TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A doctor facing possible disciplinary action over allegations that he broke Kansas law in handling a 13-year-old girl's abortion at a Planned Parenthood clinic told medical regulators Thursday he was unaware of the patient's age — and that the clinic's staff was to blame.
Dr. Allen Palmer, a part-time Planned Parenthood contractor who only performed abortions for patients in their first trimester, is accused in a petition seeking revocation, suspension or other action against his medical license that he failed to preserve fetal tissue from the abortion and submit it to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation or a KBI-approved lab. Kansas state law and regulations require such action for abortion patients younger than 14.
Planned Parenthood self-reported the violation to the state.
During a hearing Thursday, after which the Kansas State Board of Healing Arts deferred its ruling, Palmer insisted he relied on Planned Parenthood's employees to inform him if the patient during the December 2014 procedure was younger than 14, saying he didn't do abortions on patients so young.
"I'm as shocked and awed by this failure as anybody here, but they want to hang it on me, and maybe that's the way it is," Palmer told the board. "I'm telling you that I did not know and I would not have proceeded if I had known."
But board member Douglas Milfeld, a Wichita physician, asked Palmer whether "it never entered your mind" to ask the patient how old she was. Palmer countered that he used to ask that question of female patients, but that some took offense.
"I really don't ask them, because teenagers today, the way they dress, I can't tell how old anybody is," he said before adding later, "They go through counseling. They go through screening. I'm the last person in line for them. If there's a problem, the staff raised it to me or they notified me somehow."
"It was not unreasonable for him to rely on staff," Palmer's attorney, Tom Theis, told the board.
The petition — by Susan Gering, the board's deputy litigation counsel — says Palmer was last known to have been living in the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Missouri.
The regional Planned Parenthood affiliate declined to discuss Palmer's case publicly Thursday, telling The Associated Press by email only that he no longer provides services for the group.
Palmer has been licensed in Kansas since 2008 to practice osteopathic medicine and surgery and had it renewed in October of last year, according to the petition, which presses for Palmer's license to be revoked, suspended, placed on probation, censured or otherwise limited.
The petition says Palmer's attorney has insisted his client inadvertently violated the state law and regulations because he wasn't aware of them and had not received training on the relevant Planned Parenthood policies and procedures involving the treatment of minors.
According to the petition, the 13-year-old girl impregnated by her then-19-year-old boyfriend during consensual sex sought a surgical abortion at what then was known as Comprehensive Health of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri Inc. in December 2014, when the fetus was nearly 11 weeks old.
Palmer, while filling in for a vacationing medical director, performed an in-clinic abortion but failed to meet a state requirement that fetal tissue be turned over to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for any abortion performed on a girl younger than 14.
Planned Parenthood has argued that Palmer "found it unnecessary to familiarize himself in detail with (Kansas) laws requiring the preservation of fetal tissue extracted during an abortion procedure" on a minor.
Hanna reported from Topeka.