Harris County authorities and the Texas Department of State Health Services are investigating a Houston doctor accused Wednesday by an anti-abortion group of performing late-term abortions in 2011.
“We have several people looking into the allegations,” said Sara Marie Kinney, a spokeswoman for the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
In an email, DSHS spokeswoman Carrie Williams said the agency, which monitors abortion facilities across the state, is "aware of the allegations, and we are investigating."
"This is a very high priority for us," she added.
High-profile anti-abortion group Operation Rescue released a report Wednesday saying three former employees of Douglas Karpen’s Houston clinic relayed accounts of fetuses that were illegally aborted and provided them with grisly photographs. The allegations could not be independently verified Wednesday. Karpen could not be reached for comment.
After seeing paystubs from the clinic while helping the employees fill out unemployment claims, the organization’s president, Troy Newman, said he believes them and has faith in their allegations.
“They provided substantial evidence that they were there,” Newman said. “They took videos inside the abortion clinic, and they gave detailed information about what was going on there.”
Newman said Operation Rescue has been “hounding” Karpen for three years, including filing complaints with the Texas Medical Board that, he said, were ignored.
“I’ve got evidence that this is going on all over the country and this is the first guy I’m going after.”
The report, released days after Philadelphia physician Kermit Gosnell was convicted of three counts of murder in the deaths of three infants that had been born alive, spurred Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to release a statement demanding an investigation.
“In a week when serial murderer Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of killing babies, I read with disgust about the allegations of Houston-based abortionist Douglas Karpen performing illegal late-term abortions surrounded by appalling sanitary conditions in his clinic,” according to the statement. “The Harris County authorities should perform a full-scale investigation and take action against those who broke state law.”
No one answered calls to the doctor’s Houston office or his answering service on Wednesday.
Leigh Hopper, a spokeswoman with the Texas Medical Board, said the report by Operation Rescue on Karpen and his clinic "raises concerns, for certain." But she said that Karpen's license is "free and clear currently." His licensing page on the medical board's website shows no disciplinary action.
Hopper declined to say whether there have been complaints lodged against Karpen; such information is not available to the public. But in its online post, Operation Rescue links to a February letter that appears to show the medical board dismissing an investigation into Karpen.
Hopper wouldn't confirm the letter, but said it "doesn't look fake to me, and it reads like the sort of letter TMB sends out routinely."
The Texas Medical Board reports taking action against just three doctors who performed abortions between 2008 and 2013, though Hopper said none were related to “criminal/late-term abortions.”
The penalties were largely the result of administrative shortcomings; in some cases the doctors failed to comply with 24-hour waiting periods; in others, they used recorded phone messages instead of in-person calls, and failed to keep proper records of informed consent and billing.