Monday, April 30, 2018

Abortionist's manslaughter trial underway in New York

When Kermit Gosnell went on trial for multiple infanticides and one maternal death, media coverage was initially abysmal. It took a massive public shaming campaign to bring reporters to the courtroom.

New York abortionist Robert Rho is now on trial for "only" one death. The victim, 30-year-old Jaime Morales, was killed during the commission of a late-term abortion. The media coverage this time around is worse than abysmal; it's practically non-existent. While there was some coverage of Rho's arrest in 2016, the only information we have about the trial comes from pro-life activist Lauren Handy, who has been observing the proceedings and giving her accounts to the Operation Rescue blog.

I certainly do not intend to criticize Lauren, who is a personal friend and is undoubtedly doing the best she can under the circumstances. But she is neither a professional journalist nor a lawyer, and she has not been able to attend every day of the trial. She shouldn't have to be the one doing this, and the public deserves more comprehensive coverage of this story.

With that caveat, here's what we've learned so far.

Rho is charged with reckless homicide in Jaime Morales' death, which occurred on July 9, 2016. Rho did notice the complications, but attempted to correct them himself and did not call an ambulance. Morales fainted and was still woozy when Rho sent her home. Morales passed out again in her sister's car; her sister took her to the hospital, but it was too late.

Rho has a long history with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct. OPMC officer Paula M. Breen was the prosecution's first witness. She testified that Rho had been under investigation since 2013 "for infractions involving sedation and office staff." (He also has been sued for malpractice three times and for sexual harassment twice.)

A key issue in the trial is to be the procedure that was used for the abortion. Morales was between 24 and 26 weeks pregnant. Such a late-term abortion typically takes place over several days, with laminaria (sanitary seaweed) being used to gradually dilate the cervix in the days leading up to surgery. The prosecution argued that Rho recklessly attempted to commit the abortion procedure in just one day, without laminaria. There was conflicting testimony on the question of whether or not laminaria were stocked at Rho's abortion facility.

The prosecution also presented testimony from an expert anesthesiologist, who opined that Morales' anesthesiology report had been forged, and from Planned Parenthood abortionist Steven Chasen, who testified that Rho's method of dilating Morales' cervix was improper.

In cross-examination, Rho's attorney has repeatedly raised Morales' alcohol consumption as a possible factor in her death.

Lauren also observed tensions between Rho and his attorney and overheard some of their conversations. Critically, Rho has plans to open a new abortion facility if the jury finds him not guilty (although he no longer has a license to practice medicine in New York, so it's unclear where he would go). This case will not only determine whether or not Jaime Morales receives justice, but could also determine whether or not Rho will go on to injure more women.

The prosecution rested its case on Friday. The trial continues today and is expected to last through May 3.

The maximum sentence for reckless homicide is 15 years. Rho's fate will be decided by a jury of eleven men and four women. Most of the jurors are people of color. We fervently hope they will provide #JusticeForJaime.

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