Delivery Nurse Describes Obama’s Efforts to Stop a Law to Protect Babies Who Survived Abortion
January 28, 2009 - 7:52 PMIn 1999, Jill Stanek, a labor and delivery nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., held a premature baby in her arms for forty-five minutes as the child struggled for life and then died.
The little boy, who had Down Syndrome, had survived an induced-labor abortion and was going to be left alone in a soiled utility room until he expired without any medical treatment or comforting. Stanek could not bear the thought of that, and the experience of holding the baby as he fought to breathe converted her into a pro-life activist.
Thanks to Stanek, the U.S. Congress enacted the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2002.
In Illinois, however, a state version of the law was thwarted for three years, in part because of the resolute opposition of then-Illinois-state Sen. Barack Obama.
This month, Stanek received on of the first annual Life Prizes, awarded by the Gerard Health Foundation to Americans who have shown courage in defending the sanctity of human life.
In an interview with CNSNews.com Editor in Chief Terry Jeffrey, Stanek described her efforts to win legislation that would protect babies who survive abortions and Barack Obama’s efforts to stop that legislation.
Jeffrey: Welcome to Online with Terry Jeffrey. Our guest today is pro-life activist Jill Stanek. Jill Stanek was working as a nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, when she discovered that babies who survived abortions there were being left to die.
She began a process that led to the federal Born Alive Infant Protection Act, signed by President Bush, that said these babies had to be treated as human beings. This month, Jill is being given one of the newly instituted “Life Prizes.” These prizes, awarded by the Gerard Health Foundation, are designed to “recognize those on the front lines of the greatest human rights battle of our day and to encourage and inspire the next generation to accomplish great things for the cause of life.”
Stanek: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Jeffrey: Now, tell me about how and where this whole thing started. What is it that you saw happening at this hospital where you worked?
Stanek: Well, it started back in 1999. I was a nurse at Christ labor and delivery, and stumbled onto the fact that they were aborting late trimester babies. I came into report one night--I had been working there a year, and didn’t know what was going on all around me--and was told in report that we were aborting a second trimester baby with Down Syndrome. Then I went to find out that the method of abortion that the hospital used, called “induced labor abortion,” sometimes resulted in babies being aborted alive. And if they were aborted alive they were allowed to die without any medical intervention whatsoever.
Jeffrey: Let’s talk a little bit about why these kind of abortions happen--because for most people I think this astounding that they would actually conduct an abortion and at the end of the abortion the baby is actually alive and outside its mother. It’s not dead. Why would they perform this kind of abortion?
Stanek: It is a medical abortion, so the doctor doesn’t have to be there when it’s ongoing. What happens is a physician inserts a medication into the mother’s birth canal called Cytotec or Misoprostol that dilates the cervix. When your pregnant your uterus is shaped kind of like a hot air balloon and at the bottom of is the cervix and it is supposed to stay closed until you’re about 40 weeks pregnant. This medication causes it to open early, and so the small second trimester or early third trimester basically just falls out of the uterus.
Jeffrey: Now, this same medication, let’s say a woman has come close to term and they want to induce labor and make sure she delivers the baby, this same medication might be used--
Jeffrey: --legitimately to induce labor because they want the baby to survive and come out and survive and come out alive.
Stanek: But it is also used in the RU-486 abortions.
Jeffrey: Is that right?
Stanek: RU-486. They kill the baby with one drug and then the Cytotec expels the baby.
Jeffrey: So, the situation you’re talking about here, we’re talking about a woman who has been, how long has she been pregnant?
Stanek: At Christ, anywhere from 19 to 28 weeks, I saw. So, into the third trimester.
Jeffrey: Okay, 19 to 28 weeks. And I believe that nowadays, given the advanced state of medical science, sometimes a baby born 21, 22, 23 weeks—
Stanek: Twenty-three weeks is the line of viability according to the American Pediatric Association, and/or one pound. So, criteria goes from date, to age, to weight. And also we have heard of babies that have survived weighing less—twelve ounces, the size of a Coke can.
Jeffrey: It’s not a hard line.
