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LIFE DIGEST: HHS head acts to protect born-alive infants; abortion clinic lets survivor die

WASHINGTON (BP)–The new head of the Department of Health and Human Services has signaled he is serious about preventing live-birth abortions.

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced April 22 the department had acted to strengthen compliance with the Born-alive Infants Protection Act, a 2002 law that provides legal protection to fully delivered babies, even when they are intended to be aborted.

The law clarifies a newborn child fully outside his mother’s womb is a person to be protected under federal law. This includes every human infant “born alive at any state of development,” according to the law.

The measure especially targeted an abortion method in which newborns who survive are allowed to die. Nurses had testified before a congressional committee that the procedure, known as live-birth abortion, was used at Christ Hospital in Chicago. In the method, delivery is induced, and the baby is left unattended to die.

In a written statement, Leavitt said he would “vigorously uphold” the principle in the Born-alive Infants Protection Act that all infants who are born alive “are entitled to the full protection of the law.”

“We took the first of these educational steps today by notifying relevant entities that we aggressively enforce federal laws that protect born-alive infants,” Leavitt said. HHS “issued clear guidance that withholding medical care from an infant born alive” may be considered a violation of federal law and the conditions for participating in Medicare, he said.

Leavitt’s action “provided reason to be encouraged” following “nearly three years of inaction by the former secretary [Tommy Thompson],” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a written statement. “With the leadership of [Secretary] Leavitt, HHS can enforce basic protections for the most vulnerable and stop this barbaric practice. This is a hopeful sign that the new secretary will work to protect the dignity of all life.”

VICTIM OF CHOICE -– A tiny baby boy died in his mother’s arms in an Orlando, Fla., abortion clinic April 2, the victim not only of her choice but of the unwillingness of the staff to help him, according to a legal organization representing the mother.

Almost 23 weeks pregnant, Angele, a single mother with two children, went to the EPOC Clinic in Orlando April 1 to begin the abortion process, Liberty Counsel reported. Laminaria were inserted in her cervix to begin dilation, and she took a prescription the next day to initiate labor to eject what would supposedly be a dead child. Angele returned to the clinic and gave birth to what appeared to be a healthy boy, whom she named Rowan, according to Liberty Counsel.

She screamed for help and for a clinic worker to call 911, but no one assisted her. Eventually, she retrieved her cell phone, but medical aid failed to arrive before her son died. “I could not stop crying,” Angele said, according to Liberty Counsel. “I felt so bad. I felt so helpless. I had been so wrong to come here. … I wanted to fix and change everything once I saw Rowan’s precious little face and body. All we needed was someone to get us to safety.”

Liberty Counsel President Mat Staver said, “When I visited baby Rowan at the funeral home and saw his precious little body, fully formed with blond eyelashes and growing fingernails, I wondered, ‘How can we continue to kill our children and hide behind the rubric of choice?’ Rowan’s short life will not be in vain if his story can give life and hope to mothers who believe their only choice is abortion.”

VETOING ACCOUNTABILITY –- Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius again has vetoed a bill strengthening health and safety standards for abortion clinics, even after a teenager died following a January abortion in Wichita.

Sebelius, a Democrat, rejected similar legislation in 2003, but her April 15 veto came only three months after a 19-year-old disabled woman from Texas was rushed from the Wichita clinic of well-known abortionist George Tiller to Wesley Medical Center. The unidentified woman died, it was confirmed later.

Tiller, owner of the Women’s Health Care Services clinic since 1975, has become known as the leading provider of late-term abortions in the United States. He contributed more than $20,000 in political donations to Sebelius from 1994 to 2002, according to CNSNews.

The measure Sebelius vetoed would have required abortion clinics to be licensed each year by the state’s Department of Health and Environment, according to the Associated Press. It also would have mandated clinics have surgeons as their medical directors and report deaths to the state within a day, AP reported. The health and environment department also would have been required to establish standards for medical tests, equipment, ventilation and lighting, according to AP.

The Kansas legislature, Sebelius charged, “has chosen pure politics over good policy, has rejected uniform standards for all procedures and has instead chosen to regulate only one procedure –- abortion,” AP reported.

Pro-life advocates decried her veto.

Sebelius’ veto “cements her legacy as a governor who protected the abortion industry rather than protecting women,” Kansans for Life Executive Director Mary Kay Culp said, according to AP.

Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, which keeps a presence outside Tiller’s clinic, said in a written statement, “There is a crisis at the abortion clinics in our state that does not exist in any other medical profession. If the governor truly cared about the safety and good health of women, she would not have vetoed this bill and allowed these deplorable conditions to continue.”

The legislature, which reconvenes April 27, may be able to override the veto. The Senate passed the bill with 27 votes and the House with 88 votes, according to AP. An override, which requires a two-thirds majority, would need 27 votes in the Senate and 84 in the House.

CULTURE OF DEATH –- Belgium appears to have a special fondness for hastening death in sick people, whether they are newborns or adults.

A recent survey of Belgian doctors found 79 percent believed it was their duty to speed up death for critically ill babies when necessary to prevent suffering. The poll was done for The Lancet, a British medical journal, and reported by I.C. Huddersfield, an English newspaper chain.

In addition, euthanasia kits are now available at 250 pharmacies in Belgium, according to an April 17 report by the news service Agence France Presse. Belgian doctors may pick up the kits 24 hours after ordering them, AFP reported, citing television channel RTl-Tvi.

The euthanasia rate in Belgium is increasing, the country’s Federal Control and Evaluation Commission for Euthanasia reported April 21, according to LifeSite News. During the first 15 months after the practice was legalized in 2002, there were about 20 deaths a month from euthanasia. The rate is now up to 30 per month, according to the report.

Euthanasia, or physician-induced death, may be practiced when a patient is “in a medically hopeless condition of chronic and unbearable physical or psychological suffering,” according to the law. It is not legal for underage children, however.

‘WORST THING I EVER DID’ -– Her abortion as a teenager was the “worst thing” she ever did, says rock musician wife Sharon Osbourne, according to a new biography.

The new book, “Sharon Osbourne: Unauthorized, Uncensored – Understood,” says Osbourne, the wife of rock artist Ozzy Osbourne, was forced by her mother to have an abortion when she was 17, LifeSite News reported.

According to a review of the book, which is due to be released April 28 in Great Britain, she said the abortion clinic “was full of other young girls, and we were all terrified,” LifeSite reported. “I howled my way through [the abortion], and it was horrible,” Osbourne said. “It was the worst thing I ever did.”