DENVER — Taune Winter survived an abortion attempt, and she's thankful for the chance at life. Today, she's 15 and lives with her adoptive mother in Deer Trail, Colo.
“I thank God every night for my family, for the world, for my cousins, my friends, and everything that pops into my head,” Taune said.
Taune spoke in February to a committee of the Colorado House of Representatives, urging them to embrace a bill that would give protection to other children who survive abortions but are left to die with little or no medical care. Called the “Born Alive” bill, the legislation would define a child as “every human being who is born alive at any stage of development.”
The issue took center stage nationally March 12, when the federal House of Representatives approved the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act by a voice vote. The federal bill would amend the legal definition of “person,” “human being,” “child” and “individual” to include abortion survivors outside the womb who have a heartbeat or are breathing on their own.
An identical bill is pending in the U.S. Senate.
Taune's birth mother was a teen whose parents forced her to have an abortion, so they wouldn't be burdened and embarrassed. She had an early term abortion, but the abortionist didn't notice she was pregnant with twins.
When the teen's parents learned of the other child, still alive, they demanded a late-term abortion. The procedure failed, and Taune was born premature but alive.
“Taune's birth mother was very grateful that Taune survived,” said Taune's adoptive mother, Jodi, who kept in touch and sent the birth mother photo albums of the baby.
Left to Die
Colorado State Rep. Ted Harvey introduced the Born Alive bill to protect children like Taune who survive abortions, and others born prematurely or with defects. Harvey says he was shocked to learn that it's not uncommon for hospital physicians to offer minimal care, known as “comfort care,” or virtually no care at all to children who are born with defects, or are considered likely to develop defects, or who survive abortions.
Like the federal bill passed March 12, the Colorado proposal would not preclude a mother from seeking abortion, even in the third trimester. Nonetheless, abortion advocates are hostile.
“If it is, as I suspect, designed to limit, restrict or abolish all abortion, it should say so and not rely on stealth,” said Sylvia Clark, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.
Other opponents argue that saving such infants will cost society too much, as doctors and nurses will treat some premature babies and abortion survivors who would otherwise be left to die of neglect. Colorado officials estimate a state law would cost $2.6 million next year, the price of medical and foster care for children who would otherwise die.
Some of those children, said Dr. Joe Toney of Denver's Rose Medical Center, would live with complications such as cerebral palsy, deafness, and retardation. Taune, for example, has an IQ of 65. Toney said it's common practice among Colorado doctors to use “less aggressive” efforts to save the lives of children born with complications, or the likelihood to develop them, if that's the wish of the parents.
That's a practice that disgusts Jodi Winter, who says Taune would not have come into her life had it not been for aggressive medical procedures after the failed abortion. She said that a growing number of abortion survivors are organizing through the Internet to tell their stories and build support for state laws.
An icon of the “Born Alive” legislation drive is Giana Jessen, a woman in her mid-20s who survived a saline-injection abortion in 1977. Jessen has cerebral palsy as a result of the failed abortion, yet she's an accomplished musician, writer and public speaker.
Jessen is an inspiration to Taune, who aspires to a teaching or singing career despite her disability. Taune is home schooled, and has developed an above average vocabulary despite a below average IQ.
Failed abortions that result in “born alive” children aren't that rare. Although no statistics are kept, first-person witnesses are easy to find among the ranks of those who staff hospital nurseries and delivery rooms.
Mary White, a registered nurse, watched the slow deaths of two abortion survivors at Community Hospital in Boulder, Colo., in the 1970s. The experience changed her life, and has haunted her ever since.
At the time, White was working in the hospital's nursery. A married couple had checked in for an abortion, and the mother was five months pregnant. A doctor injected saline into the mother's uterus and waited for the baby to die.
“When he delivered it, the baby started to cry,” White remembered. “A nurse came hurriedly into the nursery and she had this baby wrapped in blue Chux [plastic-coated paper that covers a medical table]. She opened the incubator and said ‘Mary, I'm sorry.’ In the incubator was a kicking and crying baby that was supposed to have been aborted. Everyone was in shock. We just watched in horror as this baby died.”
A doctor came in and the baby was put on oxygen. He told White the baby would have irreparable damage from the saline, if it lived. No other efforts were made to sustain the life of the baby, who died in three hours.
“If it had been any other preemie, we would have started an IV in the umbilical cord, we'd have used assisted ventilation, and we would have injected fluids and antibiotics,” White said, crying as she recalled the ordeal. “The baby would have been stabilized and airlifted to Children's Hospital, where every effort would have been taken to save her life.”
Later, White watched another baby who survived an abortion die in about an hour.
Despite White's turmoil over seeing the two babies die, her own daughter grew up to become a leading advocate of abortion rights in Colorado. As editor of the Colorado Daily, a large Colorado newspaper, Pamela White's abortion rights advocacy has been praised by renowned late-term abortionist Warren Hern. She is also widely credited for helping defeat laws proposed by pro-life legislators, such as parental notification and a proposed 48-hour mandatory cooling off period for women who seek abortions.
She does not, however, oppose the “Born Alive” bill. The bill makes sense, White said, because she grew up watching her mother grieve for the two babies who survived abortions and were allowed to die.
Said Pamela White, “My commitment to preserve the right to terminate a pregnancy does not extend beyond birth.”
Wayne Laugesen writes from Boulder, Colorado.