Testimony of Jill L. Stanek, RN1
U. S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution Hearing
"Born Alive Infants Protection Act of 2001"
July 12, 2001
Warning: the description below is graphic and upsetting to most people. Do not continue if you are unwilling to suffer some emotional trauma.
I am a Registered Nurse who has worked in the Labor & Delivery Department at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, for the past six years. In the year that has elapsed since I testified before your committee regarding the same bill under discussion today, I have continued to work at the same hospital in the same position.
Christ Hospital performs abortions on women in their second or even third trimesters of pregnancy. Sometimes the babies being aborted are healthy, and sometimes they are not. The abortion technique that Christ Hospital and other hospitals use, called "induced labor abortion," sometimes results in infants being aborted alive, because throughout this particular abortion procedure the fetus is not killed in the uterus. The focus of this method is to forcibly dilate a woman's cervix so that she will prematurely deliver a baby who dies during the birth process or soon afterward.
The cervix is the opening at the bottom of the uterus that normally stays closed until a woman is about 40 weeks pregnant and goes into labor. There are a few ways to cause the cervix to open early. At Christ Hospital the most common way this is done is by the physician inserting a medication called Cytotec into the birth canal close to the cervix. Cytotec irritates the cervix. The FDA does not approve Cytotec for this use. It is a drug that is supposed to be taken by mouth to help control ulcers. The manufacturer of Cytotec issued a public letter in August 2000 warning that this drug may be harmful to women if used to induce labor, up to and including causing the uterus to rupture and causing death. But Christ Hospital continues to use Cytotec for pregnancy terminations.
After the cervix is prematurely dilated, the small, preterm baby drops out of the uterus, sometimes alive. In the event that a baby is aborted alive, he or she is given what my hospital calls "comfort care." "Comfort care" involves wrapping the baby in a blanket and offering him or her to the parents to hold until the baby dies. If parents do not want to hold their baby, as I have observed is most often the case, it is left to staff to care for the baby. Up until recently, staff options were to hold the baby until death or put the baby in our Soiled Utility Room if we got busy or if the baby lingered too long. Indeed, it is not uncommon for one of these babies to live for an hour or two or even longer. Last year alone, of the 16 babies that Christ Hospital states were aborted, I am aware of four who were born alive. Each of these babies - two boys and two girls - lived between 1-1/2 and 3 hours. At Christ Hospital one of these babies once lived for almost an entire eight-hour shift. At least two of the second-trimester babies who were aborted last year at Christ Hospital were completely healthy.
One night, a nursing co-worker was taking an aborted Down's syndrome baby who was born alive to our Soiled Utility Room because his parents did not want to hold him, and she did not have time to hold him. I could not bear the thought of this suffering child dying alone in a Soiled Utility Room, so I cradled and rocked him for the 45 minutes that he lived. He was 21 to 22 weeks old, weighed about ˝ pound, and was about 10 inches long. He was too weak to move very much, expending any energy he had trying to breathe. Toward the end he was so quiet that I couldn't tell if he was still alive unless I held him up to the light to see if his heart was still beating through his chest wall. After he was pronounced dead, we folded his little arms across his chest, wrapped him in a tiny shroud, and carried him to the hospital morgue where all of our dead patients are taken.