Jeffrey: In other words, a woman can be 21 weeks pregnant--
Stanek: Twenty-one is probably iffy.
Jeffrey: But it’s possible? It happens sometimes? Twenty-two weeks?
Stanek: Twenty-one-weekers can live for a time. Sixteen-weekers can live for a time. But they won’t survive. Their lungs aren’t formed.
Jeffrey: Twenty-two week babies--
Stanek: Late 22 weeks, 23 weeks for sure.
Jeffrey: OK. Twenty-three week old baby, a woman goes into labor, they can’t stop it, she delivers the baby, there’s a chance that baby can survive?
Stanek: Yeah, Christ Hospital admitted—are you talking about now in the case of an abortion?
Jeffrey: A baby that they are not trying to kill.
Stanek: Oh, that they are not trying to kill?
Stanek: Yes, 23 weeks and/or a pound.
Jeffrey: The mother goes prematurely into labor, 23 weeks, the baby’s born, we can save that baby?
Stanek: You know, given certain odds, yes.
Jeffrey: Some of those babies survive, some don’t
Jeffrey: But if you make an effort—
Stanek: You should try.
Jeffrey: If a woman is pregnant, she prematurely goes into labor and delivers a 23-week old baby, we can try to save that baby and sometimes we succeed.
Jeffrey: So you said that at this hospital, they were doing induced labor abortions on babies at 19 to 28 weeks?
Jeffrey: So some of the babies that were being subjected to this kind of abortion were pre-viable?
Jeffrey: In other words, it would be reasonable to assume that no matter what you did to try to save their life, they would die?
Jeffrey: Others of the babies that were being induced aborted in this way, they would have survived had there been an effort to save them?
Stanek: Questionable. Most of the babies who were aborted were handicapped. But there were healthy babies aborted. And while I was there, there was at least one baby girl, weighed a pound, 23 weeks, aborted and not resuscitated and she lived two and a half hours in the department with no medical intervention whatsoever.
Jeffrey: But these same babies, the ones that were post-23 weeks—and I know that you say some of them were disabled--
Stanek: --most of them were, yeah.
Jeffrey: --most of them were disabled. Had there not been--was the intent not to kill the baby, but to save the baby, some of them would have survived?
Stanek: Yeah. The thing is that they should have all been assessed because how many times have you heard dates have been wrong—a woman is due on this date and then is a week overdue or delivers a week early. Or the doctor says your baby weighs five pounds and the baby comes out weighing seven pounds. Every baby born alive should be assessed just to make sure that the diagnosis was right. And that the age and the weight were all correct beforehand. And these weren’t. If they were aborted and they were marked for death, they were treated differently when they were born than those who were wanted.
Jeffrey: Now, you say most of these babies were disabled?
Stanek: Um Hmm.
Jeffrey: I assume that’s because the disabled babies were targeted for this kind of abortion.
Stanek: Yes. We are into the world of eugenic abortions now. It came out during the Palin campaign in particular that 90% of Downs babies are aborted now.
Jeffrey: Is that principally what was going on here, that a mother would have a test and it would be discovered that the baby had Down Syndrome?
Stanek: Yes. The moms were carrying wanted babies. This was a middle class hospital. And then they would go in for their second trimester ultrasound and find out that there was something wrong with the baby, and then be counseled to abort. This is another reason—you asked at the beginning why this procedure over the others—in hospitals it is typically committed by doctors who don’t consider themselves abortionists. And so, as I said, this is a medical abortion. They don’t have to get their hands dirty. They don’t even have to be there. Because all you do is insert this medication every four to eight hours until the mother’s cervix dilates and then the baby comes out. So the doctor can be home in bed, or in the office and never have to even have to face.
Jeffrey: So that the intention of the procedure, so we understand what is going on here in a typical case, a woman is pregnant, she wants the baby, at sixteen-seventeen weeks, something like that, it is discovered that this baby has Down Syndrome or some problem, so then a decision is made to terminate the life of the baby. And the methodology of doing that is inducing labor, just like it might be induced in a woman later in pregnancy to produce a baby you want to keep alive, but in this case the labor is induced because you want the baby to die.
