Features

Labor and delivery

"Labor and delivery" Continued...

Issue: "Memorial Day 2005," May 28, 2005

The procedure in question is called a "labor and delivery" (L&D) abortion. In 2000, Jill Stanek, a registered nurse who worked in the labor and delivery department of Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., testified before Congress in support of the Born Alive Infant Protection Act of 2000. According to Ms. Stanek's testimony, Christ Hospital clinicians when performing L&D abortions medically induced premature cervical dilation, so that "the small, pre-baby drops out of the uterus, oftentimes alive." Ms. Stanek went on to tell the congressional panel about infants born alive and, limbs flailing weakly, left to die in the L&D ward's "soiled utility room."

Christ Hospital isn't the only institution performing L&D abortions. In March 2001, Washington C. Hill, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, gave a presentation in which he described the L&D procedure. The slideshow that accompanied his lecture noted that "success [was] dependent on fetal demise," while "complications" included "live birth."

Last week, Ms. Stanek told WORLD that hospitals and abortion clinics approach L&D abortion differently. "Hospitals don't kill the baby before they initiate the procedure. They have more of a mentality of a covert type of killing, of inducing prematurely and letting them die 'naturally,'" sometimes by allowing them to suffocate in the birth canal. Abortion clinics, however, try to kill the baby before inducing labor, often by injecting the baby's heart with digoxin.

The autopsy findings of Dr. Garavaglia, the medical examiner, verified Angele's claim that Harold Perper, the EPOC Clinic worker who induced her premature labor in preparation to abort Rowan, never injected the baby with digoxin. The examiner found no puncture wounds in the baby's chest. Neither did Dr. Garavaglia find any evidence that the baby had breathed after birth, leading her to report that "no forensic evidence" suggested he had been born alive.

But breathing is only one of four signs of live birth according to the Born Alive Infant Protection Act-any one of which mandates that medical workers provide lifesaving medical care. The other three life signs are a beating heart, a pulsating umbilical cord, or movement of voluntary muscles.

Angele, meanwhile, has said that Rowan both moved and grasped her finger with his hand-leading her to instantly regret her decision to abort. Her story did not surprise a former medical assistant who had been in training to do L&D abortions at Dr. Pendergraft's Hyde Park clinic. "When I was in training to do second trimester abortions, I was told that we would have [women] deliver into the toilet so that if the baby happens to be alive, that it drowns," said the former worker, who requested anonymity because she feared Dr. Pendergraft.

The medical assistant said she had never seen a baby born alive, but that co-workers at the clinic told her they had. "They would see them move or make a little sound, and other people would say that was involuntary. I didn't believe that and neither did they."

According to the medical assistant, all babies, dead or alive, were stuffed into red biohazard bags for later pickup by a medical waste service. She herself had delivered women with no doctor present, and disposed of babies' bodies that way. She added that no doctor was present during most deliveries, leaving medical assistants, and often unlicensed workers to care for patients. When she worked for Dr. Pendergraft, she said, she was one of two licensed workers among 10 on staff.

Florida's AHCA has uncovered late-term abortion problems with the clinic before. In a 2003 survey it said in 11 out of 11 third-trimester abortions sampled, the facility failed to have two physicians certify "to a reasonable degree of medical probability" that the abortions were necessary to save the life or preserve the health of the woman as required by Florida law. AHCA allowed the clinic to amend its records to "correct" the discrepancies.

During one incident, the medical assistant said, she delivered a 28-week-old baby dead while Dr. Pendergraft was out having lunch. "When I turned it over [on its side], the baby's hands went together like it was praying. . . . I was waiting for it to scream. . . . It looked so much like a living baby." That, she says, is when she decided she couldn't work there anymore.

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