Inside Leslee Unruh
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Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 02:38:30 AM EST
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"Any person knowingly printing, publishing, or delivering to any voter of this state a document containing any purported constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure to be submitted to the voters at any election, in which such constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure is misstated, erroneously printed, or by which false or misleading information is given to the voters, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor." [SDCL 12-13-16]

That one sentence alone from the South Dakota law books should be enough to send Leslee Unruh into the dock. But as the tally of her evasions, legal misrepresentations and bald-faced lies in connection with her promotion of the South Dakota abortion ban (Referred Law 6) continues to mount . . .  who's counting?

Leslee Unruh is the founder and president of both the National Abstinence Clearinghouse and the Alpha Center, a crisis pregnancy center operation in Sioux Falls.  Both are registered as 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. In 2004, according to returns filed with the IRS, Unruh's combined personal income from almost three-quarters of a million dollars in government contracts, federal grants and other "direct public support" to these two organizations was $152, 376.00.  

The Abstinence Clearinghouse Form 990 says that "God is the curegiver," but since you and I seem to be paying the lion's share of Unruh's salary, let's take a look at what she's spending it on -- besides, as one local observer, Coat Hangers at Dawn, surmised last week, "lobster and cheap cosmetics."

As of the first of June 2006 Vote Yes had raised $88,000 for their campaign. By the end of that month they has spent almost the entire amount. They spent $87,000 in one month. Remember June? This was the time that little was going on and things like media buys or production had not even started happening yet. This was before Leslee Unruh went begging for Jerry Fallwell to raise a million dollars for her.

This sounds like extremely reckless spending and clearly suspicious since there was little to be spending it on in June.

So what DID Leslee Unruh blow $87,000 on in one month?

Yet according to the official financial report [pdf link] filed by "Vote Yes for Life," that's exactly what happened. Although she didn't sign the report, the "Vote Yes for Life" Campaign Team is under the sole command of Leslee Unruh -- because when you're lobbying against abortion rights in South Dakota, Leslee Unruh is a woman who can pull the strings.

Local observers have taken note of Unruh's political connections since 1987, when she paid a nominal fine and walked out into the sunshine after pleading nolo contendere to five misdemeanors, instead of facing a much more severe sentence for ten other misdemeanors and multiple felonies with which she was also charged.

The center was fined $500 in 1987 after pleading no contest to five misdemeanor charges of unlicensed adoption and foster care practices. That was part of a plea bargain in which 19 charges, including four felonies, were dropped.

Unruh said at the time: "I so much believe in this. Can I start compromising now? I'm not guilty of anything. If saving babies is against the law, then I'm guilty."

Nice dodge, but "saving babies" isn't against the law. However, leaning on teenagers to hand over their babies for money is still a crime, even in South Dakota.

The dropped felony charges centered on an alleged offer of money to women who would agree to put their unborn children up for adoption.

Sioux Falls lawyer Tim Wilka was Minnehaha County state's attorney at the time.

Bringing the charges was the right thing to do, he says.

"There were so many allegations about improper adoptions being made (against her) and how teenage girls were being pressured to give up their children," he says. "Gov. George Mickelson called me and asked me to take the case."

Unruh says Mickelson always was supportive of her.

Of course he was. Even though Governor Mikelson personally asked a state's attorney to prosecute her. But in most places in the world, it takes a powerful friend somewhere to make four felony counts disappear.

Even though the returns from both Abstinence Clearinghouse and the Alpha Center declare that neither of these officially related organizations engaged in lobbying activities, defined by the IRS as attempting "to influence national, state or local legislation, including any attempt to influence public opinion on a legislative matter or referendum" -- and although Abstinence Clearinghouse and the Alpha Center represent her sole sources of declared income -- Leslee Unruh does little else. Indeed, she openly registered as a lobbyist for the Alpha Center during the 2006 legislative session.

