Jail for elderly abortion clinic operators

Local | Phoebe Ng 22 Aug 2017

Two elderly women were sentenced yesterday to jail terms of 10 and 17 months for operating an illegal abortion clinic.

Lo Wun-yi, 65, a Chinese medicine practitioner, and unemployed Li Shuk- fan, 75, were convicted of two counts of conspiracy to use an instrument with intent to procure a miscarriage.

Though sympathetic to their "traumatic and difficult" background, deputy High Court Judge Andrew Bruce, said the defendants' conduct amounted to "gross medical negligence."

The two were arrested in a police sting operation in September 2014, after they offered to perform an abortion on an undercover officer for HK$5,500 in a tiny 323-square-foot flat at a Lam Tin public housing estate.

Not only was the room ill-equipped, the operation would take only two minutes with no physical examination, and the fetus would be flushed down the toilet.

The surgery would mainly be performed by Li, who had years of experience as an obstetrician, and would receive HK$5,000 while Lo would pocket a HK$500 referral fee.

At the start of the trial, only Lo pleaded guilty, but Li eventually admitted the charges. The judge said he considered a starting point of 18 months and two years for Lo and Li respectively. He admitted it would be "wrong" to ignore their ages, but he declined to impose a suspended sentence.

"I do not think I can justify to the Hong Kong community by doing so," the judge said.

He quoted medical expert evidence, which said the Lam Tin premise lacked monitoring devices and was not suitable for carrying out invasive surgical procedures.

The inadequate sterilization of surgical equipment, Bruce said, could lead to significant risk of "potentially life- threatening" infection. He reckoned Lo, the assistant, had been cooperative with the authorities, and took into consideration she was a "chronically depressed" widow in reducing her sentence to 10 months.

As for Li, Bruce described the 75-year-old's life as "a page torn from Chinese history." She had lost her son and husband and been living in public housing.

However, Li did not accept her responsibility at the early stages of the trial.

"The evidence [against her] was overwhelming," Bruce said.

However, taking into account her age and traumatic background, the judge cut her term to 17 months.

The indictment alleged the two women operated the abortion clinic in Kwong Tin Estate between January 1, 2014 and September 16, 2014, during which time three or four abortions had been performed.

On September 15, two female police officers - posing as a pregnant woman and her friend - met "Dr Lo" in her Lam Tin flat. Without conducting an examination, she estimated the officer was 51 days "pregnant," based on her menstrual cycle.

The following evening, the two undercover officers went to other premises to meet "Dr Li," who said she would perform the abortion. However, other police officers waiting in ambush swooped in to arrest Li and Lo 10 minutes later.

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