Jeffrey: Although even that Down Syndrome baby could be taken to a full term, born, and live for many years?
Jeffrey: But the intention here is to kill the baby.
Stanek: A lot of these kids weren’t fatally handicapped. Some had Spina Bifida, Dwarfism.
Jeffrey: Well, Down Syndrome is not a fatal handicap necessarily.
Jeffrey: So they discover this anomaly in the baby and they say, okay, we want to kill the baby--
Stanek: A faulty kid.
Jeffrey: It’s not perfect. This child is not perfect.
Jeffrey: And so they decide they are going to kill it. But the doctor doesn’t want to actually surgically intervene and personally use his hands to kill the baby.
Stanek: D&Es aren’t pleasant. Dissecting these babies in utero isn’t—nobody wants to do that.
Jeffrey: They don’t want to do that.
Stanek: No. Even pro-abortion nurses at Christ Hospital. One time there was conjoined twins. They tried to induce labor. They didn’t come out. So they had to go in and do a D&E. And even the pro-abortion nurses, they had to draw straws to be forced to go in and do those. Those are the ones where you go dissect the baby beforehand and you take the baby out piece by piece.
Jeffrey: So in this way the abortionist, who doesn’t consider himself--
Stanek: It’s more pleasant for everybody.
Jeffrey: --he gets to keep his hands clean, more or less?
Jeffrey: He says to the nurse: Give her this drug. The drug induces the labor--
Stanek: Or a resident.
Jeffrey: And then, he’ll say--
Stanek: Call me when its--
Jeffrey: This Down Syndrome child is delivered. You personally saw this happen?
Stanek: I did. I found out this was going on. And then one night, a nursing co-worker had just been involved in one of these abortions of a little Downs baby between 21 and 22 weeks, born alive. His parents didn’t want to hold him. And she didn’t have time to hold him that night. And so he was on his way to the soiled utility room, which is where they went at that time.
Jeffrey: This was a routine procedure? If a baby came out like that they would bring it to the soiled utility room?
Stanek: That’s where they went. With the dirty laundry and--
Jeffrey: This baby was breathing?
Stanek: This baby was alive. Breathing, moving.
Jeffrey: It’s moving. Its eyes are open? He could look at you?
Stanek: Oh, no. Eyes weren’t open. Baby wasn’t moving very much because he was using all of his energy attempting to breathe. But he was alive.
Jeffrey: Right. And so people understand, this is a fully formed baby?
Stanek: They’re fully formed way early, a lot earlier than people--
Jeffrey: Arms, legs, toes, every thing’s there?
Stanek: Yes. Right. Just small.
Jeffrey: This is a human being, even the way it looks?
Stanek: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
Jeffrey: So, it’s being brought to the soiled linen room?
Stanek: Tells me. Couldn’t let him die alone. And so I held him for forty-five minutes until he died. And that was a life-changing event for me. Before that, I was at most a passive pro-lifer. I’m not sure how pro-life I was, I just didn’t want to do it. At the end of that forty-five minutes I was an activist. I have been consumed with it ever since.
Jeffrey: So what did you do?
Stanek: First of all, I asked the hospital privately to stop, and when it wouldn’t then asked the attorney general of Illinois to get involved, who was a pro-life Republican—no pro-abort agenda. After an investigation, he determined that there was no law being violated. Meanwhile, on the federal level--
Jeffrey: Let’s focus on that point for a minute. The pro-life Republican attorney general of Illinois--
Stanek: Jim Ryan.
Jeffrey: He researched this. They looked into this. They didn’t just like casually dismiss this.
Stanek: It took them eight months.
Jeffrey: Eight months they looked into this?
Stanek: It was not just a casual decision.
Jeffrey: So the question was: Do we have a law that we can enforce to stop this hospital from taking a baby who may have been 22 weeks old who was delivered through an induced labor and tossing them in a soiled linen room to die.
Stanek: Right, there was none.
Jeffrey: The law of Illinois did not protect this child.
Jeffrey: So, then, you did what?
