In the Bag

An abortion gone bad opens up an unseemly world of low-end medicine

Javier, she added, said she must get rid of the child or he would never see her again.

Over the next hour, Maria made several calls to Javier's number. None was answered. Growing more distressed, she sat in the parked Chevy awaiting the man, whom she said had agreed to pay for the abortion. In the meantime, several women ranging from teenagers to a dark-haired lady in her early thirties traipsed up the concrete steps into the clinic. Some looked fearful. Others chatted with their chaperones. From behind the wheel, Maria jealously eyed them all. "I wish he would just show up already," she uttered feebly, toying absent-mindedly with the silver ring on her right hand. Then, after a long and thoughtful pause: "I wonder if it hurts?"

For Maria, as is the case with many of the pregnant women who flock to clinics such as A Gyn, pain is less important than quick and affordable termination of the pregnancy. Maria, after all, couldn't afford to pay for it without her married boyfriend's help. So she waited.

Kyle T. Webster
Kyle T. Webster

But Javier never showed up, and two hours later, she left the same way she had arrived — pregnant, nervous, and alone.

Unlike Maria, Tammy went ahead with her abortion that horrible afternoon in 2004 at the Miramar clinic. She remembers being clothed in a gown and her personal belongings neatly stacked in a plastic garbage bag in the waiting room.

A wave of nausea had washed over her. Perhaps it was the Motrin and Percocet pills. Or maybe it was the additional $112 she had paid to abort the second fetus. But then, huddled in a room with fifteen or so other girls, she began slipping into a medicated daze. She heard her name called.

"I was led into this cluttered room," she says, recounting the events that led up to her initial meeting with the man she would later identify from a photo lineup as Robelto Osborne. He did not utter a single word, Tammy recalls.

"He was a black man about five feet five inches ... covered in gold jewelry, not cheap stuff — big rings, necklaces, bracelets, a watch," she says. "I had to lie on the table, and he rubbed the back of my hand with alcohol and injected me with something, and I was knocked out."

When Tammy regained consciousness about five minutes later, she was draped in a blanket and sitting in a recliner in a strange room, alone.

"I remember feeling really cold and I just wanted to sleep; I was so weak," she notes. "But I started hearing screams and every not even five minutes a new girl was carried into the room." When the room's eight chairs were full, Tammy says staff members ushered her out with instructions to return in fourteen days for a checkup.

For the next nine days the young mother bled heavily. A second ultrasound on her return visit confirmed Tammy's suspicions that something was amiss. "I was still pregnant," she cries in horror. "[Staff] said, 'Oh, it must be some tissue just floating around in there; we'll just suck it right out.'" Tammy was horrified to learn Osborne would have to perform a second, identical procedure. "He didn't explain what was going on — nothing. He did not say one single word to me."

The next white lab coat she saw was on the back of an emergency room doctor at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood. "[He] got really angry and asked, 'Who did this to you? You are really damaged inside,'" she says, her eyes flickering with regret. Hospital staff advised that the abortion was still incomplete and performed an emergency operation to remove fetal remains. They also warned that, as a result of the damage, she might not be able to have any more children.

On September 22, 2005, a judge who sentenced Osborne for practicing medicine without a license ordered him to pay just over $2500 in restitution. Tammy says that amount was to help cover her medical expenses. "I guess I should have been greedy and asked for more money from him," she says. "But honestly I just want to put this whole thing behind me."

The December 2004 Miramar clinic closure in which Osborne botched Tammy's abortion made headlines, but not like the "Hialeah baby on the roof" incident this past July. News of the alleged baby murder spread worldwide, fueling an intense debate about the dark side of legal abortion.

In online chatrooms, pro-choicers argued that such stories are gruesome but rare; they allege thousands of women terminate unwanted pregnancies every year without consequence. They also contend that if the U.S. Supreme Court bans abortion — which during the past few years has become more likely — it will increase the number of potentially harmful terminations performed in substandard clinics. "Thanks to the Roe v. Wade (1973) Supreme Court decision, women today have access to safe abortions by medically trained professionals, under sanitary conditions," wrote Glenn Woiceshyn on "When abortion was illegal in America, women suffered serious problems from either self-induced or illegal 'back-alley' abortions that often resulted in 'punctured wombs, massive bleeding, and rampant infections.'"

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