Ben Johnson

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62 women infected with Hepatitis C at late-term abortion facility win $13.75 million settlement

Ben Johnson
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MELBOURNE, Australia, June 5, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A late-term abortion facility and state abortion regulators have agreed to a multimillion dollar settlement after 62 women said the facility did not take proper procedures to prevent them from being infected with Hepatitis C during their operations.

Croydon Day Surgery and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority agreed to pay $13.75 million after scores of patients were infected by anesthesiologist James Latham Peters between June 2008 and November 2009.

Peters was addicted to fentanyl, an opioid, and would inject himself with the drug before using the same syringe to anesthetize women before their abortions.

He entered a guilty plea to charges that he infected 55 women before a judge in November 2012 and is now serving 14 years in prison. But the women he exposed to the disease say that's not enough. One woman said Peters received about five months for each charge, less time than she has spent receiving treatment, according to the Melbourne Herald Sun.

In addition to the physical pain of the disease, his victims report an inability to trust others, job losses, and mental health issues. One woman felt she was being punished for her abortion, asking the court what gave Peters "the right to treat me like I'm inhuman and make me exposed to their [sic] disease, just because I made a decision not to have that baby? Who is he to punish me?"

Another victim, who told The Sunday Age she had an abortion after her child was diagnosed with deformities, said she learned of her infection while she was expecting another child. She would tell the court, “When I was first diagnosed, I felt like I had been hit by a freight train. I was 30 weeks pregnant and in five seconds flat I went from being happy and looking forward to the birth of my son to feeling like I was trapped in a nightmare.”

The sentence was the end of the line for Peters, who said he learned to abuse narcotics from his second wife, Julie, who injected heroin. She died in 2003. In December 1995, he wrote in a letter to the Medical Practitioners' Board of Victoria that he was an addict. He entered a guilty plea to 20 counts of prescription fraud and drug charges in 1996, receiving a suspended sentence. He soon returned to practice.

In May 1997, he learned he had Hepatitis C. Although he and health authorities knew, neither ever told the Medical Practitioners' Board. In time, he was allowed to practice unsupervised – and soon he relapsed, he said.

More than 1,100 women visited the facility in 2008-9. A psychiatric report says he knowingly exposed the women who came to the abortion facility to his disease, because he is able to “dissociate from appropriate guilt.'' Peters, who had been convicted of possessing child pornography in 2010, unsuccessfully appealed his 14-year sentence for his actions at Croydon last August.

Peters had been named in the original class action lawsuit but then removed, as he is a prisoner and no longer has any tangible assets. Instead, his victims had to seek justice from the abortion facility and the regulators they say failed to protect them.

Chief Crown prosecutor Gavin Silbert testified that the owner of Croydon had a “vested financial interest'' in having Peters practice, despite his condition and checkered history.

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An Australian pro-life source told LifeSiteNews in 2011 that Croydon, Victoria's only late-term abortion facility, is “one of the worst in the country and will do abortions that no one else would touch.” At the time, it was part of Planned Parenthood of Australia Group but has since rebranded as Marie Stopes Maroondah.

"Are we surprised when doctors who participate in abortion lose all vestiges of ethical medical practice?” Scott McKendry, the executive director of Australia’s Family Life International, told LifeSiteNews in 2010. “These medical practitioners are no longer healing but rather harming, and this inversion is bound to lead to such disturbing instances of abuse as this."

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