Stanek: Meanwhile, on the federal level, we are now into the year 2000, the Born Alive Act was introduced—the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. It just simply defines what it means to be a legal “person.” Any baby born alive, no matter circumstances, wanted or not, is constitutionally protected--which we all knew, except now abortion has entered into our world and muddied the waters.
Jeffrey: This is in 2000. You came to the United States Congress and testified.
Stanek: I did. I testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on the Constitution.
Jeffrey: And you spoke to both Republican and Democratic members of the Congress there?
Jeffrey: And you told the story that you just told us here?
Stanek: Yes, including Jerry Nadler, who’s pretty infamous as a pro-abort. He was on the committee.
Jeffrey: And he sat there and he listened to your story?
Jeffrey: And he supported this legislation?
Stanek: Yes. He supported it for the wrong reasons. But, he said: This is a bill they are trying to label us as extremists and pro-infanticide. Back away from this bill. He said this in World Magazine: Back away. Vote for it and then it will go away.
Jeffrey: Because what this bill said is that once it’s born—it’s no longer inside its mother, even the umbilical cord is snapped—it’s totally--
Stanek: Even if that umbilical chord isn’t cut, that baby is out and that baby is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.
Jeffrey: Totally separate, living human being.
Jeffrey: And this legislation said this is a “person” protected by the Constitution of the United States.
Stanek: Yes. We don’t yet have them protected pre-birth, but you cannot have them once they are born.
Jeffrey: Now, the National Abortion Rights Action League, were they for or against this legislation?
Stanek: Initially against it and then they went neutral.
Jeffrey: Okay. They were against it, but Jerry Nadler said: I’m for it.
Stanek: For the wrong reasons, but we’ll take it.
Jeffrey: Passes the House of Representatives?
Jeffrey: But it did not pass into law that year?
Stanek: No. That’s 2000. You go back to Illinois in 2001. And this when it was introduced in Illinois, and this is when I met then-no-name state Sen. Barack Obama, who was on the committee before which I was testifying.
Jeffrey: The Senate Judiciary Committee of the Illinois Senate.
Jeffrey: And you went in there to testify about what you just told us?
Stanek: Yes. I did this in Congress. The same bill was introduced in Illinois. Testified at the federal level—back away, you know even the most pro-aborts: back away. In Illinois, state Sen. Barack Obama argued with me in committee and said that he thought that declaring these pre-born babies, very premature babies—not pre-born—but very premature born babies as legal persons would lead to the overturn of Roe v. Wade. And so he voted against the bill in committee.
Jeffrey: And he understood that these weren’t babies still in their mother’s womb?
Stanek: He totally understood. And then he went to the floor and first voted “present” that year. And his website carried, until he won the nomination, a quote from Pam Sutherland in the Chicago Sun Times, who was the CEO of Planned Parenthood, who said he approached her, Terry--he approached her—on strategizing to overcome Born Alive and the PBA ban, Partial-Birth Abortion. So, in other words, he took a leadership role. They strategized for him to vote “present” on the floor that year, in order to draw people who might be afraid of voting against it and being declared extremist--at least getting them to vote present which is the same as a “no” vote in Illinois.
Jeffrey: Because in Illinois there are 59 senators, and they need 30 votes to pass any bill. So if you vote present it denies them the 30 votes.
Stanek: Right. And he was the only senator to speak against it on the Senate floor. No one else touched it.
Jeffrey: The only one.
Stanek: The only one.
Jeffrey: And he made the same argument on the senate floor basically that he made to you in the committee.
Stanek: Right, that this would gut Roe v. Wade.
Jeffrey: It comes up the next year in the U.S. Congress again, and this time Barbara Boxer supports it.
Stanek: Yes, when it made it to the Senate, they added a little paragraph that said this bill has nothing to do with pre-born babies. So, that satisfied NARAL.
Jeffrey: It will not affect Roe v. Wade is basically what they were saying.
Stanek: Yes, right, either way. It really said just because we are declaring born babies human does not mean that we are not declaring unborn babies human or human. This has no impact on what is done to babies before they are born.
Jeffrey: If they are inside the womb you can still abort them, if they are outside--
Stanek: This bill has nothing to do with those kids.
