Nursing Journal: Babies Sometimes Born Alive after Abortions

Note this quote from The Journal of Clinical Nursing 2002, article entitled “Working with Women Experiencing Mid-Trimester Termination of Pregnancy, the Integration of Nursing and Feminist Knowledge in the Gynecological Setting” pgs 273-279:

“In the case of late termination, the death of the fetus before delivery, though usual, is not inevitable except in rare cases of extreme physical abnormality…At times the fetus will actually attempt to breathe or move its limbs, which makes the experience extremely distressing for nurses. Also, whereas the woman will probably go through this process once in her lifetime, nurses may go through it several times a year or even in the same week.”

Author and lecturer Annette D. Huntington, BN, PhD. seems to think these live births are a regular occurrence.

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The Story of Baby Rowan

“Angele” was pregnant and in a bad situation. She had been seeing a Christian counselor for months, and they encouraged her to have an abortion in the second trimester.

This perfectly formed 22 week old baby was aborted at Orlando Women’s Center in Orlando, Florida in April 2005. According to this child’s mother, who wishes to be identified only by her first name, Angele, he was born alive. Here is Angele’s story, told in her own words.

“I counseled with a pretty and petite younger black woman who has a small son. Her name began with an L. I do not remember her full name. She explained the process of laminaria insertion. I asked her other questions such as, will they inject saline or urea into the amniotic sac? I was concerned that it would hurt the baby as it generally (from what I’ve read) burns the skin and lungs. I expressed my concerns that he not suffer or feel anything.”

“The injection burned a lot as it went in. … The discomfort was distracting. I still felt the ‘lams’ as they were being inserted. Dr. Perper told me to relax my muscles and noted that my cervix was slightly soft. I asked him what that meant and he said it was good.”

“I wanted it to be as humane and painless as possible for my son. They told me they would guide a needle directly into his heart and it would put him to sleep, and he wouldn’t feel anything.”

However, for reasons not entirely known, the digoxin that would have stopped the fetal heart was never injected. After putting in the lamanaria, the doctor sent her to the hotel to sleep and told her to come back the following day. “My friend and I took a taxi back to our hotel. We rested up a bit, changed and walked to a nearby restaurant for dinner. That night, all night off and on I could feel the baby still moving. I told my friend this worried me. I remember thinking it must take time to slow down and stop his heart. I was still a little ‘out of it’ from the medicine and just figured I must have been mistaken about how the digoxin was supposed to work. He was still moving when I went to sleep. I was concerned and started to call the after-hours line, but again second-guessed myself.” When Angele came in the next day, her contractions had already started. She was taken to a cold delivery room. “I was directed to ‘the room.’ I had been there for a moment the day before and thought it to be a waiting room for family or driving companions. It had a leather sofa and a fabric sofa, both with a white blanket stretched across the seat cushions, a small television and a few magazines.” “My contractions became stronger and more frequent very rapidly. I called for [staff member] Violene, thinking it was time to be moved into another room and wanting to know if I could have anything for pain. She said that medication would stop the contractions and for me to stay right there and again, she would be back. I told her it was almost time; I could just tell, and she told me I was not at all ready. She left. I began to bleed.”

“I came back to the sofa, (they both really smelled awful), wrapped up in the wet and sour-smelling blanket, then decided it was better without it. I rocked back and forth on my hands and knees, trying to hold the heating pad to my stomach to both relieve the pain and try to stay warm. I was looking down and saw little smears and spots of dried blood on the floor and an old cotton ball with blood on it by the fabric-covered sofa across from me. Noticing how dirty it was and how no one was in the room or even nearby in the hallway began to make me nervous and uncomfortable. I went right back to the powder room and began to try to push a lot. I thought it might help since I was told I was not nearly ready to deliver.”

“In one agonizing push, I felt and heard something come out. Then immediately another push. I was weak. I just held my head in my hands for a moment. Then I decided to stand up. I looked. There was my baby, the whitish cord and what I thought surely must be the placenta.

“I started sobbing and lay down in the floor. I stared and stared at my son. I was horrified that I had just had him in a commode.”

“His right leg moved. He curled up a bit like he was cold; I screamed for Violene! No one came. I managed to get to the doorway, pants down, blood everywhere and yelled again. I went back to my baby. I heard her say she’d be right there.

