By Cheryl Sullenger, Senior Policy Advisor, Operation Rescue

Topeka, KS – Earlier this month the pro-life community was stunned when Kansas abortionist Herbert Hodes appeared before a state legislative committee and testified that he was aware of “five deaths in the last five years” due to abortion complications. After an investigation by Operation Rescue, the truth about the number of maternal deaths related to abortion in Kansas remains a mystery.
We immediately filed a number of open records requests with state agencies to see if we could determine the truth about how many women are dying from shoddy abortions in Kansas. The results did little to provide real answers.
According to the Wichita Eagle, Hodes testified on March 9, 2011, before the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs. The Eagle reports, “[Hodes] estimated that Kansas has seen ‘five deaths in the last five years’ because of abortion procedures.”
However, Operation Rescue obtained a letter written by Hodes through the Kansas Open Records Act that only deepened the mystery.
Hodes wrote the letter to the House Committee of Federal and State Affairs dated March 15, 2011, “clarifying” his statements and backtracking dramatically from his original statement.
“I am writing to follow-up on one question that was asked during my testimony,” Hodes wrote. “I was asked how many deaths had occurred as a result of abortion in Kansas, and I did not know the answer to that question. I did offer an estimation, that perhaps five such deaths had occurred over the many years abortion has been provided in the State.”
This is a clear misstatement of his earlier testimony. He clearly indicated to the Committee that the estimated five deaths took place “over the last five years,” not “over the many years abortion has been provided in the State.”
This is an important point to consider. If Hodes was willing to misrepresent his testimony, then what else is he misrepresenting?
Hodes went on to say in his letter to the Committee, “I have researched this question and I now feel that in more than thirty years that abortion has been legal in Kansas, only two deaths have occurred. I wanted to make sure that I was clear about that issue.”
Clear? He is anything but.
In an unguarded moment, maybe we heard something that Hodes later regretted revealing. That would be little wonder, because if what he told the Legislature is the truth of the matter, crimes have likely been committed.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), which did comply with one of two open records requests from Operation Rescue, only one maternal death related to abortion has been reported since 2000.

The KDHE was referring to the death of Christin A. Gilbert, a Down syndrome teen who suffered fatal complications to a third-trimester abortion in Wichita on January 13, 2005. This writer filed a complaint with the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts (KSBHA) concerning Gilbert’s death and, after political interference with the investigation, received word that the case was closed without discipline in a letter from the KSBHA dated November 23, 2005.
Given the political climate at that time in Kansas, there is no doubt that the Gilbert death would have been swept under the rug if Operation Rescue and others had not drawn so much attention to it. Her death became the subject of major concern for the Legislature, the Governor, and the Board of Healing Arts that year. With every governmental agency under the control of pro-abortion former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius covering up abortion wrong-doing, we are left to wonder what may have been concealed from the light of public scrutiny.
It may be that Hodes has let slip the answer. If he is in fact now misrepresenting the truth, that would mean that abortion-related maternal deaths were never reported, and that is a violation of the law.
The KSBHA explanation of the open records documents provided to Operation Rescue is also troubling. Executive Director Kathleen Lippert wrote that, “unlike the KDHE, our agency does not regularly receive reporting information on abortion related maternal deaths outside of our complaint process or unless reported pursuant to certain agency regulations.” Lippert continues, “Therefore we do not possess records which definitively provide the number of abortion–related maternal deaths in Kansas since 2005, or the related information requested.” (Emphasis in the original.)
It is a little hard for a woman to file a complaint if she is dead. Maybe that is why the KSBHA cannot “definitively” provide a number.
The KDHE receives reports from abortionists, but does not check them for accuracy.
It is not unusual for abortionists to try to classify an abortion death as something else, such as respiratory or heart failure. Operation Rescue has documented this behavior in abortionists repeatedly over the years in other states. This kind of deception gives the public the false notion that abortion is perfectly safe and helps the abortionist to avoid culpability for his or her actions.
That culpability has resulted in the loss of medical licenses and even jail time for some abortionists who have been caught killing women during botched abortion procedures. Because of this, abortionists are highly motivated not to tell the truth about abortion complications, especially if the patient dies.
However most state agencies simply take the abortionist at his word, and that only places the lives of women at risk.
The reality is that unless abortionists self-report abortion-related deaths, they simply slip past the system. No one in Kansas actually audits abortion clinics to insure compliance with the law, especially reporting requirements.
The truth about how many women are actually dying from so-called “safe, legal” abortions may never be known. As long as regulatory agencies place abortionists on the “honor system” and do not audit them to ensure compliance, it is more than likely that the mystery of the actual number of abortion’s maternal causalities will never be solved, and that only serves to create an dangerous environment where the lives of women are placed at risk.
Postscript: Operation Rescue has asked the Kansas Attorney General’s Office to investigate the possibility of unreported abortion-related maternal deaths and filed a formal complaint against Hodes with the KSBHA. We await word as to whether any investigation has been launched.