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While the mother was being examined at Bethesda North Hospital in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio, April 7, she gave birth to a 22-week-old unborn baby -- a little girl who was too premature to survive, but who breathed and clung to life for over three hours. Hospital workers who cared for Baby Hope report continuing feelings of sadness and grief, but also peace -- "peace that she was comforted, held close, and even sang to until she took her last breath," according to nurse Connie Boyles. Emergency room technician Shelly Lowe held the baby until she died three hours and eight minutes after her birth. "I sat and held her. I felt no one should die alone," said Lowe at an April 20 news conference held by local pro-life groups. "We had her baptized. I named her Hope because I'd hoped she would make it."
Lowe said that her whole view of the abortion issue has been changed since Baby Hope's death. "I was always pro-choice, and I've changed to pro-life," she said. "This is a baby that could be alive right now.
Baby Hope's brief life and tragic death clearly shows the need for laws banning partial-birth abortion both in Ohio and nationwide.
"This incident brings into focus the awful reality of partial-birth abortion", Peggy Lehner, vice president of Ohio Right to Life and director of Dayton Right to Life, told NRL News. "How many times can legislators and Bill Clinton hear stories like this and not be moved?"
The unfinished abortion procedure began at Women's Med Center near Dayton, Ohio. The clinic is operated by Haskell, who first described how to perform the partial-birth abortion procedure in a 1992 paper.
Baby Hope's 19-year-old mother received the first stage of the abortion April 6, which involves inserting devices called laminaria in order to artificially dilate the cervix (the opening to the womb). Early the next morning, the mother arrived at the emergency room of the hospital, complaining of severe abdominal pain, according to the Catholic Telegraph. At first, she did not tell hospital workers that she was five months preguant or that she had begun the partial-birth abortion procedure.
Suddenly, she gave birth to the little girl. "The baby took a gasp of air, which totally shocked me," Lowe said at the news conference. Neonatologists were quickly called to examine Baby Hope. They determined her "lungs were not developed enough to support life or to permit them to respirate her," according to the Cincinnati Post.
Lowe volunteered to stay with the baby until she died, rocking her and singing to her, watching her make small movements. "Her bottom lip would go in," Lowe said. "She would move her hands. The hands would open and close." The baby's death certificate reinforces the tragedy of her short 1ife. The cause of death is listed as "extreme prematurity secondary to induced abortion," which is deemed a "natural" manner of death. She has no official first name and no social security number, and her life is succinctly described by the stark words "never married" and "never worked". She was cremated.
Health care workers at Bethesda Thrth Hospital are still feeling the effects of Baby Hope's death. "Staff who cared for her on the night of her birth have experienced a myriad of emotions," said Boyles, a registered nurse at the Hospital, in a statement released by Ohio Right to Life. "The emotional trauma inflicted on our department is deeper and will last longer than the physical railties that we deal with on a daily basis. Many hours have been devoted to staff counseling and 'venting' as a group and individually."
Lowe and Boyles decided to make the story public and be advocates for Baby Hope, to let people know that late-term babies like her are dying every day through partial-birth abortions -- but the babies are usually killed out of sight, in the "privacy" of abortion mills. Baby Hope "was a patient in our emergency department, a perfectly formed new-born, entering the world too soon, through no choice of her own," said Boyles. "She had no voice to tell us that she needed our help that early morning, because others had decided for her that she was worthless and removed her from the ultimate and perfect life support equipment -- her mothers' womb."
The workers are facing disapproval from other health professionals because they broke their profession's "code of silence" by speaking out about a case, according to Lehner. "Colleagues are shunning them for having talked," she said. "But they were so disturbed by this incident they needed to talk about it."
Pro-abortion groups responded to Baby Hope's life and death by attacking the nurses and pro lifers who brought the story to the public's attention, completely ignoring the little girl who died. "We are ... extremely concerned about the seeming disregard for this woman's confidentiality exhibited by hospital employees who went to Right to Life with this story", National Abortion Federation Executive Director Vicki Saporta said in an April 20 press release. "No woman should have to fear that her personal medical experience will be used as a tool by politicians and anti-choice organizations to further a political agenda." "Talking points" included with the press release described the incident as the "miscarriage of a 22-week nonviable fetus."
A spokeswoman for another pro-abortion group, Sue Momeyer, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky, told the Associated Press, "I am concerned that what looks like a very difficult and tragic situation is being used for political purposes.
"Momeyer did not explain what she thought was 'tragic' about the 'situation'", said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson. "After all, an attempt was undertaken to kill Baby Hope through a partial-birth abortion, and Baby Hope did in fact die as a result -- so why does Planned Parenthood, which defends the right to unrestricted partial-birth abortion, use the word 'tragedy'? I suspect that in Planned Parenthood's view, the 'tragedy' is that Baby Hope had the bad taste to fight for life for three hours while others were watching, thereby reminding people of what 'abortion rights' really means."
In the wake of this tragedy, legislators on both the state and federal level called for renewed efforts to pass partial-birth abortion bans. In 1995, Ohio enacted a bill to restrict what it called "brain-suction abortion", intended to curb Dr Haskell's use of what later became known as partial-birth abortion. However, the bill was struck down in federal court in 1997. Subsequent attempts to place a national ban on "partial-birth abortions" were blocked twice at the federal level by President Clinton's vetoes, but have been enacted in a number of other states.
State Rep Jerry Luebbers issued a statement promising to introduce new legislation to ban the procedure in Ohio. "The tragedy of 'Baby Hope' should lead us to redouble our efforts to protect children from what amounts to a form of infanticide", Luebbers said. "To this end, I will soon be introducing a new bill to ban this inhumane partial-birth procedure in Ohio. I am confident that the great majority of Ohio's citizens don't want any child subjected to this brutality."
U.S. Sen Mike DeWine of Ohio called on Congress to pass the ban again despite two presidential vetoes. "Despite our best efforts, partial-birth abortions continue to occur in our own backyard", he said in a statement. "Once again, I am confident Congress will do the right thing and pass this very important bill. It is time to make this bill a law."
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