“I showed her Rowan, told her he was alive and moving and to call 911! She took a quick look, said he’s not moving now and she’d be back to take care of things while walking out. I called her again. I was touching Rowan softly and he moved again. I called her back. Rowan jumped, I think startled by the loud sound of my calling for help. I showed her that he was moving and alive. I begged her to hurry and call 911, now!

“She said for me to lie down and she would get her supervisor. No one came.

“I continued to try to caress and comfort my son by rubbing his back, tummy and chest. I stroked his precious little head and kept telling him I loved him and we would be OK. I was afraid to move him because I did not want to do anything that might end up hurting him. I pushed my pinky into his little hand and his fingers curled around me. Still no one was coming. I was terrified but trying not to let him know I was scared. I kept telling him what a beautiful son he was and that we were going to be safe soon.

“I left Rowan for two seconds, grabbed the phone, jumped back into the bathroom to be with him, calling my girlfriend ‘Sharon’ at the same time,” she wrote. “I told her Rowan was alive and no one was helping us to please call an ambulance to the clinic immediately and hung up.

“I stayed beside Rowan talking to him, telling him how strong he was being and how proud I was of him. I told him God must really want us to be together for him to make it through everything he had just been through and that Mommy was so sorry but so happy to have a chance to love him. I told him he was a strong little miracle and that I couldn’t wait for him to meet his brother and sister. I just kept touching him, trying to warm him with my hands and talking to him so he would not feel any more afraid than he already must.

“Then Rowan stopped moving.”

“He was perfect, slightly pale and a little translucent. His eyebrows were pale but wide and well-defined. You could see little hairs on his face and head. He had the tiniest little fingernails and toenails. I noticed they already had a little bit of growth. His mouth was lovely. He was this perfectly formed one pound, one ounce human being. He was beautiful. He had been so strong.

“I wrapped him in [a] blue pad instead of one of the wet blankets. I just kept kissing him and telling him I loved him so much. I told him I was sorry I couldn’t get anyone to help us and I was so sorry for ever coming here.”

At that point, Angele says, staff member Debbie came in a demanded to have the baby. Angele refused.

“Oddly, she came back within two or three minutes,” Angele wrote. “She was more irritated and insistent than before. I was irritated that she was rushing me and that she did not seem to be in such a hurry when Rowan was alive. Where was she when Violene was supposedly going to get her and we needed her help? She asked again to take him. I flatly refused her. I could tell she was angry. I did not care. I told her that I expected her to leave me alone so I could finish praying with Rowan and that we needed privacy.”

“Surprisingly, Angele said, the police came to the clinic instead of an ambulance.

“Angele says her friend overheard a staff member saying she did not see the baby move, a contention that angered the distressed mother.

“I saw Violene one more time, and I was furious after what ‘Sharon’ told me,” Angele wrote. “I spoke to her telling her how little I appreciated them telling the police my child was not alive. I stared hard at her and said, ‘Violene you saw him moving. That is when you were supposedly going to get your manager and “take care of it.” You stayed away until Rowan died. I don’t care what you say, you and I both know he was very much alive. We know the truth.’ She said nothing and turned away.

“They gave ‘Sharon’ a bag with my medicine and we left. Oddly enough, they no longer needed me to be seen by the doctor at 2 p.m.,” Angele wrote, saying the staff just wanted her “to leave as quickly as possible.”

“The first two times I told Violene to call 911, I thought she would. It hadn’t crossed my mind that she wouldn’t…. It finally dawned on me: They’re not going to help me save my son.”

Source: Ron Strom, “Abortion Staff Ignores Baby Born Alive?” Sunday, July 9, 2006.

The local coroner refused to autopsy the body of the baby. An autopsy performed later by Dr. Garavaglia could not conclusively verify that the baby was born alive; however, the doctor concluded that it was “probable” that the heart was still beating after the baby was born. Her report did prove that the clinic’s contention that the baby could not have been born alive because he had been injected with digoxin was false. As Angele said, the baby was never injected with chemicals prior to his birth.

