A New Low in Heartlessness
Born alive, left to die
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. (1999)
Chicago Sun Times
, September 29, 1999
Reproduced with permission
One hospital nurse has complained that babies are
sometimes are left to struggle on their own for up six or seven hours until
death frees them from their torment. . . She said a newborn, with no one
around to hold it, once was left to die in a soiled linen closet--a charge
the hospital denies.
The argument that abortion doesn't kill a "person" centers on the
assertion that a fetus isn't a person until it is born.
So what do you call an abortion procedure in which the fetus is born
alive, then is left to die without medical care? Infanticide? Murder?
Most people would recoil at just the thought of such a gruesome, uncaring
procedure, but it is practiced at at least one Chicago suburban hospital.
When I called Christ Hospital and Medical Center in Oak Lawn, I frankly
expected a denial that it uses the procedure, but instead a spokeswoman
explained it is used for "a variety of second-trimester" abortions when the
fetus has not yet reached viability. That's up to 23 weeks of life, when a
fetus is considered not yet developed enough to survive on its own.
Instead of medical care, the child is provided "comfort care," wrapped in
a blanket and held when possible. The procedure is chosen by parents and
doctors instead of another method in which the fetus is "terminated" within
the womb by, for example, injection with a chemical that stops the heart.
Under Christ Hospital's procedure, which the spokeswoman said is used at
some other area hospitals, the abortion is induced with prostaglandin, a
drug that relaxes the cervix and allows for the fetus to be born.
Pro-life advocates have reacted with incredulity, calling the procedure
"live birth abortions." They wonder why, if a death certificate is required,
a birth certificate isn't. They wonder how such a brutal procedure can be
used at a faith-based hospital named after Christ. One hospital nurse has
complained that babies are sometimes are left to struggle on their own for
up six or seven hours until death frees them from their torment.
She said a newborn, with no one around to hold it, once was left to die
in a soiled linen closet--a charge the hospital denies. The hospital says
none of the abortions are "elective," but are done only to protect the life
or health of the mother or when the fetus is nonviable due to extreme
prematurity or lethal abnormalities. The nurse, Jill Stanek, says she has
seen some elective abortions done on newborns whose physical or mental
defects are deemed incompatible only with "quality of life."
Pro-life advocates have picketed the hospital. Karen Hayes, Illinois
state director of Concerned Women for America, has asked Attorney General
Jim Ryan to determine whether the practice violates the Illinois Hospital
Licensing Act and the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. Ryan in turn
asked the Department of Public Health to conduct an inquiry into the
practice. A Health Department spokesman said the law prohibits them from
discussing the matter until a new law takes effect Jan. 1.
Frankly, I wonder whether the procedure is any more brutal than other
abortion procedures, involving the cutting or poisoning of the fetus before
it is born. The fetus, according to studies, can feel pain. Those who
consider themselves compassionate ought to be appalled at the idea that any
death - inside or outside the womb - is a suitable, civilized solution.
But the procedure itself raises deeper questions. First, there's the
legality. It should be up to the attorney general and state's attorney to
determine whether the procedure is infanticide. Read Roe v. Wade
upside down and sideways, and I find nothing in it that legitimizes the
killing of a born child. If the law is unclear, the Legislature should make
Looming larger is the moral question. Partial-birth abortions supposedly
are acceptable because a small part of the child still remains in the birth
canal, and thus is considered unborn when it is killed. The Christ Hospital
case now makes it clear that legal rights and protections don't even begin
with birth, as many pro-choice advocates have staunchly argued. That even
alive, born human being has no right to life because someone else has
decided its chances at life are slim. Or that its life won't be worth
My only question to them is: To what hell is this leading us?