Unruh's blatant and ongoing violations of federal law during the 2004 legislative session prompted an official complaint by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Both NAC and Alpha Center claimed on their 990 tax forms that they engaged in no lobbying activities. Yet, despite these assertions, Ms. Unruh, acting in her official capacity, has repeatedly been quoted in newspaper reports as lobbying legislators to fund abstinence education programs and to ban abortion. For example Ms. Unruh was featured in a story in the Star Tribune:

Leslee Unruh, president and founder of Alpha Center, a Sioux Falls counseling center for women who have had abortions, lobbied for passage of the ban. She said Tuesday she fears that [Governor] Rounds' decision to send it back to the Legislature for more work could backfire and lead to its defeat. "It's an incredible, heart-wrenching disappointment," she said. "We'll be back there to see that it gets through, and I hope the governor helps us with that. But if the governor wanted to do something with that language, he should have said something early on.

Many more examples of Ms. Unruh's lobbying activity on behalf of NAC and Alpha Center are provided in the CREW complaint.

Last week, in an eleventh hour push in the campaign to pass the hotly contested ban, Unruh's son-in-law, Dr. Mark Rector, lent his face, voice and professional reputation -- such as that might be -- to a video containing a litany of lies [video link] recited by South Dakota physicians whose white coats fail to sanitize deliberate misstatements of fact that were, according to South Dakota statute, criminal misdemeanors.

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Perhaps because it was the biggest lie of all, it was Unruh's son-in-law who mouthed this whopper from television sets across the state.

In the new ad for Vote Yes for Life, South Dakota physician Mark Rector says "This measure does provide exception for the life and the health of the mother."
But, Marv Buehner, founder of the group opposing the abortion ban, blasted the ban's supporters in an interview with the Journal.

"The claim by supporters of this ban in recent television advertisements that there is an abortion exception for the health of the mother is patently false," he told the newspaper.

Not to mention, of course, that making such a public claim is just plain illegal.  Not that anyone of influence in South Dakota seems to be overly concerned.  The doctors in Leslee's commercial also get away with assuring the public that the ban provides an exception for survivors of rape and incest. That means that they can take emergency contraception -- even though it has a failure rate of at least 10%, and no hospital or physician in the state is required to provide it.

And that, of course, is no exception at all -- exactly as the ban's primary proponent in the legislature, Rep. Roger Hunt, intended.

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And of course, as reported by the Argus Leader:

The ban would not allow a pregnant woman with serious health issues whose life isn't in imminent peril to receive an intentional abortion, said Republican Rep. Roger Hunt of Brandon, who sponsored the ban in the Legislature.

In the meantime, Leslee Unruh continues to make TV and radio appearances on major media outlets to detail the traumatic aftermath of abortion, which she claims left her unable to vacuum her carpets [audio link] because the sound of the vacuum cleaner supposedly reminded her of her own abortion.  Apparently no one has told her that the aspiration machine used to perform an abortion procedure sounds nothing at all like a vacuum cleaner, but is very quiet -- much more like the low hum of a dishwasher before the water cycle begins -- else she'd doubtlessly have spent a fortune by now on paper plates.

Despite Leslee's vulgar little comedy, the linked PBS program clip is worth hearing for a brief interview with Dr. Miriam McCreary, who at age 70 still flies into Sioux Falls once a week to provide women with abortion care, because no doctor in the state has enough courage to oppose Leslee Unruh and her friends.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting (CNN) -- Not a single doctor in South Dakota will perform an abortion, which is why Dr. Miriam McCreary has come out of retirement.

Once or twice a month, the 70-year-old grandmother takes a 45-minute flight from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to perform abortions at the last clinic in the state willing to offer the procedure.

"I want every child that's born, to be born into a family that wants a child. I don't want children to be born into a family where they are not wanted and can't be cared for carefully. That's the tragedy," McCreary said.
The patients have been counseled and have waited at least the mandatory 24 hours to think it through.

"We always worry about people who are ambivalent and they're not sure they want to do this," McCreary said, "and sometimes I'll say, 'don't do this. You don't want to do this today. Please go home and think about this and come back if you want.'"
McCreary said she rarely knows much about the women on whom she performs abortions. Her job, she said, is to provide safe procedures. "The only doubt I have is that I want the patient to be really sure that she wants that. That's the only doubt. Other than that, I just feel I am giving good health care."

McCreary has been making this trip for seven years. At age 70, she wants doctors in South Dakota to take her place.

But so far no one has stepped forward. So she said she will keep coming back.

