An anti-abortion group is questioning the credentials of a doctor that it claims is performing abortions in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Louisiana Right to Life sent a letter to the State Board of Medical Examiners this week highlighting past disciplinary actions the board has taken against Dr. Kevin Work.
"We would be surprised if the LSBME were to grant Dr. Work permission to work in outpatient abortion facilities, especially given his troubled history at outpatient abortion facilities, his failure to pass the Board Certification Examination in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and his own desire to pursue wound care," Right to Life executive director Benjamin Clapper wrote in the letter to the board. "It is our concern that public safety is in jeopardy."
The U.S. Supreme Court has stopped a law that threatened to shutter Louisiana abortion clinics from taking effect this week, but the fight ove…
Attempts to reach Work for comment were not successful. Delta Women’s Clinic in Baton Rouge declined comment, and Women’s Healthcare Center in New Orleans didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
State board records show that Work has been the subject of multiple board investigations in the past.
After a suspension, he was granted medical license reinstatement in 2017 for the purpose of wound care, after he was unable to pass board certification for obstetrics and gynecology. The Advocate has been unable to independently verify when he last terminated a pregnancy.
A federal judge has blocked Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban that served as the basis for a similar law in Louisiana.
"Dr. Kevin Work, by practicing in these two OBGYN-focused abortion facilities as a solo practitioner without another doctor on site, appears from publicly-accessible documents to be in clear violation of his probation," Clapper said in a statement. "With his troubled history of threatening the health and safety of Louisiana citizens at outpatient abortion facilities, we would be shocked if the State Board of Medical Examiners authorized Dr. Work to practice abortion."
State Board executive director Dr. Vincent Culotta said that the board had not yet received the letter from Right to Life, but would refer it to the investigations department as a complaint when received.
"I or any member of the agency are prohibited from commenting on such investigative matters," he said.
Louisiana, which tends to be among states with the toughest restrictions on abortion access, has three remaining abortion clinics — the New Orleans and Baton Rouge clinics addressed in the letter and another in Shreveport.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently blocked a Louisiana law that would require all abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals.
The questions about Work's credentials have already spawned debate in the Louisiana governor's race.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, has called for the firing of Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee over the matter. The state Board of Medical Examiners falls under the direction of LDH.
“Actions speak louder than words. If Gov. Edwards is truly pro-life, then he should take swift action by firing Gee and replacing her with a secretary who understands that no baby or mother should ever be subjected to the alleged heinous actions of Kevin Work,” Abraham said.
Edwards, a Democrat who took office in January 2016, has been vocal in his opposition to abortion. His 2015 campaign for governor included a television ad that highlighted his personal story of doctors urging that his wife, Donna, have an abortion because of potential health complications with their oldest child. The couple refused the medical advice.
Edwards also signed one of the nation's most restrictive abortion laws that will outlaw abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy in Louisiana if a similar law in Mississippi survives a court challenge.
"John Bel Edwards loves to talk about how he’s pro-life, but nothing within his administration shows that’s the case," Abraham said in his statement. "As a doctor, I’m appalled by what he’s allowing to happen within his administration; though, we shouldn’t be surprised."
Edwards' campaign noted that he's been lauded by Right to Life and other anti-abortion groups since he was in the state House and during his time as governor. The Louisiana Right to Life Federation has given Edwards a 100 percent rating since 2008 for his anti-abortion stances.
“I think the governor’s record stands for itself," said campaign spokesman Eric Holl. “He’s firmly pro-life.”
Holl said Edwards' anti-abortion position has been "very clear" and that the board would investigate the complaint, but he didn't directly address the call for him to fire Gee.
"This does not change what we believe is the governor's position as a pro-life governor," Clapper said Wednesday night about his organization's questions about Work. "We were just asking the board for more clarity on this situation."
Edwards was asked about the complaint filed against Work during his monthly call-in radio show on Wednesday but said he had only recently heard about it.
A spokeswoman for the governor's office noted that LDH doesn't directly deal with medical licenses, and leaves that function to the state Board of Medical Examiners.
"The allegations against Dr. Kevin Work are being taken very seriously by the governor and the State Board of Medical Examiners," spokeswoman Shauna Sanford said. "Dr. Work was first licensed in Louisiana in 2001 and at the time of the meeting when he was reinstated in 2017, Gov. Edwards had only made two of the seven appointments to the Board. The other members were appointed by the previous administration."
"Dr. Work was reinstated in 2017 with a restricted license and to the Board’s knowledge he has complied with all of those requirements. However, these allegations are going to be turned over to the Board’s investigative division and the outcome will be determined by those findings," she added.