(After Abortion Autopsy Can’t Rule Out Live Birth- Shows Abortion Clinic Claim False” 5/3/05 by Lifesite)

More pictures of Baby Rowan:

The article “Death By Drowning” from World by Lynn Vincent 6/18/05 referred to an interview with a paramedic who responded to the call about Baby Rowan. According to this paramedic, he and his partner were convinced not to go inside the clinic because one worker (probably Violene) told him that there had been no live birth.

“A patient had merely “passed some tissue”….and that “the physician had the situation under control.”

Paramedics had come to the clinic because Angele had called a friend on her cell phone and begged her to call 911 on her behalf. Here is a transcript of this call:

OFD: Orlando Fire Department.


OFD: Thank you what is the address of the emergency?

Friend: 609 West Virginia Street. The EPOC Center.

OFD: 609 West Virginia? One moment please.

Friend: Let’s see … I don’t have the address on me. A friend of mine called form the abortion clinic and her baby was born alive.

OFD: Okay. Do you know the closest intersection. Did she call you on a phone?

Friend: Right, she called me off her cell phone.

OFD: Okay. Did you ask her to call 911? Because …

Friend: She asked me to call because she was back there with no kind of … They were just telling her to leave it … this is gross but … leave it in the toilet, you know, and let it die.

OFD: Is she in a house?

Friend: She’s in the clinic, the abortion clinic.

OFD: Okay.

Friend: Correct. EPOC. Center. Oh my God! I’m freaking out!

OFD: Did she call from a cell phone?

Friend: She called from her cell phone.

OFD: Okay. What did you say? She was having … the baby just came out?

Friend: Right. She as getting an abortion and the baby came out and it was still living. And they’re wanting it to die.

OFD: Okay. And she’s inside the clinic?

Friend: Correct.

OFD: Okay. Let me give a call to the county. Hold on. Actually, do not hang up. Just hold on the line, okay?

Friend: Okay.


OCFR: Orange County Fire and Rescue

OFD: Hi can you look up a couple of addresses for me. I have a 911 caller on the line with a baby. She’s in an abortion clinic and the baby is born and it’s still alive. They don’t know for how long.

OCFR: What would we be going for?

OFD: Uh, it would be for an obstetrics. It’s a female that’s in the center, I guess for … it’s an abortion clinic but the baby was born, and it’s alive at this moment and they don’t know for how long.



OFD: Orlando Fire Department.

Friend: I need an ambulance to 609 Virginia Drive in Orlando.

OFD: 609 Virginia Drive?

Friend: Correct.

OFD: Okay, and what going on there?

Friend: Uh, it’s the women’s clinic. Uh, my friend was having an abortion and the baby was born alive.

OFD: Okay, you said the baby was born?

Friend: Correct.

OFD: Okay, hold on one second for me.

Friend: Okay.

OFD: 609 Virginia Drive?

Friend: Correct.

OFD: What’s the business name?

Friend: Uh, EPOC Clinic for Women. E-P-O-C.

OFD: EPOC Clinic for Women? Okay. Is there a phone in the building?

Friend: Yes.

OFD: Okay, can you call me from that or just pick up that phone and dial 911?

Friend: Uh, well I’m not there. She’s there. She called me and they’re not allowing her to use the phone there.

OFD: Okay.

Friend: But they’re wanting the baby to die.

OFD: She wants the baby to live?

Friend: Correct.

OFD: Okay.

Friend: She was expecting it to not be alive, and it is.

OFD: Okay. I’m going to get help out there.

Friend: Okay.

OFD: Just stay on the line with me.

Friend: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

OFD: Okay the baby’s been born?

Friend: Correct:

OFD: How long ago, do you know?

Friend: Uh, she just called me. It wasn’t 10 minutes ago. And said that the baby was born and it was alive and they were wanting her to leave it in the toilet. And uh … just let it die. And uh … she’s not wanting that to happen.

OFD: Okay, we do have help on the way like I said. We’re going try and call the center as well as have someone on the way.

Friend: Thank you very much.

OFD: Your welcome.


OFD: Hi. Can you respond with us to 609 Virginia Drive?

Ambulance: For?

OFD: Uh, this is supposed … This is the EPOC Center E-P-O-C Center for Women. We are going for a lady that is in an abortion clinic. She says that the baby has been born ten minutes ago, but the center wants to kill the baby and will not let the mother call 911.

