By Cheryl Sullenger
This week marks the tenth anniversary of the passing of Laura Hope Smith, who died at the age of twenty-two from a botched abortion on September 13, 2007. It seems like just the other day.
Laura was born into abject poverty in Honduras on May 25, 1985, and was abandoned at an orphanage. An American couple that adopted Laura abused her terribly and gave her up. Laura was then adopted by Tom and Eileen Smith, a Christian family that lovingly raised Laura in the Cape Cod community of Sandwich. Their love turned Laura’s life around and allowed her to bloom into a beautiful and talented young woman.
Laura was a 2004 graduate of Upper Cape Tech, majoring in cosmetology, but later realized that profession did not suit her. At the time of her death she was working in retail management. Laura was a born-again Christian who was an active member of Calvary Chapel of Sandwich.
She was a healthy, happy young woman who was loved by many. Over 600 people attended Laura’s funeral.
But she was a human being who made a tragic mistake. She paid for that mistake with her life and that of her pre-born child. Her family still misses her terribly.
The abortionist who was responsible for Laura’s death was a Harvard-educated man named Rapin Osathanondh, who operated two offices in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts.
Once Operation Rescue published an article about the abortion-related death, we were contacted by Laura’s mom, Eileen Smith. Smith told Operation Rescue that two days after Laura’s death, she gave a full interview to the local newspaper, which was scheduled to be published on the day of Laura’s funeral. The article never appeared, leading her to believe there were ongoing efforts to cover up her daughter’s death.
She was desperate to make sure it was not swept under the rug. We helped her file a medical board complaint against Osathanondh and make contact with the District Attorney.
But Eileen Smith was on a mission, and would not rest until the truth came out. She contacted one of Osathanondh’s employees, Kim Nichols, who then came forward and told the authorities what really happened to Laura.
Laura had been given a dangerous anesthesia drug without proper emergency equipment and supplies on hand. She went into cardiac arrest and died on the abortion table. Later Osathonondh purchased the missing equipment and backdated it to look like those items were present during Laura’s medical emergency. When the medical board questioned him, he gave a phony story about what happened.
Once Nichols was interviewed and explained the truth, the Board began disciplinary action against him. In February, 2008, Osathanondh relinquished me Massachusetts medical license and promised never to apply for another one in any state. His two offices, including the Women’s Health Center, in Hyannis where Laura died.
“I will never forget Laura Hope Smith, whose life was snuffed out along with her child, as I stood there holding her hand, thinking I was helping her!” said Nichols, who is now pro-life and expressed a desire to volunteer for a pregnancy care center.
Osathanondh was later charged with manslaughter in Laura’s death. On September 13, 2010, three years to the day after he killed Laura, Osathanondh pled guilty to one count of manslaughter and was sentenced to six months in jail. He was taken away in handcuffs.
That same day, he settled a civil suit brought by Eileen Smith for $2 million.
Laura’s death had a lasting impact on her friends, especially Chelsea Freeman. After Chelsea became pregnant, her pre-born daughter was diagnosed with Down Syndrome. She was told she should get an abortion.
“When Laura passed away, it changed my views on abortion,” Chelsea told a reporter. After viewing her daughter on ultrasound, she knew she could never harm her baby. Chelsea’s baby, saved out of Laura Hope Smith’s tragedy is now eight years old.
Maybe jail and a civil judgment wasn’t perfect justice, but at least Osathanondh paid some penalty for what he did, and he will never be able to kill another baby – or mother – through abortion again. While nothing can ever bring Laura back, we can remember her and the lessons learned from her tragedy, and celebrate the changes in the hearts of those around her. But, ten years later, it still hurts.