Interviewing Jill Stanek: Her life-changing experience, pro-abortion turf wars, and what pro-lifers need to do now
Jill Stanek is considered by many to be the most influential pro-life blogger on the internet. After a career in nursing, where she discovered live birth abortions being performed at her hospital, she became an outspoken advocate for the pro-life cause. She helped to pass the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, even being thanked by President George Bush at the signing, and continues to write and speak out about pro-life issues.
Cassy Fiano: Can you tell me a little about yourself and your background?
Jill Stanek: I was a registered nurse at a hospital in Chicago when, in 1999, I found out that they were involved in a late-term abortion procedure called induced labor abortion. This sometimes resulted in babies being aborted alive, and then left to die. I held a little abortion survivor for 45 minutes until he died, which was obviously life-changing. Then, eventually, I went public and got fired. I also testified for and helped pass the Born Alive Infant Protection Act. I went on to run for a seat as a state representative in 2002 and lost, and then I got involved instead in online news. I learned the ropes with a conservative news source in Illinois, and then started my own blog in 2005. I’ve been blogging ever since. What I do now, on a full-time basis, is write and speak on pro-life issues.
Have you always been pro-life, or did it take that life-changing experience to get you to change your views?
I was personally pro-life. I went to work at Christ Hospital because I thought I would be safe from abortions there. I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with it because it was named “Christ”. I didn’t know there were such things are pro-abortion churches at that time, and Christ Hospital is affiliated with two of them: Evangelical Lutheran Church of America and United Church of Christ. I didn’t want to be involved in abortions, but at that point I also certainly was not an activist. I thought people involved in the pro-life movement full-time, especially the ones who would go out and hold the graphic signs, were over-the-top and kind of nutty. So I was not at all actively involved in the pro-life movement. It wasn’t even on my radar screen. It wasn’t until after I held that baby.
You said that you eventually gotten fired from your job. Was that because you spoke out about the abortions?
Yes. I appealed to the hospital privately at first, in a letter. I wasn’t out for this to be a public issue, if it could be helped. When the hospital said they wouldn’t stop, I asked a couple of influential organizations and people to privately appeal to the hospital, such as Concerned Women of America, Cardinal Francis George and Dr. C. Everett Koop, and they did. The wrote letters. When the hospital still wouldn’t stop, I went public. Then after I went public, I never felt like I could leave the hospital. That might have been a move somebody else would have made, but I just felt like the Lord knew what I was getting into, and he could foresee what was going to happen. And if I were to leave, I would be abandoning my post, so to speak. I also think I stayed on because if I left, I wouldn’t know anymore about what was going on, and because the name of the hospital was “Christ”. It was, and is, just so blasphemous to me that this practice would be going on at a hospital with a huge gold cross on the top of it. That became another reason that I stayed. And so I didn’t ever see the end of it. I stayed, but I didn’t like going to work. It got harder and harder as time went on. I ended up being ostracized at work, I was constantly being watched. I was on “final warning” for the two years I stayed, until I finally got fired on August 31, 2001, for reasons having to do with my speaking out. I always had prayed that if I was going to get fired, that it wouldn’t be for a professional lapse, and it wasn’t. God honored that, and I was fired for speaking out against the abortions at the hospital.
Do you think this practice is still going on at Christ hospital, and other hospitals around the country?
Oh yes. Christ Hospital never changed its policy. I’m told that Christ hospital has curtailed that policy, and now they just supposedly abort for fatal fetal anomalies or life of the mother, but I don’t know that for sure. I also know that, incidentally, from e-mails and through reading, that these abortions are pretty commonplace in hospitals and abortion clinics around the United States. They’re conducted a bit differently in abortion clinics in that the abortionists in clinics will kill the baby before he starts the labor and induction, like George Tiller, for instance. They visualize the baby’s heart on the ultrasound, and inject the baby’s heart with the drug that causes cardiac arrest, and then they start the labor and induction procedure. But a lot of hospitals don’t. They just start the labor and induction procedure at an age when the baby can’t possibly survive, so they think. So if a baby was born alive — and in my experience, they lived somewhere around 25% of the time — the hospital thinks that the baby isn’t viable, that the lungs aren’t mature enough or it has diseases. If the baby survives, they think the baby can’t live long-term. It’s a bit of a gamble, but that’s what the hospitals think.
