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"Badly botched" doesn't quite cover it

pregnancy_23weeksWe frequently discuss the "ghosts" that are present in various stories. It pains me to use that term for this story about a child born at 23 weeks gestation who was allegedly killed by an abortion clinic owner outside Miami. This is another story that had been percolating around the internet before being picked up by mainstream media this week. Written by the Associated Press' Christine Armario, the story is actually rather well done:

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy.

Three days later, she sat in a reclining chair, medicated to dilate her cervix and otherwise get her ready for the procedure.

Only Renelique didn't arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl.

What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked people on both sides of the abortion debate: One of the clinic's owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant's umbilical cord. Williams says the woman placed the baby in a plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

The headline to the piece is "Fla. doctor investigated in badly botched abortion." But there are two investigations. There's a hearing in front of the state Board of Medicine to determine whether the doctor who was to perform the abortion should lose his license. And the state attorney's homicide division is investigating the death of the child.

I wondered whether the death should be referred to as a "badly botched abortion" or an "infanticide" or plain old "killing" -- but the story, while also trucking in some euphemisms, does a much better job of distilling a rather complicated story in a straightforward fashion.

The story writer has some interesting background on the doctor in question and solicits comments from attorneys on both sides, one firm of which has some religious angles:

The case has riled the anti-abortion community, which contends the clinic's actions constitute murder.

"The baby was just treated as a piece of garbage," said Tom Brejcha, president of The Thomas More Society, a law firm that is also representing Williams. "People all over the country are just aghast."

Would that be the pro-life law center named after Saint Thomas More?

A National Organization of Woman chapter president said the story disturbed her. The story includes a ton of details and even mentions why the woman seeking an abortion changed her view of ending the life of her child:

"She came face to face with a human being," [attorney Tom] Pennekamp said. "And that changed everything."

The complaint says one of the clinic owners, Belkis Gonzalez came in and cut the umbilical cord with scissors, then placed the baby in a plastic bag, and the bag in a trash can.

Williams' lawsuit offers a cruder account: She says Gonzalez knocked the baby off the recliner chair where she had given birth, onto the floor. The baby's umbilical cord was not clamped, allowing her to bleed out. Gonzalez scooped the baby, placenta and afterbirth into a red plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

The story is very thorough, explaining that most 23-week-olds have a slim but legitimate chance of survival, noting a case last year of quadruplets surviving at that age. The baby was born alive, according to a medical examination.

It's a heartbreaking story (for me, at least, as the mother of a baby who is 26-weeks-old currently) but the reporter did a good job of being balanced and including a ton of information.

Sure, there are many questions or angles to be explored in the future. I think an interview with Jill Stanek, the Illinois nurse who (after witnessing a failed abortion attempt) has been influential in attempting to pass the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, is in order. And perhaps a discussion of President Barack Obama's efforts against the bills that came up on the matter while he was a state senator. It's probably too much to hope for a discussion of what religious adherents in the culture war think are the central issues at play in a story like this.

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