A New York doctor who claims he has performed over 40,000 abortions in the state pleaded guilty to reckless homicide in the death of a Queens woman. Dr. Robert Rho terminated the pregnancy of 30-year-old Jaime Lee Morales, who was six-months pregnant at the time of the procedure. After the abortion, Morales was “bleeding uncontrollably with a severed uterine aorta, ripped cervix and pierced uterine wall,” according to CBS News.
The doctor performed a follow-up procedure to stem the bleeding, but it was apparently unsuccessful. Despite poor vital signs and collapsing on the bathroom floor, Dr. Rho sent Morales home with her sister. The Queens woman, who had received two serious surgeries in the immediate preceding hours, passed out in the car ride. After an ambulance ride to the hospital, Morales was pronounced dead upon arrival.
Morales had only found out she was pregnant a week before and paid Dr. Rho $6,000 to perform the abortion. Three months after her death, Dr. Rho was arrested at his home and forced to shut down his medical clinic and surrender his medical license. According to the news report, this was not the first time the doctor had been investigated for medical malpractice and negligence.
The criminal prosecution of the doctor is rare in New York, where medical malpractice lawsuits are generally a civil matter. In fact, the last doctor who was successfully prosecuted for botched abortions was in 1995. In this instance, however, Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal said that Dr. Rho’s botched abortion went beyond mere negligence and a civil lawsuit. During the trial, Leventhal told the jury that the doctor’s actions were “about greed and arrogance” and that Morales “bled to death because [Dr. Rho] did nothing.”
Originally facing up to 15 years in prison for second-degree manslaughter, the doctor chose to accept a plea deal that carries a sentence of up to four years. In a statement to CBS News, the Morales family said they were thankful they “received some measure of justice,” but cautioned that other abortion providers in the state also performed risky procedures and without adequate oversight.