If these babies were given medical attention instead of being left to die, the ones born alive after the attempted abortion, do you think they would have survived?
I’m sure some of them would, and the practice at Christ was not to assess these babies after they were born. In the neonatal unit, the rule of thumb is you don’t know what you have until you see the baby. For instance, I know one baby at Christ who was aborted at 23 weeks, which is right around the time that a baby would be considered viable. This baby wasn’t wanted, and so she was aborted. She lived for around two and a half hours, and the only people who ever saw her were an OB/GYN resident, and a nurse friend of mine. The baby’s APGAR scores actually improved between 1 minute and 5 minutes. The APGAR score is a way for nurses and doctors to analyze how well a baby is doing when they’re first born. This baby got better on her own, with nothing being done for her. Not too long after, another baby was born at Christ at 23 weeks who was wanted. A team of four specialists were present at that baby’s delivery, and helped that baby live, and they survived. So I’m quite confident that there are cases where the babies would survive with medical help. And we know of some abortion survivors, like Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen, who were marked for death and by circumstances were saved at birth.
You mentioned the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, and how Barack Obama had opposed that. What are your thoughts on his presidency, given that he’s the most pro-abortion president in this country’s history and has just been re-elected for another four years? And what can pro-lifers do to fight his pro-abortion agenda?
We can fight him tooth and nail on the federal level. Every way that he tries to promote abortion, we can fight it, even if it’s just in the court of public opinion. House members are trying to defund Planned Parenthood, and there have been federal bills proposed such as a ban on sex-selective abortions that passed the House, but these have no chance of passing the Senate or being signed into law by this president. So there’s not a lot on the federal level that can be done, except for trying to stop forward progress on the other side. But on the state level, there’s been a lot of progress made in the past year. The most pro-life laws ever were signed — over 90 — in 2011, and in 2012, over 40 pro-life laws were signed into law, the second highest. There’s also over 30 pro-life governors in office now. There’s a lot to be done, and has been done, on the state level. But this past election was a reminder that we are personally responsible for our own sphere of influence. I am personally responsible for my own community, for my own church, and schools, to stop abortion where I live, or to encourage moral behavior. If each pro-lifer would take that seriously, to succeed where we all live in our own spheres of influence, that would go a very long way to go towards stopping abortion. Also, online, such as what Live Action is doing as far as public education goes, can help persuade those who are not with us. It can also help let what the other side says not go unanswered. For example, NARAL is having their 8th Annual Blog for Choice Day, so we’re having a counter “What do they mean they say choice?” day. There’s a lot that can be done aside from just getting things done on the federal or executive level to curtail the culture of death. Just because Barack Obama is president, the most pro-abortion, pro-infanticide president our country has ever seen, it doesn’t mean we’re helpless.
“Time” magazine did a recent article saying that pro-choicers won a victory with Roe v Wade, but have been losing ever since. Would you agree with that or disagree?
Theoretically speaking, pro-choicers won in a way that was unhelpful to them, which was by judicial fiat. And I think they all probably agree that had they continued on as they were doing at the time, of slowly passing laws in different states, they would have been more successful. Think of a frog slowly boiling in a pot, where slowly, over time, abortion would have become more and more legalized without people really noticing. But when they outright legalized it throughout all fifty states, it caused a crisis of conscience. And ever since, they’ve been like the kings on the hill, always trying to push back the people trying to run them off the hill. Meanwhile, for us, we look back and see 55 millions babies who have been slaughtered, and we certainly don’t think that they’re losing. I see such a pervasive culture of death thinking, not just on the abortion level, but in so many other areas, such as some contraception which kills early babies, or in vitro fertilization, where so many babies are killed through that process, or are in suspended frozen animation. We have embryonic stem cell experimentation, where we’re dissecting these little humans. We’ve had cloning. Last year in Oregon, we had an embryo created with three parents. We’ve got surrogacy, and euthanasia and assisted suicide on the rise. It’s not just abortion anymore. There’s been a whole thought process unleashed, in part because of the legalization of abortion that will be really hard to put back in the bottle. That said, everything I’m reading from the other side indicates that they sense that they are losing on the abortion issue. And they should be losing, because we’ve had so many medical advances since Roe v Wade was passed, especially ultrasounds. We can now see these tiny, one-half inch long babies, and their little beating hearts, that makes the mantra that these are just blobs of tissue melt away. We’ve found that the medical advances are helping our side. We also have a burgeoning pregnancy care center industry around the United States, with three to four times as many as abortion clinics. The scummy abortion clinics are seeing their reputations go down. And the other side has to defend every type of abortion there is. They have to support sex-selective abortions, which Live Action exposed. They can’t say that any abortion regulations are OK, because by doing so, they’re admitting that something is wrong. They can’t oppose partial-birth abortion, even though the public is against it. They have to oppose parental notification, which the public supports. So they’re losing slowly but surely in the court of public opinion.
