This Latest Effort to Close Abortion Clinics Is the Strangest One Yet
A billionaire fracking tycoon is funding a nonprofit that’s recruiting an army of lawyers to sue Planned Parenthood.
An anti-abortion group backed by a billionaire fracking tycoon has embarked on an unusual campaign to shut down abortion clinics: direct mailing DVDs to lawyers in order to entice them to sue doctors.
This unorthodox legal strategy is a new twist on a strategy long employed by Life Dynamics, an anti-abortion group based in Denton, Texas. Two decades ago, the group’s president, Mark Crutcher, began a mail and advertising campaign urging lawyers to take up malpractice lawsuits against abortion providers. The organization’s manuals for attorneys argued that these suits could be used to “force abortionists out of business by driving up their insurance rates.” Crutcher’s campaign was never successful, but he’s still at it-now sending slick DVDs sent to tens of thousands of lawyers.
In the videos, two actors made to look like television news anchors allege that there’s a “child sex abuse scandal” underway. They claim that most minors who become pregnant are not impregnated by a peer, but by an older man. Thus, any pregnant teen should be treated as if there is “reasonable suspicion of child sexual abuse,” they contend. The 11-minute DVD urges lawyers to sue abortion providers, on the premise that clinics are potentially covering up the crime of statutory rape.
Abortion and family planning providers, the actors maintain, are “almost universally ignoring states’ mandatory reporting laws” by not involving the police every time a minor seeks their services. This, they say, has created “an area of personal injury litigation that is enormous and growing daily.” The actors direct viewers to a website, ChildPredators.com, which specifically accuses Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation of legal malfeasance.
The DVDs look innocuous from the packaging. The envelope doesn’t say “abortion” anywhere on it. The envelope simply states, “This 11-minute DVD will revolutionize your legal practice.” Abortion is not mentioned until two minutes into the video. A lawyer in New Hampshire, Ted Barnes, sent Mother Jones the copy he received, noting that he works mostly on criminal defense, not malpractice cases.
Another Manchester, New Hampshire-based lawyer, Michael J. Iacopino, said he received a DVD in the mail; he also mainly handles criminal-defense cases. From the packaging, he says, he mistook it to be something about how to manage his firm better. “To me it was false advertising,” said Iacopino, a partner at Brennan Caron Lenehan & Iacopino. “It was designed to be something that would appeal to a lawyer that might be looking to organize their practice, but it turned out to be a pitch to sue abortion clinics.”
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