By Cheryl Sullenger
Las Vegas, NV – A man accused of committing illegal underground abortions without a license was found dead at the Clark County Detention Center where he was being held without bond pending trial.
Rick Van Thiel, 54, was found hanged in an apparent suicide on July 21, 2017.
Van Thiel was arrested and jailed in September, 2015, for conducting abortions and other quack medical treatments out of a grimy trailer in his junk-cluttered back yard. A local news reporter dubbed it the “Trailer of Terror.”
He was never formally educated, trained, or licensed in the field of medicine. His background was instead that of a pornographic movie star/maker and inventor of sex toys.
Van Thiel bragged during an interview from jail shortly after his arrest that he learned to do abortions by watching YouTube videos.
A Clark County grand jury issued 30 felony indictments against Van Thiel in June 2016, including:
• 19 counts of engaging as a medical physician without a license.
• 6 counts of sexual assault resulting in substantial bodily harm.
• 2 counts of sexual assault.
• 2 counts performance of a health care procedure resulting in substantial bodily harm.
• 1 count child abuse, neglect, or endangerment.
As a five-time convicted felon, Van Thiel was also charged with three federal firearms violations. A judge had ruled to suppress information about the firearms charges during his state trial, which was set for January 20, 2017.
Van Thiel was an opportunist. Like many charlatans before him, he saw that offering cut-rate abortions and quack “holistic” cures to hookers and other vulnerable women was a viable means to quick cash. He lured customers through several seedy “adult” websites and by word of mouth.
“It is a shame that Van Thiel took his own life. As long as he was living, there was hope for his redemption,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “However, he will never hurt another person again, and that is something to be grateful for, however tragic the circumstances might be.”
The arrest of Van Thiel came within weeks of news of two other illegal abortionists in two other states, raising concerns that underground abortions have become a dangerous new trend.
In October 2015, Michigan abortionist Michael Roth was involved in a traffic accident after which police discovered stolen drugs and surgical instruments, along with the remains of fourteen aborted babies, the result of his illegal underground home abortion scheme. He was later criminally charged and awaits trial in November 2017. On September 13, 2017, Michigan Medical Board suspended his medical license for 90 days and fined him $25,000.
Also in October 2015, Florida abortionist James Pendergraft was arrested in South Carolina for conducting abortions out of the back of his van and possessing illegal drugs. Pendergraft was never licensed to practice medicine in South Carolina. He was indicted by a grand jury in June 2016, on 10 criminal counts, and is set to stand trial on November 13, 2017.
“Before anyone thinks that a lack of access to abortion facilities had anything to do with this, all three of these men conducted illegal abortions in areas where there were several abortion facilities. This illegal abortion trend is all about exploiting the vulnerable to satisfy greed,” said Newman. “It is a thousand wonders that no mother was killed during these dangerous, unsanitary abortions. If anyone learns that there are underground abortions happening in their area, I urge them to immediately contact the local police.”