“Time” also claimed that there’s a generation fight in the pro-abortion movement. Why do you think it is that the pro-aborts are having this intergenerational divide?
It’s pretty simple to see why that would happen. The older generation is filled with very selfish people. The whole reason they got into abortion advocacy was either greed, with the money and power to be made from it, or to support the killing of inconvenient people. They wanted people who were inconvenient to them killed. And then you’ve got the younger generation coming up emulating them. They’re selfish too. They also have that greed for money and power, and they also support an ideology that thinks that you should be able to kill people who are inconvenient and get in your way. They’ve got that going against them to begin with. And there is a certain level of distrust that should be felt on the part of the younger people towards the older people. And from that “Time” article, the older people distrust the younger people for wanting to take away their power and influence, too. Of course, in every walk of life there’s going to be a generational struggle, but this has added negative elements that make it even more difficult for them to pass on the reigns without turf wars. The young people know what it’s like to be a choice, and that they have siblings that have been killed, that at least 1/4th of their generation is gone because of abortion. They’ve read the stories of abortion, of post-abortive moms saying that it didn’t help them, it hurt them. So the battle to maintain the status quo is going to get harder and harder, nevermind taking additional turf.
Why do you think that, since Roe v Wade, there are so few other options given to women besides abortion? It’s as if they don’t want abortion to just be legal, they have to choose abortion. They don’t want women choosing adoption, or going to a crisis pregnancy center and learning there are resources to help her if she chooses to keep her baby. Why is there such a focus on women having abortions?
Well, there are two reasons. Number one: financial. The abortion industry, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, all of them, they get their funding from abortion. And politically, there’s a circular little pat on the back that politicians and pro-abortion groups engage in. Pro-abortion groups like Emily’s List and NARAL all help these pro-abortion politicians get elected by giving them money and getting them votes, and then the politicians turn around and stop pro-life legislation, which helps them get more money. Barack Obama was willing to hold up the entire budget deal just to make sure funding wasn’t cut for Planned Parenthood. So there’s that issue of both of political gain and money. Number two: they have to keep the number of abortions as high as possible to prove that it’s needed. They need the numbers high to demonstrate that if abortions are made illegal again, 1.2 million women will go underground to get them and die.
Do you think this idea of the back-alley abortions where women die is something that would actually happen if abortion were to be made illegal?
Bernard Nathanson, who was one of the founders of NARAL, has said that the numbers they cooked up were made up out of thin air. That’s one thing. Another important thing is that antibiotics have been created now, so the number of deaths from illegal abortions would certainly go down, since we have ways of helping those moms that we didn’t have before. We also have all of these pregnancy care centers that we didn’t have before, that will stick around to help these moms care for their babies. The bigger picture is that even if we know that there are going to be moms who resort to illegal abortions, and may be harmed, is no reason to not make abortion illegal. We don’t say in any other area of moral law in the United States that, well, this law is going to be broken so we shouldn’t pass it. Every law is broken. We don’t say just because I know someone will hold up a 7-11 one day, we should pass a law making robbery legal. We don’t say that just because someone will murder someone, murder should be legal. We have to have boundaries and guidelines, and so illegal abortions can’t stand in the way of making abortions illegal.
What is it that you feel that pro-lifers need to do on the anniversary of Roe v Wade more than anything else?
Well, the most important thing of course that can be done is to pray. The next most important thing that pro-lifers can do is to take care of their own spheres of influence first. So pro-lifers around the country need to get on school boards to make sure Planned Parenthood stays out of their schools. They need to tell their pastors to preach against abortion, and that our churches should be supporting those pregnancy care centers. If there’s an abortion clinic in your town, you need to be picketting that clinic. We need to take care of our own business. I think that’s the most important thing for pro-lifers to do.
You can follow Jill Stanek and the work she does at her blog, JillStanek.com.