Abortion facility incident sparks prayer vigil, rouses suspicions

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caption (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)
Women pray for an infant, its mother and local abortion workers during a prayer vigil in front of Banner University Medical Center Feb. 27. It’s the hospital where a baby was taken following an abortion procedure. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN)

News that an infant may have survived an abortion at a Phoenix facility swept through the Valley Feb. 26.

At a prayer vigil the following evening in front of Banner University Medical Center where the baby was transported, candles lined the sidewalk while some four dozen faithful fingered rosary beads. Participants said they were praying for the baby, the mother and the medical personnel involved.

Members of 40 Days for Life have been praying outside the nearby Family Planning Associates and other abortion facilities throughout Lent. Although they weren’t present when the Phoenix Fire Department arrived at the scene, someone heard the call go out. A baby had apparently survived an abortion.

Sgt. Trent Crump, spokesman for the Phoenix police, said the Phoenix Fire Department broadcasts all of their dispatches online. “It’s called Fire Wire and every time they dispatch, every single call, it’s on there,” Crump said.

In a call to The Catholic Sun, Crump described the incident at the facility.

“There was somebody that thought they saw movement. When the fire department arrived, there were no heart tones. We’re not certain why there was a decision to do a transport of the — not trying to offend anybody — but the tissue or the fetal tissue or, you know, the infant.”

Pressed as to what transpired next, Crump stated that an investigator from the medical examiner’s office had interviewed the doctor who performed the abortion and obtained medical records via subpoena.

“In this particular case, there is no evidence that this is outside of what’s allowed in the state law,” Crump said. Abortion is illegal in Arizona “after about 24 weeks” but “there’s also some discretion on the doctor on consultation.” The Family Planning Associates website advertises abortions through 23 weeks, six days.

Most of the initial indications, Crump said, were that the fetus involved was 20 or 21 weeks. There will not be an autopsy, he added. “The medical examiner’s office had already made a decision not to take the tissue from the hospital. … We were unable to establish any elements of a crime had taken place at this point.”

The Catholic Sun has requested a copy of the audio file from the 9-1-1 call as well as a copy of the police report but at press time had not received either.

A local nurse who has worked in the Valley with premature infants for decades commented on the situation. Out of concern for privacy issues, The Catholic Sun is not releasing the nurse’s name.

“Something isn’t connecting with this abortion story,” the nurse said. “Say the baby was truly older — I had my dates wrong and the baby is 24 weeks — they should never have done that abortion in the first place. That’s criminal. Something happened because if they were resuscitating the baby, someone needed to think that this was a baby that could be resuscitated. If it wasn’t, if the baby was too young, then why did they try in the first place?”

The questions came as no surprise to John Jakubczyk, a Phoenix attorney and longtime pro-life activist. He suspects that the baby involved was older and called the incident “outrageous.”

“Whether the child was 23 weeks or 28 weeks, there should be an investigation as to how this all took place. The public deserves to know what happened to this baby,” Jakubczyk said.

In an undercover video taken by LiveAction.org at the Family Planning Associates in 2012, an employee advises a woman seeking an abortion at 23 weeks. She is told that she can choose an injection to stop the baby’s heart. “That makes it so, if you were to deliver, there wouldn’t be any movement,” the employee states in the video. “We induce intrauterine demise.” Remains are given to a funeral home where they are cremated and ashes are spread in the desert, the would-be patient is told.

Sheila Riley, practice director at Life Choices Women’s Clinics, said that once a fetus is injected with digoxin to stop the heart, the organs and tissue become unsuitable for donation. Last year, a national controversy erupted when a series of undercover videos at abortion facilities went viral. In the videos, Planned Parenthood officials and employees discuss the sale of fetal body parts.

As to the Feb. 26 incident, Riley offered a blunt assessment: “Abortion facilities see a lot of dead babies. So they know the difference between a dead baby and a live baby,” she said.

The Arizona Legislature is currently considering a bill that would outlaw the sale of fetal tissue.

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