By Cheryl Sullenger
DDHMHBaltimore, MD – Arguments were heard Friday in a Maryland civil case that could affect the public’s ability to access open records related to abortion providers under Maryland’s Public Records Law.
Andrew Glenn, Director of the Maryland Coalition for Life, was sued last year by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene after making a public records request for documents related to the licensing of abortion clinics in that state due to his concern that some abortionists were operating illegally or without proper licensure.
The DHMH sought to deny access to parts of abortion clinic licensing applications, claiming that public inspection of licensing documents would subject the staff to “harassment and violence.”
Francis J. Manion is Senior Counsel with the American Center for Law and Justice represented Glenn. Manion noted that the State “could not cite a single instance in which anybody was subjected to harm by somebody who gained information through a public records request.”
In fact, the State conceded that it had no reason to believe that Glenn posed any threat whatsoever, in spite of the fact that it chose to sue him.
Manion further stated in a blog posting about the hearing that “there is the clear mandate of the Maryland Public Information Act that instructs courts to construe its terms liberally, with a presumption in favor of disclosure.”
Glenn had good reason to request the public documents. Maryland abortionists have been found to be a generally troubled lot who have not always followed the law.
Perhaps most notable among them was New Jersey abortionist Steven Chase Brigham, who operated an illicit late-term abortion mill in Elkton until it was found out and closed after one of his patients nearly died from a botched abortion. Brigham has never held a medical license in Maryland.
Operation Rescue obtained records through public records requests that exposed the horrific details of that case. Hospital workers tipped police, who then raided Brigham’s secret clinic and discovered the frozen remains of 35 aborted babies. This resulted in the arrest of Brigham and his associate, Nicola Riley on multiple murder counts. Unfortunately, those murder charges were dropped after the State’s expert witness suddenly withdrew from the case.
However, because of the public pressure generated by the Maryland Coalition for Life and Operation Rescue, eventually all four of Brigham’s other Maryland abortion clinics were closed.
Operation Rescue has worked with Glenn to research other Maryland abortionists and act as watchdogs, reporting suspected violators to the authorities.
Those complaints have yielded impressive results.
For example, after Maryland passed new regulations in the wake of the Brigham case that required Maryland abortion clinics to obtain licensing, Glenn helped Operation Rescue identify at least two abortionists who continued to operate in defiance to the law.
Operation Rescue conducted investigations and compiled documentation that showed both Mehrdad Aalai, a former associate of Brigham’s, and Harold O. Alexander, a former associate of Florida’s notorious abortionist James Scott Pendergraft, were both operating illegal abortion businesses in Maryland. Operation Rescue released that documentation to the public in two special reports.
Complaints filed by Operation Rescue staff ultimately resulted in the closure of both men’s illegal abortion clinics, the surrender of Aalai’s medical license, and the suspension of Alexander’s license for a second time.
“It is likely due to the success of pro-life watchdog efforts, which benefit from access to public documents, that the DHMH filed suit to keep information from pro-life activists like Andrew,” said Troy Newman, President of Operation Rescue. “Unfortunately, we are seeing efforts across the country to prevent pro-life activists from obtaining information that has always been considered public. We are confident that Glenn and the ACLJ will be successful in protecting our rights to access public records that help us expose wrong-doing and hold accountable abortionists who break the law.”
Manion noted that a decision on DHMH v. Glenn is expected in the next few weeks.