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Nicolette's Nightmare
Despite her pleas, Karpan refused to stop the abortion
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A suit filed on behalf of Nicolette C, age 16, alleged that Nicolette called the facility from her home in Louisiana, seeking counsel regarding her pregnancy. Clinic employees advised abortion and quoted a price of $895, with the price to increase with each passing week. About 10 days later, Nicolette called to schedule the procedure, and the price quoted was $1,050.

Nicolette drove alone to the facility, without parental knowledge or consent. Women's Pavillion didn't even ask Nicolette if her parents would consent to the abortion. Upon Nicolette's arrival, the staff quoted a price of $1,800, and refused to proceed without full payment.

Nicolette left the facility to pawn jewelry but was unable to secure sufficient funds, so she returned home to borrow additional money and returned the following day. She paid for the procedure, and laminaria was inserted. Nicolette was told to return the following day.

After leaving the facility, Nicolette felt fetal movements, and felt unprepared as she had not been informed of the nature of the procedure or of fetal development. After feeling her fetus move, Nicolette changed her mind about wanting it dead. She returned to the facility, asking that the laminaria be removed and her pregnancy be allowed to continue, but abortionist Karpen did not answer her questions, and told Nicolette to continue with abortion. He told her that the procedure was irreversible and that any attempt to allow the pregnancy to continue would seriously threaten her health. (This is, by the way, not true. Women can change their minds, have the laminaria removed, and continue to term.)

Nicolette reluctantly agreed to continue with the abortion. Additional laminaria were inserted. Nicolette experienced distress and continued to wish the procedure halted. After being discharged, Nicolette attempted to reach Karpen but was unable to do so until midnight. Karpen wanted to know who was causing her to want to stop the abortion, told her he would not remove the laminaria despite Nicolette's requests.

Nicolette's mother, who had learned of of the girl's whereabouts and joined her in Houston, observed her daughter's extreme distress and took the phone to speak with Karpen. He indicated that she was placing Nicolette's life in jeopardy, that reversal of the procedure could cause her to bleed to death, that it had never been done and that Nicolette would not be accepted in any hospital due to having the laminaria in place. Nicolette's mother requested a referral to another doctor or hospital but was refused such and told to report to the facility the next day.

When they got to Women's Pavilion, mother and daughter were met by Richard Cunningham rather than by Karpen. They were informed that Cunningham and Karpen had consulted and did not wish to remove the laminaria and release Nicolette to other care. After 30 minutes of "high pressure scare tactics," mother and daughter still wished to have the procedure stopped. Cunningham instructed them "to look in the yellow pages for an anti-abortion group," insisted that they sign a release form, and had them leave the facility.

Mother and daughter sought emergency care at a hospital, where Nicolette delivered a 1 lb. 13 oz. infant girl, who Nicolette named Ashley. Despite efforts by hospital staff, Ashley died six months later.

The suit alleged that the actions of Karpen and others at the facility constituted a breach of the law against abortions past 26 weeks except for medical indications. Nicolette's attorney faulted Karpen and the clinic staff with failure to obtain lawful consent; "making false and misleading statements to Nicolette about the development of Ashley, in order to gain Nicolette's consent by fear;" continuing with insertion of laminaria and allowing labor to continue in order to end the life of the fetus when the mother wished for the fetus to live; failing to refer Nicolette to a hospital that could have reversed the abortion and saved Ashley's life; and inflicting deliberate emotional distress "in order to coerce them into allowing the abortion to continue." A suit was also filed for the wrongful death of baby Ashley. (Harris County District Court Case No. 93-33063)

Women's Pavillion was the National Abortion Federation facility where the fatal abortion was performed on Denise Montoya.

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