Ben Johnson


Wash Post: Concern over woman killed in abortion an 'illegal violation of her privacy'

Ben Johnson

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 14, 2013, ( – The Washington Post is rarely interested in reporting deaths from abortion, much less investigating them for potential crimes. But columnist Petula Dvorak has broken the mold: She wants to investigate pro-life groups who learned the identity of Jennifer Morbelli, the 29-year-old who died last week after a 33-week abortion at Leroy Carhart's clinic in nearby Germantown, Maryland.

On Thursday, she wrote a column entitled, Woman loses her life and then her privacy after an abortion.”

She expressed anger and outrage, not at the death (which she termed “tragic”), but at the fact that demonstrators outside the clinic had learned the victim's name and, she assumes, her medical history.

National laws keep a patient's medical history private even after death.

“If there is a violation of HIPAA laws, hospital officials investigate and discipline,” Dvorak wrote in the Post. “They have fired people for such violations. So are they investigating this one?” she asked.

She also cast aspersions on the motives of protesters, rejecting their claims to care for mother and baby.

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“We view the family and we view [the woman] as a victim,” Michael Martelli, executive director of the Maryland Coalition for Life, told her.

“Give me a break,” wrote Dvorak. “The protesters are exploiting this woman’s death and making other women think that their privacy is never truly protected when they seek an abortion.”

That, she wrote, “is cruel.”

Pro-life activists say Dvorak's charges, and outrage, are misplaced. The death of Jennifer Morbelli, like that of Tonya Reaves and others, proves a woman could lose far more than her privacy from a “safe and legal” abortion.

According to documents retrieved from Carhart's abortion facility, the doctor instructed post-abortive women not to go to the emergency room if something went wrong.

Although the document says someone will be available at all times for women who are suffering complications, Carhart left town after Morbelli's procedure.

“There is accountability in keeping this information public,” said Cheryl Sullenger, senior policy adviser to Operation Rescue, which broke the story.

“When it comes to abortion deaths, the abortionist would like nothing more than to keep it secret,” Sullenger told “Secrecy acts to protect abortionists and shield them from accountability. This only creates conditions where incompetent abortionists can kill again.”

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