The Lessons of Baby Hope

From the Congressional Record
The Senate
Tuesday, April 20, 1999

Statement by Ohio Senator Mike DeWine.


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Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, one of the key virtues of living in a free society such as our own is that it's harder for injustice to remain hidden and unreported. Unlike Communist and fascist countries -- countries where the government can control access to information, and cover up genocide and war crimes for years -- in our country, people are allowed to stand up and tell the truth. They can reveal inconvenient and unpleasant facts about moral evils that are taking place in our society.

To speak the truth -- to distinguish right from wrong, you don't have to be a President, or a Senator, or a famous human rights crusader like Martin Luther King, Jr. You can be anybody. You can be a medical technician in Cincinnati, OH.

Mr. President, let me tell you a story about how -- very recently, in my home State of Ohio -- some disturbing truths were revealed that many Americans simply wish would go away.

On April 6, a young woman went into an abortion clinic in Montgomery County, OH, to undergo a procedure known as partial-birth abortion. This is a procedure that usually takes place behind closed doors, where it can be ignored, its moral status left unquestioned.

But this particular procedure was different. In this procedure, on April 6, things did not go as planned. Here's what happened.

The Dayton, OH, abortionist, Dr. Martin Haskell, started a procedure to dilate her cervix, so the child could eventually be removed and killed. He applied seaweed to start the procedure. He then sent her home -- because this procedure usually takes 2 or 3 days. In fact, the patient is supposed to return on the second day for a further application of seaweed -- and then come back a third time for the actual partial-birth abortion -- a 3-day procedure.

So the woman went home to Cincinnati, expecting to return to Dayton and complete the procedure in 2 or 3 days. But her cervix dilated far too quickly. Shortly after midnight on the first day, after experiencing severe stomach pains. She was admitted to Bethesda North Hospital in Cincinnati.

The child was born. After 3 hours and 8 minutes, this little girl died.

The cause of death was listed on the death certificate as "prematurity secondary to induced abortion."

True enough, Mr. President. But also on the death certificate is a space for "Method of death." And it says, in the case of this child, "Method of death: natural."

I do not mean to quarrel, talk about whether this is true in the technical sense. But if you look at the events that led up to her death, you'll see that there was really nothing natural about them at all.

The medical technician who held that little girl for the 3 hours and 8 minutes of her short life named her Baby Hope. Baby Hope did not die of natural causes. She was the victim of a barbaric procedure that is opposed by the vast majority of the American people. A procedure that has twice been banned by act of Congress -- only to see the ban repeatedly overturned by a Presidential veto.

The death of Baby Hope did not take place behind the closed doors of an abortion clinic. It took place in public -- in a hospital dedicated to saving lives, not taking them. Her death reminds us of the brutal reality and tragedy of what partial-birth abortion really is.

When we voted to ban partial-birth abortions, we talked about this procedure in graphic detail. The public reaction to this disclosure -- the disclosure of what partial-birth abortion really is -- was loud and it was decisive. And there is a very good reason for this. The procedure is barbaric.

One of the first questions people ask is "why?"

"Why do they do this procedure? Is it really necessary? Why do we allow this to happen?"

Dr. C. Everett Koop speaks for the consensus of the medical profession when he says this is never a medically necessary procedure. Even Martin Haskell -- the abortionist in the Baby Hope case -- has admitted that at least 80 percent of the partial-birth abortions he performs are elective.

The facts are clear. Partial-birth abortion is not that rare a procedure. What is rare is that we -- as a society -- saw it happen. It happened by surprise at a regular hospital where it wasn't supposed to happen.

Baby Hope was not supposed to die in the arms of a medical technician. But she did. And this little baby cannot be easily ignored. We cannot turn our back on this reality.

This procedure is not limited to mothers and fetuses who are in danger. It is performed on healthy women -- and healthy babies -- all the time.

The goal of a partial-birth abortion is not to protect somebody's health but to kill a child. That is what the abortionist wants to do.

Dr. Haskell himself has said as much. In an interview with the American Medical News, he said:

You could dilate further and deliver the baby alive but that's really not the point.

The point is, you are attempting to do an abortion, and that is the goal of your work, is to complete an abortion, not to see how do I manipulate the situation so I get a live birth instead.

Now Dr. Haskell has admitted what the reality is.Why don't we?

Again, let's hear Dr. Haskell in his own words, a man who performed this abortion on Baby Hope. This is what Dr. Haskell says about this "procedure."

These are Dr. Haskell's words:

I just kept on doing the D&E's [dilation and extraction] because that is what I was comfortable with, up until 24 weeks. But they were very tough. Sometimes it was a 45-minute operation. I noticed some of the later D&Es were very, very easy. So I asked myself why can't they all happen this way. You see the easy ones would have a foot length presentation, you'd reach up and grab the foot of the fetus, pull the fetus down and the head would hang up and then you would collapse the head and take it Out. It was easy.
It was easy, Mr. President. Easy for Dr. Haskell. He does not say it was easy for the mother, and he certainly does not say it was easy for the baby. I suspect he doesn't care. His goal is to perform abortions. But is he the person we are going to trust to decide when abortions are necessary? Dr. Haskell has a production line going in Dayton, OH. Nothing is going to stop him from meeting his quota.

Dr. Haskell continues. Again, the words of Dr. Haskell:

At first, I would reach around trying to identify a lower extremity blindly with the tip of my instrument. I'd get it right about 30-50 percent of the time.

Then I said, "Well, gee, if I just put the ultrasound up there, I could see it all and I wouldn't have to feel around for it." I did that and sure enough, I found it 99 percent of the time. Kind of serendipity.

Serendipity, Mr. President.

Let me conclude. We need to ask ourselves, what does our toleration in this country of this "procedure" say about us as a nation? Where do we draw the line? At what point do we finally stop saying, "Well, I don't really like this, but it doesn't really matter to me, so I will put up with it"? When do we stop saying that as a country, Mr. President? At what point do we say, "Unless we stop this from happening, we cannot justly call ourselves a civilized Nation"?

When you come right down to it, America's moral anesthetic is wearing off. It really is. We know what is going on behind the curtain, and we cannot wish that knowledge away. We have to face it, and we have to do what is right.

This week, some of my colleagues and I will be reintroducing the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Twice in the last 3 years, Congress has passed this legislation with strong bipartisan support, only to see it fall victim to a Presidential veto. Once again, I am confident Congress will do the right thing and pass this very important legislation. But that is not enough. Passing this legislation in Congress is not enough. For lives to be saved, the bill must actually become law.

Mr. President, if something happens behind the iron curtain of an abortion clinic, it is easier to pretend it simply did not happen. But the death of Baby Hope in Cincinnati, OH, in the last few days has torn that curtain, revealing the truth of this barbaric procedure.

Let people not ask about us 50 years from now: How could they not have known? or ask: Why didn't they do anything? because, Mr. President, the fact is, we do know and we must take action.

I yield the floor.


Posted 5 Sep 2000.

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