Even after a late-term abortion procedure has been started, there’s still time to save the baby. In Chicago, the Pro-Life Action League and Resurrection Medical Center are shining a light on this little-known reality — and saving babies.
The ray of hope became stronger last July. Action League staffers Corrina Gura and Urszula Mihai, as usual, went on a Friday to pray outside Family Planning Associates, Albany Medical-Surgical Center, which performs abortions into the third trimester. A distressed woman walked up to them and said she wanted to reverse the three-day abortion procedure that had already started.
The young woman had tried calling a number of health clinics to reverse the abortion procedure, but they told her to go back to abortion business. Her boyfriend had forced her into the procedure, but she wanted the baby.
“She was really worried she hurt the baby already, [that] it wasn’t reversible, and terrified anything she did now would hurt even more,” Gura vividly remembers. “We assured her this process was reversible.”
Gura took her to the nearest crisis-pregnancy center, standard procedure when any woman has changed her mind about an abortion. The center recommended they go immediately to Resurrection Medical Center’s Emergency Room.
“The Women’s Center called to tell them about this situation. But the hospital was unfamiliar with the procedure,” recalls Pro-Life Action League’s vice president, Ann Scheidler. “The ER doctor sent her right up to OB-GYN. The compassionate pro-life doctor there had never done removal of laminaria before, but he was willing to remove the laminaria [which is inserted into the cervix to dilate it and begin the abortion process].”
After the baby was born, Gura remembers the woman was “glowing and said how happy her dad was going to be.” Later, the woman called to say she was doing well.
This event not only taught that a late-term abortion once started can be reversed, but it suggested a new relationship among the Action League, the Women’s Center and Resurrection Medical Center, run by the Congregation of the Sisters of the Order of the Resurrection.
That relationship came to fruition a few weeks later when a similar situation transpired. Another young woman who also started the late-term procedure approached an Action League sidewalk counselor at the same site. Wavering over whether to continue or stop the abortion, the woman wanted to go with the counselor to Women’s Center, then to Resurrection hospital.
But there was an issue at the hospital. The particular emergency-room doctor was concerned about liability and wanted to make absolutely sure of her decision, so he kept asking the young woman over and over if she wanted the reversal done.
Eventually, the counselor called Scheidler, who happened to be at the Thomas More Society’s law office nearby.
“So was Sister Christine, a Resurrection sister who volunteers there,” Scheidler said. “She immediately called hospital CEO Sister Donna Marie [Wolowicki] on her private number. Sister Donna raced to the ER to talk to the young woman and the doctor, get an obstetrician involved and the laminaria removed.”
The woman’s twins were saved. Afterward, Scheidler and Sister Donna decided they needed a protocol arrangement in place for future situations.
“Sister Donna pointed out the physicians and emergency-room staff was unprepared for this type of situation,” said Scheidler. To train them, she contacted Dr. Anthony Levatino, a practicing gynecologist and former abortionist who now helps crisis-pregnancy centers. He was speaking in Minnesota, but detoured to Resurrection hospital before flying back to New Mexico. He presented ER and obstetrician-gynecology doctors and staff everything they needed to know about the simple procedure of removing laminaria.
Simultaneously, both the Action League and Resurrection Medical Center focused on the need to support these women through their pregnancies.
Sister Donna, who is also a nurse, says the support of the pro-life Women’s Center is an essential part of the process, providing emotional and even financial support. “We’re here to help her and make her feel good about who she is as a person first, and to help her understand what’s been done so far and what laminaria really do. We do ultrasound to show what the baby looks like, and then support her as she makes her decision. We can’t force her one way or the other. But she wouldn’t be here if she didn’t want to have some help.”
The hospital shows them it “really wants to be with them on the journey.” With its New Beginnings program, Resurrection Health Care’s satellite hospitals provide the women, at no charge, with a prenatal program and delivery at the medical center.
To emphasize this journey for those reversing abortions and all women in crisis pregnancies, the hospital launched and blessed its Bethlehem Project in late January. It’s symbolized by a statue in the hospital lobby of Our Lady on a donkey accompanied by St. Joseph.
“Joseph was really there to protect her and help her to Bethlehem, to bring Jesus to a safe delivery,” Sister Donna explained. “It will remind them Mary’s journey was not an easy one, and Joseph was there to guide her and protect her. What an image for the women to see. The Blessed Mother did not have a pain-free experience, but one very difficult. Mary, truly pregnant and riding a donkey on those roads, shows a true struggle, not a romantic Christmas-card scene. If any know the struggle to go through, it’s Mary and Joseph.”
Sister Donna wants these women to know God is with them and feel God’s love and care for them.
She says the goals of the Bethlehem Project and comprehensive New Beginnings program intertwine: “Now you’ve gotten through this step, we’re going to help you through the next step.”
Scheidler finds this new relationship with Resurrection helps sidewalk counselors: They are able to assure women there are doctors willing to help them reverse their abortions. The relationship “reflects the Church’s mission in health care: not simply to make people healthy, but to treat them with the dignity that a human being is entitled too.” She believes the program can serve as a nationwide model.
So does Kathleen Miller, pro-life coordinator for the Diocese of Las Vegas and executive director of Living Grace Home with Project Rachel. Miller was involved with her area’s first similar abortion reversal (see “Baby Claire Beats the Odds in Vegas”).
Miller is thrilled this protocol has found a home in Chicago because it will help many people elsewhere realize a late-term abortion can be reversed. She would like to see organizations like Heartbeat International and Care Net train other doctors and staff: “I can see this spreading from Chicago through the country to train others.”
Then many more can say, as does Sister Donna for Resurrection, “If we can save a few babies and a few mothers and bring hope into their lives, that would be a blessing.”
Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.