Ambulance: Woah!

OFD: Uhm hmm! So we have a third party calling because the mother did call 911 … uh …call a family member.

Ambulance: Okay, so we are the way now. Alright. okay.

OFD: Bye!

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The Born Alive Infants Protection Act

The Born Alive Infants Protections Act was signed into law by President Bush.

The Act stated that any baby born alive after an abortion must receive appropriate medical care. If signs of life are present, such an infant would have to be cared for. The practice of simply discarding these children is forbidden (though not always stopped) by this Act.

The Act defines the terms “person” and “born alive” in the following ways:

(a) In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the words “person”, “human being”, “child”, and “individual” should include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.

(b) As used in this section, the term “born alive”, with respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the complete expulsion or extraction from his or her mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after such expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, caesarian section, or induced abortion.

Public Law 107-207

U.S. Code

Title 1, Chapter 1: Rules of Construction

Section 8.

As simple as this may be, Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) opposed the Act because it was not specific enough. He also requested that the court not “proceed so quickly” and that the bill might “require medical professionals to provide treatment that is not mandated under existing and future applicable standards of care.”

Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), testified before the Subcommittee that providing legal personhood to premature infants who survive abortions:

“is an attempt to do what the U.S. Supreme Court has strictly forbidden over and over–it unduly restricts a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy.”

From “Senate Passes Born-Alive Infants Protection Act,” National Right to Life, at:  NARAL. Pro-Choice America issued a press release denouncing the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. Here is the text:


Anti-Choice Lawmakers Hold Hearing on So-Called “Born Alive Infants Protection Act”

WASHINGTON, DC- The basic tenants of Roe v Wade were the subject of yet another anti-choice assault today, as the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution held a hearing on H.R. 492, the so-called “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act.” The Act would effectively grant legal personhood to a pre-viable fetus- in direct conflict with Roe- and would inappropriately inject prosecutors and lawmakers into the medical decision-making process. The bill was was introduced by well-known abortion opponent Rep. Charles Canady (R – FL) and has been endorsed by the National Right to Life Committee.

Roe V. Wade clearly states that women have a right to choose prior to fetal viability. After viability, Roe allows states to prohibit or restrict abortion as long as exceptions are made to protect the life and health of the woman. In proposing this bill, anti-choice lawmakers are seeking to ascribe rights to fetuses “at any stage of development,” thereby directly contradicting one of Roe’s basic tenants.

The bill also attempts to inject Congress in what should be personal and private decisions about medical treatment in difficult and painful situations where a fetus has no chance for survival. It could also interfere with the sound practice of medicine by spurring physicians to take extraordinary steps in situations where their efforts may be futile and when their medical judgment may indicate otherwise.

This is not the first time we’ve seen Rep. Canady and his anti-choice colleagues attempt to chip away at the foundation of Roe v Wade in just this manner. Last year, the same subcommittee held a hearing on the so-called “Unborn Victim of Violence Act” … With all these bills, anti-choice lawmakers purposefully set America on a path that they believe will ultimately lead to the overturn of Roe V Wade. In keeping with this goal, the subcommittee has put the “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act” on the fast track and has scheduled a markup for Friday, July 21, 2000.”

NOW later flip-flopped and claimed to no longer oppose the law.

An article on Planned Parenthood’s website, “PP Profiles of 15 Anti-Choice Organizations” cites National Right to Life as one of the “anti-choice” groups threatening women’s rights. Supporting the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act is included in a list of Right to Life’s crimes. Not only that, but Planned Parenthood’s voter guide includes information on every congressman who voted on ‘anti-choice’ legislation, including the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act.

