Infanticide After Failed Abortions: How Accurate Were Trump’s Remarks?

Many media outlets joined with Planned Parenthood in castigating the president’s assertions as false, but Centers for Disease Control statistics and personal testimonies tell a different story.

President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, April 27.
President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, April 27. (photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump met with swift criticism from Planned Parenthood and media outlets like The New York Times and CNN after he paraphrased remarks from Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam regarding the killing of infants born after a failed abortion attempt.

However, some doctors, pro-life advocates and even abortion survivors have highlighted the real danger these babies face, pointing both to statistics and cases like that of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell.

During an April 27 political rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Trump deplored that Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers planned to veto a bill similar to the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would ensure that infants born alive after an abortion attempt receive medical care.

“The baby is born,” the president said. “The mother meets with the doctor. They take care of the baby; they wrap the baby beautifully. And then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby.”

“It’s incredible,” he continued, and then he made it clear that he was referencing Northam’s comments, adding, “Until this crazy man in Virginia said it, nobody even thought of that, right?”

Northam said in an interview about third-trimester abortions, “So in this particular example, if a mother’s in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered, the infant would be kept comfortable; the infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.”

Trump’s description of a woman and her doctor discussing whether or not an infant born alive after an abortion should be allowed to live was directly vilified by Planned Parenthood as a lie. However, Planned Parenthood lobbyist Alisa LaPolt Snow gave a similar description in a 2013 testimony before Congress describing the group’s stance when such a situation arises.

When asked, “If a baby is born on a table as a result of a botched abortion, what would Planned Parenthood want to have happen to that child that is struggling for life?” she replied, “We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician.”


Media’s Analysis

Media outlets like The New York Times and CNN also labeled Trump’s comments at the rally of babies being killed after birth as false, conceding, at most, that “families may choose not to take extreme measures to resuscitate them.”

The Times cited one doctor, Dr. Daniel Grossman, for its claim that doctors don’t kill infants who survive abortions. However, Grossman is hardly an unbiased source on the matter, given that he serves as a board member of the abortion advocacy group NARAL and has worked as a Planned Parenthood consultant.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) demonstrate that the circumstance of an infant being born alive and then dying after an abortion attempt has occurred at least 143 times between the years of 2003 and 2014. The CDC said that, “of the 143 deaths involving induced terminations, 97 involved a maternal complication or one or more congenital anomalies.” The CDC also noted that “it is possible that this number (143) underestimates the total number of deaths involving induced termination.”

One case of an abortionist killing infants born alive after abortion procedures has been in the national spotlight. Kermit Gosnell was convicted in May 2013 of the first-degree murder of three infants born alive after attempted abortions and the involuntary manslaughter of one woman during an abortion.


A Nurse’s Account

Jill Stanek, a former labor and delivery nurse, gave testimony about this issue in 2001, when the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act was debated and subsequently passed by Congress, extending full legal rights for infants “born alive at any stage of development.”

However, Stanek told the Register that measure didn’t go far enough, as it does not include a requirement of basic medical care for infants born alive or any criminal penalties for doctors who don’t comply.

“The bill in 2002 was just a definitions bill; there was no teeth to it,” she said.

Stanek spoke firsthand about her experience in Illinois of what happened when an infant was born alive after a failed abortion procedure.

“My experience was of holding an abortion survivor,” she said. “It’s ridiculous to claim this doesn’t happen.”

In her congressional testimony in 2001, Stanek recounted Christ Hospital’s practice of leaving born-alive infants to die in their Soiled Utility Room and the time she held one baby in her arms.

“It is not uncommon for one of these live aborted babies to linger for an hour or two or even longer,” she testified. “One of them once lived for almost eight hours.”

“One night, a nursing co-worker was taking an aborted Down syndrome baby who was born alive to our Soiled Utility Room because his parents did not want to hold him, and she did not have time to hold him,” she recounted. “I could not bear the thought of this suffering child dying alone in a Soiled Utility Room, so I cradled and rocked him for the 45 minutes that he lived. He was 21 to 22 weeks old, weighed about 1/2 pound, and was about 10 inches long.”