Dr. McCreary has an entirely different view of her medical obligations than another of Leslee Unruh's pet physicians, Dr. Glenn Ridder. The original Argus Leader article is unavailable online, but its text has been preserved by Tennessee

Jonna DiRito, formerly known as John DiRito, filed a lawsuit Monday against the hospital and family practice Dr. Glenn Ridder claiming both denied treatment. DiRito also is suing Dr. Michael Kuglitsch of Aberdeen and Kuglitsch's clinic, Eastern Plains Clinic of Urology.
Neither Kuglitsch or Ridder could be reached for comment.

A complaint filed in Minnehaha County Circuit Court states that Jonna DiRito, who is married and has children, began to undergo a sex change in the mid-'90s.
[After surgery performed by Dr. Kuglitsch], DiRito returned to the Aberdeen clinic from a hotel room to complain of swelling and bleeding, the lawsuit claims. Kuglitsch told DiRito to return to Sioux Falls, saying that the bleeding would stop within a couple of days.

A week later, DiRito's condition worsened, and a physician's assistant at the Aberdeen clinic told DiRito to see DiRito's Sioux Falls doctor, the complaint states. However, an office manager at Ridder's clinic told DiRito the doctor would not see DiRito "because he objected to her surgery."
On Nov. 22, 1998, DiRito's wife called an ambulance after finding her husband semi-conscious in bed, with the bedding soaked in blood. The lawsuit claims that the hospital initially refused to accept DiRito as a patient but then treated DiRito after the ambulance driver drove to the door of the emergency room.

A real "pro-life" physician.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of victory, Leslee has yet another project, the "Fleet for Little Feet."

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When abortion rights supporters ask if pro-lifers are going to take care of women in unplanned pregnancy situations after Roe v. Wade is overturned, Leslee Unruh responds with an enthusiastic "Oh yes!" Part of that answer will soon be rolling down South Dakota's highways to a town near you.

Unruh, a strong supporter of South Dakota's abortion ban HB 1215 and president of the Sioux Falls-based Abstinence Clearinghouse, said the "Fleet for Little Feet" bus project is a long-time dream come true.
Fleet for Little Feet is a 40-foot long 1989 Prevost bus which was recently purchased to provide a number of services to women all across South Dakota, especially with women in rural areas in mind.
"I talked to some people about making it happen, but the doors never opened. But after the legislature voted to pass HB 1215, as I was driving home I got the feeling that we really needed to do this, to do whatever we could so women wouldn't feel they have to choose abortion."

Of course, if Referred Law 6 passes, women won't feel that they can choose abortion -- unless, God forbid, they do it themselves.

Fleet for Little Feet is currently under the umbrella of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, but will soon be an independent organization. FFLF will provide baby supplies (diapers, formula, bottles, baby clothes, baby furniture, high chairs, etc.), ultrasounds, counseling services including post-abortion counseling, information about sexuality issues, and even plans to perform a play called "Scar."

One shudders to think what that's about, coming from a woman who can say, "I'm giving women freedom. We are giving back the women what they really want. This is true feminism. ... I would like to have people instead put in their mind a woman who has an abortion who can no longer live with what she does, and instead takes a gun to her head. That's the image she needs to be putting out there right now, because that's what's happening all over America."

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You're doin' a heckuva job, Leslee.

[All citations not otherwise credited may be found in CREW's exhibits document [pdf link] in support of their IRS complaint, including tax returns for National Abstinence Clearinghouse and the Alpha Center, as well as various press reports.]

[Title photo: PBS]

We can only assume that Unruh doesn't intend to extend any assistance to "the rez" - since the culture probably tends to a low rate of relinquishment, and because the adoption value of non-European babies is low. I have always suspected that a fair percentage of "crisis pregnancy center" operators were running a white-baby adoption business on the down low.

It's fairly appalling that Unruh is cocky enough not to establish a parallel 501c4 allowing some lobbying - duh!

Ritter's (or his office manager's) response to transgender patients is unfortunately more common than not. And many trans-friendly, but inexperienced, sorts might take a look, say, yup you are bleeding and may need transfusion and definitely a surgical evaluation, go to X hosp and I will call surgeon Dr Y. Unfortunately, there are a significant number of sex-change quack surgeons out there.