And the Feminist Majority Foundation published an article on their newswire in September of 2000 entitled “Anti-Choice Bill Passes House.” Here are some excerpts from that article:

“On Sept. 25, the House of Representatives passed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, a measure that would treat as a person under the law a fetus that is breathing when it leaves the womb, even if during an abortion procedure….Pro-choice activists call the bill an attempt to chip away at the rights women gained in the 1972 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. Rosemary Dempsey, Washington DC Director of the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy called the bill “deceptive, extreme and unconstitutional.” She noted that “The bill proposes a definitional change to the entire United States Code, clouded in a deceptive scheme to denounce the principles guaranteed in Roe v. Wade and confirmed by the recent Stenberg v. Carhart Supreme Court decision.” The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals also opposed this act. From the article “Bush signs Born-Alive Infants Protection Act” in ARHP Update September 2002: “On August 5th, President Bush signed the so-called “Born-Alive Infants Protection Act” (HR2175) in a ceremony in Pittsburgh, PA, which will ensure federal rights for all human fetuses that are born alive, including live births that occur during an abortion procedure…The bill will amend the legal definition of “person”, “human being”, “child”, and “individual” to include “any human being who is born alive” and will consider a fetus to be born alive if its “completely outside the mother’s body and has a beating heart or shows other signs of life.” Although the bill’s language states that it is not meant to “affirm or deny” the legal rights and status of fetuses, abortion-rights activists feel that this, and similarly proposed bills, try to give the fetus personhood.”

These pro-choice groups would allow the killing of born babies by neglect or direct action rather than let the impression be given that a “fetus” is a person. Not even the baby below would be considered a “person” if he were born alive after an abortion procedure if these organizations had their way.

Even more strident is an article in the Pro-Choice Press, a publication of BC’s Pro-Choice Action Network.

Here is an excerpt from this article.

Autumn / Winter 2002 Issue

“Right Wing Extremists Lead the Free World”

Women Drowning in a Flood of Anti-Choice Measures

“But even the Democratic Senate enacted an unnecessary anti-choice law in July, called the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act. The law supposedly will protect the lives of infants who may be born alive after an abortion – President Bush signed the law in August with a strong anti-abortion speech, thereby exposing the anti-choice sentiment behind the bill.”

It’s clear that certain pro-choice organizations will not let a living, breathing baby stand between them and their support for abortion on demand at any time for any reason.

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“This Baby Won’t Stop Breathing” Abortion Doctor Strangles Inconvenient Child

Mary W., a high school student, was examined by an ob/gyn and found to be 28 weeks pregnant. This ob/gyn counseled that Mary’s pregnancy was too advanced for an abortion, and advised Mary to consider an adoption plan. Somehow, Mary learned that Dr. William Baxter Waddill would be willing to do an abortion, which he initiated by saline injection on March 2 at Westminster Community Hospital in California.

Mary’s baby, a 2 lb, 8 oz infant girl, was expelled that evening and discovered by a nurse who was attending Mary.

The nurse clamped the cord and was about to put the baby in a bucket for transport to the pathology lab, when she noticed that the baby was moving and crying. Another nurse suggested putting the baby in the bucket anyway. Yet another nurse testified that she had seen the infant move but said nothing about this to avoid distressing Mary. The first nurse summoned the nursing supervisor, who noted that the baby was pink and making sucking motions. She sent the baby to the nursery and summoned Waddill.

A nurse at the nursery cleared the infant’s throat, placed her in an isolette, and charted a heartrate of 88. A neonatal ICU nurse began providing respiratory assistance on the little girl, and asked for help performing an intubation, which is routine NICU care.

Waddill arrived and dismissed all the others from room. Several witnesses heard Waddill instruct staff “not to do a goddam thing for the baby.”


A tape was entered into evidence of a call from Waddill to a pediatrician, Dr. Ronald Cornelsen. The tape had Waddill telling Dr. Cornelsen to come to the hospital, because the law required a pediatrician to assist when a newborn was in distress. Waddill said, “If we all tell the same story, there will be no trouble. … So long as we stand together, no one anywhere can make any accusations anywhere. … Do not get squirrely. Just tell them exactly as we’ve discussed. Just say you went in, there was no heartbeat and you left.”

Dr. Cornelsen testified that when he arrived at the hospital the infant, a baby of about 31 weeks gestation, was breathing and had a heart rate of 60-70. There were bruises on her neck. Dr. Cornelson said that Waddill told him, “Sorry to get you in this mess. We had a baby that came out live from a saline abortion, and it can’t live!” Dr. Cornelsen testified that he saw Waddill press on the infant’s neck, saying, “I can’t find the goddam trachea,” and “This baby won’t stop breathing.” Dr. Cornelsen testified, “I said, ‘Why not just leave the baby alone?’ He said, ‘This baby can’t live or it will be a big mess.'” Waddill requested potssium choloride, for an injection to stop the baby’s heart, but Dr. Cornelsen wouldn’t let the nurse get it. Dr. Cornelsen said Waddill also asked for a bucket to drown the baby in.

