Analysis

Expert analysis: At least one of the DC babies shows signs of possible partial-birth abortion

partial-birth abortion

Several medical experts have told Live Action News that one of the aborted babies recently obtained outside an abortion facility in Washington, D.C., showed signs of a possible partial-birth abortion (PBA), an abortion method which is banned by federal law.

The term “partial birth” has been disputed, but it generally refers to killing babies while their lower extremities have been delivered from the mother’s cervix. Abortionists committing the procedure typically puncture the baby’s neck at or near the base of the skull and suction out his or her brain matter.

Baby girl #1 [warning: disturbing images] was found with her right eye open and apparent brain matter protruding from the back of her head. The eye is potentially bulging as a result of the high-powered suction utilized in PBAs. 

At least one self-described pro-choice OBGYN – Dr. Forrest Smith – told Live Action News that he agreed baby girl #1 could have undergone a PBA. Similarly, two pro-life OBGYN’s – Dr. Kathi Aultman and Dr. Ingrid Skop – said a PBA might have occurred.

“[Baby girl #1] appears to be in the late 2nd or early 3rd trimester,” Aultman said in a statement to Live Action News. “She has some bruising of the face and some maceration of the skin, which could be consistent with death prior to the abortion. She appears intact and completely normal except for trauma to the neck, possibly from traction applied during the attempt to deliver the head.”

Aultman added: “There appears to be an incision at the base of the skull, and the head has been decompressed by removing the brain. This is consistent with an Intact D&E [dilation and evacuation] or D&X [dilation and extraction]. If the baby was alive at the start of this procedure, it would be considered a Partial Birth Abortion and would be illegal.”

Did baby girl #1 have anencephaly?

Both self-described pro-choice and pro-life experts have speculated that baby girl #1 might have had anencephaly, a condition in which portions of the brain and/or skull are missing. Dr. Smith felt that baby girl #1 showed signs of the condition.

The first of baby girl #1’s photos in Live Action News’ story shows an abnormally small head. However, the second photo, as previously mentioned, shows a substantial amount of apparent brain matter protruding from her head – suggesting that her skull may have been compressed due to suction from a PBA. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in every 4,600 babies is born with anencephaly. The agency states that there is no cure and “almost all babies born with anencephaly will die shortly after birth.” Some, however, have survived longer. For example, a Rhode Island baby named Angela Morales survived for more than two-and-a-half years. Another baby girl in Florida lived for 10 hours after birth.

Neither of these doctors have definitively opined one way or another, but some have raised questions about what made baby girl #1’s head look smaller than usual. 

Dr. Jeffrey Wright, a maternal and fetal medicine specialist, similarly told Live Action News he thought “[t]his baby is clearly large enough to be well in to the third trimester. The vast majority of babies that size will survive and be healthy with commonly available NICU care. The video shows a surgical wound in the back of the skull, which is likely to have been made to facilitate removal of the fetal brain and delivery of the fetal head.”

“The question is when did that wound occur?” Wright added. “I believe that an autopsy is in order to determine if this child was alive or not when the skull was punctured; and if removal of the brain with surgical instruments was the cause of death.”

Dr. Skop told Live Action News that after looking at the second photo, she suspected anencephaly less. “When you look at [the photo] from the side, it looks anencephalic but then when you look at the back and see that there’s that big injury, you kind of recognize that you’ve just got a collapsed skull because the intracranial content had been removed,” she said. Skop added that “if the medical examiner looked, they would easily be able to tell whether there had ever been a brain there.” The abortionist, according to Skop, might have utilized long, curved scissors to create the occipital injury.

Dr. Aultman noted that an anencephaly diagnosis wouldn’t protect the purported abortionist under Congress’ 2003 Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. The bill’s text specifies that it does not apply to a “partial-birth abortion that is necessary to save the life of a mother whose life is endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”

It is unclear what exactly happened to this child — and answers may never be found. The D.C. police quickly dismissed the potential that the abortions violated the district’s laws, while the city’s medical examiner has thus far declined to perform an autopsy. 

Is it possible these babies were miscarried?

Some on social media have accused Live Action of mistaking the abortions for miscarriages. But according to Dr. Robin Pierucci, a pro-life neonatologist, baby girl #1’s neck bears trauma that is inconsistent with stillbirths.

“Stillborn babies do not have penetrating neck trauma,” she told Live Action News. “Even in a condition called amniotic band syndrome, where there can be a severed appendage, it does not look like the traumatic multi limb dismemberment these babies have suffered. And because these babies are all older than 12 weeks gestation, some suffered the pain of being literally torn apart.”

Another pro-life neonatologist, Dr. Kendra Kolb, said the baby girl “has obvious and extensive deep tissue lacerations in the posterior neck region, making the cause of her death very suspicious for an Intact Dilation and Extraction procedure in which the body of the child is pulled out feet first to the point where only the child’s head remains inside the cervix.”

Were any of these babies born alive?

Baby girl #1, along with several others, were found at the facility owned and operated by OB-GYN Dr. Cesare Santangelo. He previously told a Live Action undercover investigator that he would withhold lifesaving care for babies who survived botched abortions.

This raises questions about whether an abortionist violated the Born Alive Infants Protection Act in caring for any of these infants. Passed in 2002, the law effectively mandates lifesaving care by clarifying that born-alive infants “at any stage of development” are the same as “persons” under federal law. More recently, Congressional Republicans have tried to add criminal penalties for those who refuse to administer lifesaving care. Democrats have quashed that legislation, claiming it is duplicative and unnecessary in light of the 2002 law. 

Fetal abnormalities have been a hotly-debated exemption sometimes included in pro-life legislation. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam infamously caught headlines when he advocated letting a baby, who is either nonviable or has severe deformities, die – or making it “comfortable” – if born after a failed abortion. “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,” Northam said.

Similar language surfaced in David Daleiden’s civil trial with Planned Parenthood, which included an official’s sworn testimony that he saw a baby born alive. “I know they kept it warm and comfortable for the very brief period that it was alive. I don’t think there was even time to call 911. It was a matter of seconds,” the official said.

Another Planned Parenthood official, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, acknowledged seeing nonviable babies exit the uterus – by which she meant “not capable of survival.” It’s unclear whether those babies suffered from fetal abnormalities, but pro-life advocates maintain that wouldn’t be a valid reason for abortion. Planned Parenthood has denied any wrongdoing. 

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