Other co-workers have told me about incidences of live aborted babies whom they have cared for. A Support Associate told me about an aborted baby who was left to die on the counter of the Soiled Utility Room wrapped in a disposable towel. This baby was accidentally thrown into the garbage, and when they later were going through the trash to find the baby, the baby fell out of the towel and on to the floor. A nurse coworker told me about an abortion she was involved in where the baby was supposed to have spina bifida but was born with an intact spine. She said that what actually happened was that there was an incompletely formed twin who appeared as a mass on his brother's back during an ultrasound. The nurse told me that the father came into the Soiled Utility Room to see his son, took one look and saw that he had been involved in aborting his completely healthy baby, and turned and left the room without saying a word. I was recently told about a situation by a nursing coworker who said, "I can't stop thinking about it." She had a patient who was just over 23 weeks pregnant, and she was not going to be able to complete her pregnancy to term. The baby was healthy and had up to a 39% chance of survival, according to national statistics. But the patient chose to abort. The baby was born alive. If the mother had wanted everything done for her baby, there would have been a neonatologist, pediatric resident, neonatal nurse, and respiratory therapist present for the delivery, and the baby would have been taken to our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for specialized care. Instead, the only personnel present for this delivery were an obstetrical resident and my coworker. After delivery the baby, who showed early signs of thriving, was merely wrapped in a blanket and kept in the Labor & Delivery Department until she died 2-1/2 hours later. Just three weeks after this baby was aborted, another mother came to the hospital under similar circumstances, carrying an identically aged baby and was offered the same options. But she said that she wanted her baby. And so present at her delivery were the aforementioned NICU team, and for the two days that I tracked her, that little girl lived.
When I testified before you last July, another nurse who worked at Christ Hospital, Allison Baker, also testified. Allison was not asked back today due to the new limit on the number of witnesses allowed. But last year Allison described walking into the Soiled Utility Room on two separate occasions to find live aborted babies left naked on a scale and the metal counter. She told about the patient that she herself had who didn't know that her baby might be aborted alive and who did not then want to hold him. After he was taken to the Soiled Utility Room she kept asking, "Is he dead yet? Is he dead yet?" (This testimony is being entered today into the Congressional Record.)
Lest you think that Christ Hospital's live birth abortion practice is uncommon, I am entering into Congressional Record today literature from a March 30, 2001, symposium sponsored by Waukesha Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin that was "reviewed and is acceptable" by the American Academy of Family Physicians, wherein Dr. Washington Hill writes that a "complication" of a mid-trimester labor induction is a "live birth." The American College of Obstetricians and gynecologists also gave credit hours to physicians for taking this course.
After I testified last year, Christ Hospital stopped putting aborted babies to die in the Soiled Utility Room. This past December it unveiled its "Comfort Room." This is a small, nicely decorated room complete with a First Foto machine in case parents want pictures of their aborted babies, baptismal supplies if parents would like their aborted babies baptized, and a foot printer and baby bracelets if parents would like keepsakes of their aborted babies. There is also a wooden rocker to rock these babies to death. (Pictures entered into Congressional Record.)
When Christ Hospital opened its Comfort Room, I was honestly galled. It became clearer to me than ever that a law must be enacted that specifies that all babies born alive are indeed humans and American citizens with civil rights to equal protection. This is a point that is obviously not clear to extremists in our great country who believe that the right to obtain an abortion must be extended to include the right to commit infanticide. If a hospital named "Christ" does not willingly stop committing infanticide but handles public and legal scrutiny by merely trying to make those whose lives they're snuffing out more "comfortable," I have grave concerns about children whose lives are being ended at abortion clinics and hospitals where there is no spotlight of attention.
Once a fetus is aborted, the pregnancy has been terminated. But when what emerges on the other of the vaginal vault is alive, "it" by medical definition is no longer a fetus but is now a "neonate" or "baby," with rights as human beings and American citizens that must be zealously protected. If we all cannot at least agree that civil rights begin at birth, then we will have to initiate the debate as to when after delivery a living person does begin to have rights, and a Pandora's Box will have been opened, the depths of which none of can possibly ascertain today.
The Department of Health & Human Services wrote me that, "civil rights laws do not cover abortion procedures or the rights of newborns." The Illinois Attorney General determined that "there is no basis for legal action by this office against the Hospital… at this time" in regard to Christ Hospital's labor induction abortion practices. (Both letters entered into Congressional Record.) Alan Keyes recently observed, "If we reflect for a moment upon the example of the Declaration of Independence, we will remember that sometimes even self-evident truths need to be declared." I think it is obvious that this is one of those times.
- Testimony of Jill L. Stanek, RN. U. S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution Hearing, "Born Alive Infants Protection Act of 2001", July 12, 2001
Last Modified May 13, 2006