3-year term in abortion cases

A Granada Hills office manager who ran six family planning clinics across Southern California was sentenced to three years and four months in prison Friday for performing abortions on women, some of whom were not given pain medication during the procedures.

Bertha Pinedo Bugarin, 49, who has no medical license, sobbed uncontrollably as she told Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Sam Ohta that she felt deep remorse for what she had done and begged the court’s forgiveness. “I have never been more ashamed,” Bugarin said as her adult daughter and elderly mother wept in the audience behind her.

According to court documents, Bugarin dressed in a doctor’s white lab coat and performed abortions on 16 women who underwent the procedures thinking they were in the care of medical professionals.

Prior to sentencing, Deputy Dist. Atty. Carolyn Nakaki told the judge that Bugarin deserved a five-year prison sentence because her conduct was callous and cruel, noting that some of the procedures performed on patients were done without “any sort of pain medication and anesthesia.”


Bugarin served as the office manager for medical clinics in Baldwin Park, Panorama City, Los Angeles, Santa Ana, Huntington Park and Chula Vista. Her duties included preparing schedules, providing equipment and handling salaries.

In the courtroom Friday, Bugarin’s mother clutched a tissue while the defendant’s fiance stoically looked on. Bugarin’s 22-year-old daughter pleaded with the judge to spare her mother a prison sentence because she is the primary caregiver for her family, which includes a 7-year-old child with diabetes.

“Since I can remember my mom has been nothing less than a generous person,” Evagelina Bernal said between sobs. “She always said she wanted me to see that not everyone is as fortunate as I.”

“This is a very sad case all the way around,” Ohta said. “I do not see before me an evil person or a hardened criminal. What I see before me is a defendant who is a person who attempted to lead an industrious and successful life.”

Bugarin is scheduled to be sentenced next month in San Diego in connection with another case in which she was convicted of nine counts of performing unlicensed abortions and one count of grand theft. Her sister Raquel Bugarin, 51, was also convicted of performing unlicensed abortions and was sentenced in December to three years probation and 500 hours of community service.


Times staff writer Jack Leonard contributed to this report.