“Toward the end he was so quiet that I couldn’t tell if he was still alive unless I held him up to the light to see if his heart was still beating through his chest wall,” she said. “After he was pronounced dead, we folded his little arms across his chest, wrapped him in a tiny shroud, and carried him to the hospital morgue where all of our dead patients are taken.”

The hospital’s parent company, Advocate Health Care, reportedly later changed its policies to “no longer permit abortions on fetuses with nonlethal birth defects like Down syndrome or spina bifida.”

Stanek told the Register one abortion proponent explained to her that abortion advocates oppose the proposed Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, advocated by Trump and pro-life groups, because “it really might shut down late-term abortion.”

“If these doctors are mandated to give the same care to these abortion survivors that a ‘wanted’ baby the same age would be given,” Stanek added, “then that means that they have to be prepared to give neonatal resuscitation. And it is very expensive to have a crash cart for preemies, [and] to be skilled in resuscitation of neonatal infants, which is not easy.”

She said that while Democrats in Congress often argue “murder is already illegal” so “we don’t need this” legislation, the current born-alive survivors bill addresses “a specific area of neglect” where “an abortionist delivered a baby alive; and then it’s not killing the baby, but abandoned the baby to die,” adding, “That’s what Northam was actually saying.”


Abortion Survivors’ Perspective

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a pro-life physician and policy adviser for The Catholic Association, told the Register in a statement that the stories of abortion survivors speak to the urgency of the issue.

“There are abortion survivors among us today who bear witness to the fact that their lives are as worthy of protection as anyone else’s,” she commented. “These infants who survive an attempt on their life while still in the womb deserve to receive the same standard of treatment that ‘wanted’ babies of the same gestational age receive. It is unconscionable that some politicians would deny abortion survivors this protection under the law.”

Melissa Ohden is one of these survivors. Her medical records show that she survived a saline abortion, and her adoptive mother was told by medical staff that Ohden was laid aside to die after the abortion attempt but was later rescued by a nurse.

“I wish that circumstances like mine weren’t true,” Ohden told the Register. “What happened to me and what happens to other survivors is horrific. But the reality is: Abortions fail, and in the words of Dr. Willard Cates, former head of the CDC’s Abortion Surveillance group, as quoted in The Philadelphia Enquirer in 1981, ‘[Live births] are little known because organized medicine, from fear of public clamor and legal action, treats them more as an embarrassment to be hushed up than a problem to be solved. It’s like turning yourself in to the IRS for an audit. ... The tendency is not to report because there are only negative incentives.’”

“President Trump’s comments in Wisconsin regarding the treatment of born-alive infants has elicited a big response from the media and the abortion industry, who continue to deny that survivors of abortion exist in the first place,” she continued. “It’s not surprising, then, that they deny that children are ever left to die or, in the words of the president, ‘executed.’” 

Ohden pointed out that the media’s parsing and investigation of Trump’s use of the term “executing babies” ignores the larger point at issue in this debate.

“Execution, left to die, laid aside, made comfortable while a conversation ensues — the words may elicit a different response in people, but they elicit the same outcome for survivors: death,” she said.

“I wish that those who are so disgusted by the president’s words were disgusted by what happens to children who survive abortion,” she added. “The fact that they are taking issue with it, however, I think reflects that they know that abortion and abortion survivors like me are an issue that is not going away, so they’re on the defense.”

Lauretta Brown is a Register staff writer.

Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Joseph Cordileone attends the mass and imposition of the Pallium upon the new metropolitan archbishops held by Pope Francis for the Solemnity of Saint Peter and Paul at Vatican Basilica on June 29, 2013 in Vatican City, Vatican.

A New Era?

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco has a profound understanding of what the U.S. bishops have called the preeminent issue of our time, and his stand is courageous.