, or their child. At the time the court's opinion was issued, elective abortion had only been legal for four years (since Roe v. Wade in 1973). Since this is an appellate opinion, and it can take some time for a case to work its way up to an appellate court, my educated guess is that the child was born sometime in 1974 or early 1975.

I got in touch with Melissa Ohden, who is an abortion survivor and has networked with over 200 abortion survivors and family members. She told me she hasn't heard from anyone involved in this case, but that she would be happy to assist them in any way possible. If any of them happen to be reading, you may reach Ms. Ohden at this link.

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