Waddill claimed that he hadn’t strangled the baby, that she had died of natural causes before he even arrived at the hospital to deal with the delivery. He also said that all of his actions were done in the best interests of the mother and the baby.

A pathologist examined the baby’s lungs and concluded that she’d been alive for at least 30 minutes. The neck trauma was “consistent with manual pressure, and inconsistent with saline.” This pathologist also testified that only the infant’s placenta and small bowel seemed to have been “significantly affected by the saline,” meaning that the baby had not suffered fatal injury from exposure to the saline in-utero. The autopsy found the cause of the baby’s death to have been “manual strangulation.” The baby’s gestational age was determined to have been 29 to 31 weeks at autopsy.

All told, over 13 weeks of testimony, the witnesses described three unsuccessful attempts by Waddill to strangle Mary’s baby, and the fourth, successful, attempt. But during deliberations, the jury asked for clarification of a procedural point. A few phone calls to clarify the point led to the discovery by the attorneys and judge that there was a definition of “death” in the California health and safety code that the jury had not been informed of. Because the testimony hadn’t directly addressed this particular definition of “death,” the jurors became hopelessly deadlocked over whether Waddill’s actions, though clearly causing what laymen would consider the “death” of the baby, had caused what the law would call the “death” of the baby. The judge had to delcare a mistrial. A second jury was also deadlocked, and the charges against Waddill were eventually dismissed.

Mary later sued Waddill, saying that he’d never told her that her baby might been born alive, and that she never would have consented to the abortion had she known this was possible. She said that Waddill “willfully and unlawfully used force and violence upon the person of the baby [W.] … causing the decedent baby [W.] to die.”

Waddill continued to perform abortions in California, and as of 2000 was working for National Abortion Federation member Family Planning Associates Medical Group, a chain where the following women and girls suffered fatal abortions: Deanna Bell, Chanelle Bryant, Patricia Chacon, Laniece Dorsey, Josefina Garcia, Denise Holmes, Susan Levy, Christine Mora, Kimberly Neil, Joyce Ortenzio, Mary Pena, and Tami Suematsu.

It should be noted that Waddill was on trial for only one of the three saline abortions he committed that morning at the same hospital. The other two apparently did the job effectively,

(Sources: Omaha World-Herald 10-19-79; LA Times Magazine 1-7-80; Philadelphia Inquirer 8-2-81; Orange County Superior Court Case No. C-37815, and Case No. 28-84-14; “The Ordeal of a Divided Jury,” Time, May 22, 1978)

Credit: Christina Dunigan

Here is a picture of a child in the womb at 28 weeks.

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The Abortion Baby That Lived

Nurse Joan S. Smith tells the following story:

“It was a night I’ll never forget. It was 11 pm and my colleague Karen and I “scrubbed in” at the beginning of our shift in the Special Care Nursery of a large teaching hospital….Without warning, a harried nurse rushed into the doorway.

Her white uniform seemed out of place in the area of the hospital where only surgical scrubs are worn. “Here, take this,” she said, thrusting into my hands a small silver specimen pan covered with a paper towel.

“What is it?” I asked, realizing by the look on her face that something was very wrong.

“It’s an abortion at 22 weeks gestation, delivered on our floor. But it’s alive,” she explained, then turned on her heel and was gone. I removed the paper towel to see the perfectly formed body of a baby boy curled up in the cold metal pan….Karen came over to help. “This happens every so often,” she explained sadly. She had trained at the hospital and worked there for over 15 years.

