- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

Jill Stanek has discovered a way of getting back at the hospital that fired her five months ago.
She is running for office.
On Aug. 31, Advocate Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., fired the labor and delivery nurse for her whistleblowing on its treatment of infants left alive after late-term abortions. She now is running for the Republican nomination for Illinois' newly redrawn 81st state legislative district southwest of Chicago.
Mrs. Stanek, 45, thinks it is a likely win.
"I've been involved for more than two years in an effort to stop babies from being aborted alive at Christ Hospital," she says. "This effort has taken me into world politics. I have testified four times before Illinois [legislative] and Washington congressional committees and have had multiple opportunities to observe the Illinois General Assembly up close. I've done an effective job of being a policy-maker and I've not even been elected yet."
Her opponent in the March 19 primary, Rep. Renee Kosel, serves on the board of directors of the hospital that fired her. Mrs. Stanek is appealing the firing on the grounds that she is a legally protected whistleblower.
For the past 21/2 years, Mrs. Stanek's efforts have put Christ Hospital in the media spotlight. The institution, affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, has been blasted by pro-lifers nationwide for its late-term abortion policy.
Most late-term abortions are performed in the womb by either killing the fetus with a saline solution, injecting potassium chloride into the heart or by dismembering it. But Christ Hospital uses a method called induced-labor abortion, in which labor is induced weeks before a child is viable outside the womb. Those who are born alive are simply left to die.
Despite all the bad publicity, it still is practiced, the nurse says.
"I knew of at least two deliveries in 2001 who were healthy," she says. "One little girl aborted last spring was 23 weeks [past conception]. She weighed a pound. She began breathing on her own, but she was never given any medical attention. She lived for 21/2 hours in the labor and delivery department after never having been seen by any neonatal doctors."
Mrs. Stanek first protested the hospital's policy in May 1999 after she discovered a boy weighing half a pound lying on a counter in a utility room. The infant had been aborted in the 21st week of pregnancy because he had Down syndrome.
The nurse discovered that no one else wanted to touch the child; the parents did not want to hold him and the rest of the hospital staff had no time. As she held him, the 10-inch-long boy gasped for breath for another 45 minutes until his underdeveloped lungs expired.
The nurse wrote a letter to hospital officials, asking if they knew of the policy. They did. In fact, an internal memo she found that summer described a draft policy allowing abortions for several abnormalities, including HIV and cystic fibrosis, as well as fetuses of schizophrenic mothers.
Mrs. Stanek contacted the pastor of her nondenominational church, who urged her to speak out.
After she released the memo to the press, the hospital retaliated by issuing a complaint. It also told Mrs. Stanek to sign a confidentiality agreement requiring her not to discuss hospital or patient issues. She refused.
The hospital insists such late-term abortions are rare; that out of about 4,000 live births annually at the facility, 15 or 16 of them are induced-labor abortions.
The procedure rarely gets media attention. In Edmonton, Canada, the Alberta Report magazine in April 1999 exposed the same practice at a Calgary hospital. There, the procedure is called "genetic termination" because it involves unborn children with genetic abnormalities.
"I think people would be shocked if they knew how many hospitals do this," Mrs. Stanek says. "Most hospitals muddy it by calling the cause of death 'extreme prematurity' without adding they caused that prematurity to happen."
Mike Maggio, spokesman for the hospital, would not comment on why Mrs. Stanek was fired.
"If you look at a scale from right to left, from the most conservative on the right to the most liberal on the left, we are on the right in regards to pregnancy termination," he says. "I was taken aback over the last year by all the media interest on this. Our pregnancy-termination policy is more restrictive than many hospitals, probably one step below Catholic hospitals."
Christ Hospital also has said this procedure is performed nationwide. A 1997 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistic of types of abortions performed in 41 states estimated 0.4 percent of all abortions about 3,000 procedures a year were from "induced labor."
The rights of handicapped newborns have been subjects of debate. Princeton ethicist Peter Singer has written that some societies consider it virtuous to kill handicapped newborns.
"If we can put aside these emotionally moving but strictly irrelevant aspects of the killing of a baby, we can see that the grounds for not killing persons do not apply to newborn infants," he writes in his 2000 book, "Writings on an Ethical Life."
Mrs. Stanek's efforts have led to the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act of 2001, which has passed both houses of Congress, but is tied up in conference committee. The legislation states that babies born alive are persons with legal rights.
But a similar package of bills for the protection of "born alive" infants died in the Illinois state House after passing the state Senate. State Sen. Patrick J. O'Malley, who resigned from the hospital's board because of the controversy, sponsored the legislation. He told the Chicago Tribune that Mrs. Stanek is "one of the most courageous women I have ever met."
Today, some infants who survive abortion at Christ Hospital are taken to a "comfort room."
"It has pretty wallpaper, and a rocking chair in a corner to rock these babies to death," Mrs. Stanek says, "and there's a picture machine to take pictures of the baby. There's also baptismal gowns and supplies." Her photos of the "comfort room" were entered into the Congressional Record and were to be posted on her Web site, www.JillStanek2002.com.
Mrs. Stanek, who was handed her pink slip after a two-week vacation, said she was not surprised.
"I stayed there for two years fighting them on the inside," she said. "I felt I was put there for that time and to quit would be quitting on God, really. Whenever I thought about leaving, I wondered what babies was I saving by my very presence?"
Just before her vacation, she criticized the hospital in a lengthy newspaper profile.
"That was the final straw," she says now. "I think Christ Hospital had had it by then. At least they have stopped aborting Down syndrome, spina bifida and non-fatally ill children."

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