Can There Still be Justice for Lakisha Wilson?

By Cheryl Sullenger

Cleveland, Ohio – Lakisha Wilson, a beautiful 22-year old African American woman, died three years ago from a fatally botched abortion she obtained at the Preterm abortion facility in Cleveland, Ohio.

What was done to her by Preterm staff is worth retelling on this anniversary of her death.

I found out about Wilson when I was tipped that an ambulance had been called to Preterm on March 21, 2014. As usual, I asked my assistant to order the 911 records. At Operation Rescue, we request so many 911 records based on similar tips that it has become somewhat routine – so much so that when the records arrived, my assistant did not even bother to listen to the recording before forwarding it to me.

When I played it, I was stunned. “It sounds like this patient died,” I hollered down the hallway to my assistant.

That began a fact-finding frenzy where we learned more of Wilson’s deadly encounter with Preterm and its abortionist at that time, Lisa Perriera. I flew to Cleveland and participated in a press conference with other state and national pro-life leaders. We demanded justice. We demanded answers.

Little did I know how those answers would come.

Sometime after that frenzy calmed down, I received an oversized manila envelope from the Ohio Department of Health. Inside was simply a CD with my last name hand-printed on it.

I popped the CD into my computer and was once again stunned by what I saw. Someone had leaked to me all the records – public and “confidential” – that detailed the Department of Health’s investigation into Wilson’s death.

Because of that information, along with the autopsy report and other documents we had assembled, I was able to build the following narrative about her abortion and the investigation that followed.

Wilson reported to Preterm on March 21, 2014, for a second trimester abortion with abortionist Lisa Perriera. The autopsy, which relied on Preterm’s records, showed that she was 19 weeks pregnant at the time of her abortion, but other records contained on that mysterious CD indicated she was actually closer to 23 weeks. Perhaps because of her advanced pregnancy, Wilson suffered blood loss during the abortion and went into shock. Her life-threatening condition was not immediately detected, most likely due to failure to properly monitor her vital signs.

Preterm staff administered medication to Wilson to cause uterine contractions in an apparent effort to control the hemorrhage, but it appeared to be too little, too late.

Depressed respiration caused by sedation may have contributed to the lack of oxygen Wilson’s body received. This only compounded the medical crisis. As a result, Wilson suffered cardiopulmonary arrest and subsequent fatal brain damage all before a Preterm employee finally was told to call 911 for help.

The 911 recording and Computer Aided Dispatch transcript revealed that Wilson was “not breathing at all” at the time the call was placed. In fact, emergency records show that she was not breathing for at least 28 minutes.

When paramedics finally arrived, they were delayed in getting to Wilson due to a malfunctioning elevator. Since all the surgical rooms at Preterm are on the third floor, the elevator is the crucial to patient safety during emergencies such as the one Wilson was suffering.

Once they were finally able to get the elevator working well enough to get them to the third floor, paramedics removed the ill-fitting pediatric oxygen mask that abortionist Perriera had been using and replaced it with a mask of the proper size and fit. They were able to resuscitate Wilson – something the abortion facility staff was unable to do.

However, paramedics could not intubate her, which was necessary to ensure that she was receiving enough oxygen. This was because the elevator was so cramped that they could not lay the gurney flat, which was required for intubation.

Once downstairs, paramedics rushed Wilson out of the building and to an awaiting ambulance, a chaotic moment that was recorded by Pastor Dale Henkel, a pro-life activist who was on the sidewalk praying that day.

So frantic were the paramedics to get her to the ambulance that they never bothered to completely cover her naked body.

Wilson was rushed to University Hospital Case Medical Center, where she was placed on complete life support until an organ procurement company could obtain the documentation needed to harvest her organs. This was callously done against the wishes of the Wilson family, who were concerned that missing organs would compromise any potential investigation. Wilson was officially declared dead on March 28, 2014, leaving her one-year old son motherless.

So what were the consequences for Perriera and Preterm for their obviously negligent treatment of Lakisha Wilson?

Nothing at all.

We may have gotten answers, but there was never any justice for Lakisha Wilson and her family.

The Ohio Department of Health conducted an inspection of Preterm, and cleared them despite their dangerous set up that included third-floor surgical rooms, with gurney access only through a cramped and frequently malfunctioning elevator.

The Ohio Medical Board investigated Perriera and her staff, but despite clear indications of a janky fetal age determination, a hemorrhage that went undetected due negligent monitoring, inadequate resuscitation efforts, and a delay in calling 911 for help, they too were “cleared,” based partially on the coroner’s determination of “accidental death.”

Once the Department of Health files were leaked to me that showed many important deficiencies in Wilson’s treatment, which had been overlooked or dismissed by investigators, our coalition of pro-life groups called for the Department of Health to reconsider the seriousness of those deficiencies and how they contributed to Wilson’s demise.

But they ignored that, too. It was regulatory failure at its worst.

Meanwhile, Perriera was given an award by the Physicians for Reproductive Choice at a posh ceremonial New York City dinner in 2015, for enduring “adversity” during the investigation of Wilson’s tragically avoidable death. She transferred to an abortion facility in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – a place that never heard of Lakisha Wilson – where she continues to abort babies and place women’s lives at risk, all while publicly advocating for abortion as a “safe” procedure. She also serves as Associate Professor of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the Sidney Kimmel Medical Center at Thomas Jefferson University.

Instead of being held accountable for her series of fatal errors that deprived Wilson of her life, Perriera was basically promoted.

Three years later, the sting of this injustice has yet to subside. On the third anniversary of Lakisha Wilson’s death, I still remember, and haven’t given up hope that someday, somehow, there can still be justice.

Leaked Ohio Department of Health files concerning Wilson’s death