Finally, because I feel catty, Leslee, lose those chins!

by NancyP on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 12:48:19 PM EST

I don't know Leslie, but I grew up going to the same rural South Dakota church as her husband.  The only thing that small fringe church didn't force on women was a burka, but where the standard procedure for the members was to tout values and morals to others, while never having any shame about not living up to them themselves.  That insidious place was really good about preaching freedom in one breath and then attacking civil liberties in the next.

It's interesting for me to notice that apparently not only is Leslies apparent past riddled with scams, but apparently her husband must feel comfortable with those scams because sadly he is a product of a family who indulged in criminal scams themselves.  

So, it really makes me furious to think that the irrational techniques of that terroristic church did not only taint several generations of it's members, but it may have also had some influence in the hijacking of the entire state.


by kajen on Tue Oct 24, 2006 at 05:47:26 PM EST

Dick Bott, owner of a Midwest radio network and owner of at least one FM station with >100,000 W (about as penetrant a signal as they come), had "Dr." Allen Unruh on his half-hour political show today. Note, the "Dr." is a chiropractic, but the show didn't explain that he has no general medical credentials let alone gynecologic credentials. As usual, Unruh follows other deceptive speakers by claiming that there are no restrictions on abortion in the final trimester. He uses the comparison to the Holocaust. He claims there is no informed consent. (If this were true, there would have been a lawsuit before now, since abortion clinics are targeted by movement lawyers who advertise for women who claim bad outcome). Dick Bott claims that flying in a doctor from Minnesota is like flying in a Mafia hitman from another city, and repeatedly calls the doctor a Mafia gangster hitman. (I could also say that Dick resembles a fly, because his last name is Bott, same as a livestock fly - little yellow eggs on legs of livestock, get groomed off by the animal, hatch in stomach.) But I have to say that I really resent the use of "Dr.", without further specification, in a topic involving medicine or human psychology, in order to fool the public that the speaker with a doctorate is really qualified in that field.  Unruh the chiropractic getting passed off as a medical doctor, Laura Schlessinger the animal physiology doctorate passed off as a clinical psychologist. Lies of omission - the kind that are difficult to nail, but often just as damaging.

by NancyP on Wed Oct 25, 2006 at 04:45:45 PM EST

Leslee didn't ask me what I really wanted, that's for damn sure!

I'm pro-life, but I'm against deliberately misteaching teenagers and leaving them unprepared for the real world.  We wouldn't dare teach driver's ed or chemistry the way she advocates.

I'm also against using lies and shady financial tactics as ways to spread a message and get something done.  And the lack of exceptions disturbs me, too.

By the way, did anyone else snicker at the title?

by GreenEyed Lilo on Wed Oct 25, 2006 at 11:01:05 AM EST
By the way, did anyone else snicker at the title?

But I'm glad somebody did.  ;-)

The lack of exceptions for rape and incest disturbs many people, although I'm not one of them.  In every place in the world where safe and legal abortion is criminalized, unsafe and illegal abortion kills women.

That is as true today as it was 100 years ago, and a woman shouldn't have to score an "A" on Bill Napoli's "sodomized religious virgin" purity test to avoid risking her health, or even her life -- and I am disturbed by the argument that she should.

Despite anti-choice allegations to the contrary, many young women suffer from illnesses -- ranging from lupus to diabetes to cancer to kidney failure -- that render their health even more fragile during pregnancy. In only one day last week, we had two patients in their 20's who were having abortions for health reasons, one undergoing chemo for bone cancer, and another who had just survived a stroke and brain surgery. Both their doctors had strongly advised terminating their pregnancies as soon as possible, but neither of them would be able to obtain that much-needed care under the South Dakota law.

The lack of an exception to preserve a woman's health is in its own category of sheer woman-punishing barbarism.

by moiv on Wed Oct 25, 2006 at 08:27:11 PM EST

the only anti-choice activist in the country even more blatantly over the line of legality than Frank Pavone. While Pavone at least acknowledges the existence of the law while thumbing his nose at it, Leslee Unruh merely presumes that she's above it -- and except for her 1987 slap on the wrist for what looked like very dubious adoption arrangements, to say the least, she's been right.

CREW has done a great job of investigation, and maybe this time someone at the IRS will take notice, even if she does have three gold-framed pictures of herself with George W. Bush on the wall of her publicly funded office.

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