The woman was 22 weeks pregnant when she sought the assistance of Dr. Martin Haskell, the originator of the partial-birth abortion procedure, to rid herself of her already-kicking child. Haskell performed the first stage of the partial-birth abortion. He inserted a seaweed-based substance into the woman’s cervix and instructed her to return the following day. In the usual course of events, the seaweed absorbs the amniotic fluid from the womb and expands, thus slowly dilating the cervix. The next day, new seaweed is inserted. On the third day, the abortionist opens the cervix with his fingers, feels around for the baby’s legs and pulls them out of the birth canal.
He rotates the foetus’ shoulders so that the baby’s face is oriented toward the mother’s lower back and then, using scissors, he punctures the bottom of the baby’s skull and suctions the brain out through a tube. But in this case, things did not go according to plan. The woman complained of severe abdominal pain on the first night and, being far from Haskell’s clinic, reported to the emergency room of her local hospital, Bethesda North, in Cincinnati. As she was being examined (she did not say she was pregnant), the baby was born – alive. Pediatricians and neonatologists came running. The baby girl weighed in at 1 pound.
The doctors decided that the child was very unlikely to survive and instructed that nothing be done. Connie Boyles, a nurse, and Shelly Lowe, a medical technician, saw the baby girl gasp for air and were stunned. Lowe, knowing that the nurses were busy caring for other patients in the emergency room, asked if she could hold the child she dubbed «Baby Hope» until she died. The request was granted. Lowe wrapped Baby Hope in a blanket and settled into a rocking chair for what she imagined would be just a few minutes. She sang to her and stroked her cheeks. «I wanted her to feel that she was wanted,» Lowe explained later. «She was a perfectly formed newborn, entering the world too soon, through no choice of her own.»
The baby sucked on her lower lip, opened and closed her hands, and moved a bit as Lowe held her. She also did something else – she continued to breathe on her own.
Dr. John Willke, a pro-life activist and former obstetrician, says he doesn’t quarrel with the initial determination made by the emergency-room physicians that Baby Hope was too small and too premature to survive. But, he says, when she was still alive and breathing room air 30 minutes after birth, her status should have been reassessed. An excellent neonatal care unit was a mere helicopter ride away. And she might have been saved.
As it is, nothing was done. After three hours, Baby Hope died in the arms of the compassionate Shelly Lowe. The state of Ohio issued her a death certificate. The cause of death was listed as «extreme prematurity secondary to induced abortion.» Would Dr. Haskell have issued her a death certificate at his shop, or does he simply throw the bodies in the trash? Very few premature infants survive when born before 23 weeks, though there have been survivors at 22 weeks. Still, one has to wonder: If a woman who did want her baby spontaneously aborted in an emergency room, would the doctors have been so quick to give up on the child?
Would they ignore the signs of unusual vitality this infant showed? (Most premature babies have trouble breathing without assistance. That this infant was able to breathe room air was amazing.) Was Baby Hope’s value as a human being secondary to her value to the mother? If we judge people’s humanity by any standard other than that each is a unique individual with God-given rights, we demean every person’s dignity. A child is a child. Would-be adoptive parents wait years and years or go abroad in search of children to love. Lowe was asked at a press conference what her position on abortion was. She said she had been pro-choice but was now pro-life. What changed her mind? Three hours.