Opinion

Small Targets: How abortion survivors are being put to death

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The Council of Europe is an international human rights body comprised of 47 nations. In order to join, a country must sign a treaty known as the European Convention On Human Rights. Protocol 6 of that treaty prohibits signatories from using the death penalty… on criminals. Letting a newborn die is apparently fine.

On January 31, Angel Pintado, a Spanish member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,  submitted a question to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Mr. Pintado was curious as to “what specific steps will the Committee of Ministers take in order to guarantee that fetuses who survive abortions are not deprived of the medical treatment that they are entitled to – as human persons born alive – according to the European Convention on Human Rights?” The answer was less than inspiring.

“The Deputies instructed the Chair to inform the President of the Parliamentary Assembly that, ‘owing to a lack of consensus, it has not been possible to adopt a reply to Written Question No. 655 by Mr. Pintado.’” So, although there is a consensus in Europe that the lives of convicted murders should be spared, babies who survive botched abortions aren’t seen as quite so deserving.

That’s also true in Canada: between 2000 and 2009, 491 newborns were left to die. In Britain, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has advocated that lethal injection should be used to prevent aborted babies from surviving. Whereas UK-based anti-death penalty groups have decried the use of lethal injection on American convicts, its use on British children doesn’t seem to generate as much concern.

This problem exists in the US as well. Although Gianna Jessen and Melissa Ohden both survived late-term abortions, others haven’t been so fortunate.  Dr. Kermit Gosnell was convicted last year of murdering newborns in his Philadelphia clinic.

Live Action News contributor Sarah Terzo has written about the case of Dr. James Baxter Waddill, who was tried for strangling a baby that he had unsuccessfully aborted. Nurse Pat Olivera testified that the child was indeed born alive, while pediatrician Ronald J. Cornelson claimed to have watched Waddill choke her to death. Charges were ultimately dismissed after two hung juries, but Waddill did choose to settle in a civil suit launched by the child’s mother.

Sadly, undercover footage shot by Live Action volunteers suggests that this sort of behavior isn’t unusual.

Pregnant volunteers with hidden cameras went to several late-term abortion facilities in 2012. During the visit, the volunteer said that she was considering an abortion and asked what would be done if her son or daughter survived. In each instance, the volunteer was told that if this happened, the child wouldn’t live. A New York City clinic employee promised that the little boy or girl would be drowned. In Washington, DC, Dr. Cesare Santangelo explained that he doesn’t render assistance to surviving newborns, admitting that “it’s happened before.”

Federal law does address this subject: the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act extends legal protection to infants who survive  abortions. Unfortunately, using it doesn’t appear to be much of a priority.

On May 15, 2013, former US Attorney General Eric Holder appeared before the House Judiciary Committee. When Holder was asked how many times the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act had been enforced, he said he didn’t know. When the Attorney General was then asked if he could name even a single instance, Holder admitted that he couldn’t. This exchange occurred just two days after a verdict had been reached in the Gosnell trial, so you would think the topic might have come up at the Justice Department. Oh well, I guess they had other things to worry about.

The administration’s approach does make sense when you consider who’s at the head of it. After all, President Obama has a history of disregarding abortion survivors. While still in the Illinois state senate, Obama both voted and spoke against legislation to protect such children.

Ending abortion will take time and effort. The good news, however, is that we already have laws to protect newborns–they just need to be enforced.

You can help make that happen by contacting candidates and office-holders and demanding that this issue be addressed. You can also sign Live Action’s petition calling for an end to the bloodshed. Although the death penalty remains a controversial topic, there’s one thing that everyone should agree on: surviving birth shouldn’t be a capital offense.

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