Jeffrey: And Barbara Boxer went down to the Senate floor and essentially said that.
Stanek: Yes, and Kennedy.
Jeffrey: And Ted Kennedy.
Stanek: And it passed 98-0.
Jeffrey: Including Sen. Hillary Clinton voted for it.
Stanek: Everybody. Kerry. Durbin. Everybody. 98-0.
Jeffrey: But that year, it did not become law.
Jeffrey: The next year, it came up for unanimous consent in the Senate and passed.
Jeffrey: And I understand that you attended the signing ceremony.
Stanek: I did in 2002, August 5.
Jeffrey: And President Bush personally thanked you for your role in this, in bringing forward this story, and federal law was passed protecting these babies that were born from induced abortions.
Jeffrey: But what happened in Illinois?
Stanek: Meanwhile, it kept failing at some point and then being reintroduced. I ultimately testified before committees on which Obama sat three times. The first year he voted “present” on the floor. The next year, 2002, he voted “no” on the floor, and spoke against it again—the only guy again to speak against it. And that year he also argued against an abortionist being forced to call in a second physician to assess a born baby--that the abortionist just tried to kill, mind you. He didn’t see that the abortionist might not have an objective opinion.
Jeffrey: Like this baby you held, who was 22 weeks old, maybe, you said. That baby theoretically could have been on the cusp of viability.
Stanek: Could have—he wasn’t. He was too small.
Jeffrey: That particular baby was too small.
Stanek: Right. But Obama argued against me having a live aborted baby and the abortionist saying: That baby’s not viable—he argued against calling in a second physician for an objective opinion. He just didn’t see how the abortionist, who was making money off of killing this kid, and also off of the diagnosis--He didn’t want anybody to come in and say: Your diagnosis was wrong. Your dates were wrong. And implicate the doctor. He just didn’t see a problem with that.
Jeffrey: He thought the doctor that was trying to kill the baby would be a fair judge of whether the baby once he survived the abortion had a chance of living.
Stanek: Yes. Yes. He said that on the floor. So, he added that in 2002. And he ultimately voted against the bill four times. The fourth time is what you caught, earlier this year—in 2008, I’m sorry. He had been saying ever since the vote, and started taking heat for it, that the bill wasn’t the same as the federal bill. And you caught in January ’08, I think, that that final time he voted no the bill was identically worded as the federally passed bill. And he voted against 98 of his U.S. Senate colleagues and NARAL. He took a position to the left of them when he opposed that bill.
Jeffrey: That year, Sen. Rich Winkel, who is now a professor at the University of Illinois Law School, he was the sponsor of it that year. It came up in the Health and Human Services Committee, where Sen. Barack Obama was then the chairman, and he had amended it so that it would have the exact same language that Barbara Boxer said in the federal version protected Roe v. Wade. And that amendment was added onto the bill unanimously by the entire committee. And then the amended bill lost 4-6 in the committee with Sen. Obama voting against it.
Jeffrey: And that killed it that year. Then, of course, the next year he went on to become a United States senator and now he is president of the United States.
Stanek: And it was during the Senate debate with Alan Keyes--Alan Keyes came to Illinois specifically, he said, because of Obama’s vote on Born Alive. And it was then that the waters began to churn about Obama’s radical position on abortion—that he would even defend infanticide. And for the next several years, four years, he kept saying that the bills weren’t the same, the bills weren’t the same. Then he got caught last year, and that led to a huge debate that developed over the summer and the autumn, a very healthy debate over what he’d actually done. And he came up with different excuses for it, but--
Jeffrey: In the end, his campaign said that even though it was essentially identical to the federal bill, it would have had a different effect in the state of Illinois because it might have affected the standing abortion laws of the state of Illinois.
Stanek: Which was a totally new argument that had never come up before--and was bogus.
Jeffrey: Well, now Senator Obama is the President of the United States. He is committed to a pro-abortion agenda as the chief executive of our country. And I believe this debate is going to continue.
Stanek: I think so.
Jeffrey: Jill, thank you very much.
Stanek: Thanks for having me, Terry.