The Fort Lauderdale Women’s Center, site of seven 40 Days for Life prayer vigils over the past three and a half years, may lose its license to perform abortions. Complaints have been filed against the center and three others owned by late-term abortionist Dr. James Pendergraft by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). The Agency states that Pendergraft is no longer eligible to operate abortion clinics in Florida.
In February, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the AHCA filed administrative complaints against Pendergraft in January as a consequence of his arrest by Spartanburg, South Carolina Sheriff deputies on October 5, 2015. According to World Magazine, at his arrest, illegal drugs were found in the abortionist’s possession along with surgical forceps covered with blood and human tissue. Sheriff Chuck Wright said at a press conference, “He traveled around the state of South Caroline without a medical license, with drugs and with medical tools performing in-home abortions.” South Carolina is now investigating Pendergraft for practicing medicine without a license and has charged him with ten drug-related offenses.
According to the Sentinel, the AHCA said its complaints against Pendergraft are “an administration action” to revoke his licenses to operate a clinical laboratory and an abortion clinic. The Agency complaints state that “[a]s an owner and controlling interest of the respondent [abortion facilities], Mr. Pendergraft was required at all times to maintain a satisfactory Level 2 background screening result. With his arrest and pending criminal charges, Mr. Pendergraft is disqualified and is no longer in compliance with Florida law.”
Initially, Pendergraft challenged the Agency’s action, alleging a factual dispute and denying that he owned 5 percent or more of the abortion facilities. So the AHCA filed a petition with the Division of Administrative Hearings in Tallahassee, which scheduled a hearing for September 15. However, in August his case was referred back to the jurisdiction of the AHCA. According to the agreement reached on August 4, the Agency can now conduct informal proceedings against Pendergraft, which he is still able to challenge under Florida Statutes.
40Days for Life
Since 2013, Pendergraft’s Fort Lauderdale facility has been the site of biannual 40 Days for Life prayer vigils. The 2016 fall campaign, which starts on Sept. 28, is also scheduled to take place in front of the abortion center. Also, Broward County Right to Life now offers help and counseling to those entering the facility. Tom Walker, who has been standing at the clinic daily, said, “Women coming out of the Fort Lauderdale Women’s Center have told us of the conditions inside where they are kept waiting for hours but given little information. Some say they never even spoke with the doctor!” Walker said he often sees women leave the site after he has the chance to counsel them about their choices and show them a model of a 10 week-old baby in the womb. He also shares information about the possible side effects of abortion and provides contact information for local pregnancy resource centers.
When the complaints were filed by the AHCA against Pendergraft last January, it raised hopes that all of Pendergraft’s abortion facilities in Florida would be shut down. As of this writing, the Agency has not taken any further action to revoke Pendergraft’s clinic license. However, Tom Walker, who is also the campaign coordinator for 40 Days for Life prayer vigil in front of the Fort Lauderdale Women’s Center, said, “Our prayer is that this is the year it will close down. We invite churches and other community organizations to join us in praying to end abortion at this facility and in Broward County. Just sign up at our website: 40DaysforLife.com/Fort Lauderdale.” Among the area churches and organizations already committed to join the fall prayer vigil are Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Atlantic Baptist Church, World Wide Christian Center, San Isidro Catholic Church, Mary’s Pregnancy Resource Center, and Respect Life Pregnancy Services. For more information visit: babieslivesmatter.org and browardrighttolife.org.
Dr. Karen Gushta is a member of the board of Broward Right to Life and a planning team member of 40 Days for Life, Fort Lauderdale. She can be contacted on Facebook at: 40 Days for Life – Fort Lauderdale or Broward County Right to Life.