[After a doctor Joan called simply told her to do nothing but fill in the time of death for the baby] Stoking his tiny arm, I tried to sort out my jumble of emotions. I felt powerless, angy, and overwhelmed by sadness. How could our medical system be so full of ironies? Here I was surrounded by medical technology, which was of no avail to this tiny child. I wondered if the parents even were told that their son had been admitted to the hospital as a live birth with footprints taken, and identification number and band given, a physician notified of his birth- yet all of this merely an unpredicted complication of a routine abortion. It took nearly four hours until that tiny heart slowed to a stop. With tears in my eyes, I wrapped his body for the morgue. This was all of a life this child would ever know. He would never know the warmth of a mother’s embrace. No one would ever celebrate his birth. He would never even be given a name.

This child, named Kelly, was born at 21 weeks and survived. She is pictured here at one week younger than the baby Joan held.

Source: Joan E. Smith “To Live or Let Die” Easton Publishing Company, 1991

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My Hardest Night: A Nurse’s Story

There have been many difficult nights in my 12 years as a registered nurse. Deaths happen in medicine. Sometimes they are anticipated, sometimes they come unexpectedly.

As I think back over the years, I remember the woman, in her 80s, who was suffering from congestive heart failure. Her family sat by her bedside, holding her hand as she gasped her last few breaths. I also remember the man, only in his 30s, who was hit by a drunk driver while on the way home from work. I arrived at the scene of the accident and saw the blank stare of someone in severe shock. On the way to the hospital, despite all our attempts to resuscitate him, this young man died in the back of the ambulance. It would have been hard for me to believe that night, but my most difficult night was yet to come.

One night last August the intensive care nursery was especially busy. As I began my shift that evening, I noticed right away that there was an extra amount of tension in the room. There have been emergency calls from other hospitals that day, and our transport team had been busy bringing in three infants requiring special care which our nursery could provide. Two of the babies were very critical. I could see that it would be difficult night.

What I was not prepared for was our next admission, which I was to be responsible for, since I was the least busy at the time. The nurse from Labor and Delivery walked into our unit carrying a blanket and stating “This is a prostaglandin abortion. He has a heartbeat so we brought him over.” The baby was placed under a radiant warmer and I was told the rest of the facts. The gestational age of the baby was given to be 23 weeks by ultrasound. The mother had cancer and had received chemotherapy treatments before discovering that she was pregnant. The parents had been told that their baby would be horribly deformed because of the chemotherapy.

I looked at the baby boy lying before me, and saw that from all appearances he was perfect. He had a good strong heartbeat. I could tell this without using a stethoscope because I could see his chest moving in sync with his heart rate. With a stethoscope I heard a heart pumping strongly. I look at his size and his skin — he definitely looked more mature than 23 weeks. He was weighed and I discovered that he was 900 grams, almost two pounds. This was almost twice the weight of some babies we have been able to save. A doctor was summoned. When she arrived the baby started moving his tiny arms and legs flailing. He started trying to gasp, but was unable to get air into his lungs. His whole body shuddered with his efforts to breathe. We were joined by a neonatalist and I pleaded with both doctors saying, “The baby is viable — look at his size, look at his skin — he looks much older than 23 weeks.”

it was a horrible moment as each of us wrestled with our own ethical standards. I argued that we should make an attempt to resuscitate him, to get him breathing. The resident doctor told me, “This is an abortion. We have no right to interfere.” The specialist, who had the responsibility for the decision, was wringing his hands and quietly saying, “This is so hard. Oh, God, it’s so hard when it’s this close.” In the end, I lost. We were not going to try to resuscitate this baby. So, I did the only thing I could do. Dipping my index finger into sterile water and placing it on his head, I baptize the child. Then I wrapped him in blankets to keep him warm, and held him. These were the only measures I could take comfort the baby under the circumstances, no matter how much I wanted to do more. I held this little boy, who was still gasping for breath, trying to stay alive on his own. As the tears flowed down my face, I pray to God that he would take this child into his care, and that he would forgive me for my own part in his death. After a while, he stopped gasping. His heart continued to be, but the beating became slower and weaker until it finally stopped. He was gone.

It seems so ironic. No more than 5 feet from where I was watching this baby die, a team of doctors and nurses were gathered around a severely ill infant. They were trying every treatment they could to save this baby, while I stood alone with an infant who had a good chance to survive. But we did nothing for him. As it turned out, we lost both of them.

By Barbara. From Vital Signs: the Journal of the Friendship Pregnancy Center fall 1991

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