- - Thursday, April 7, 2022

Did you actually look at the photographs of the five aborted fetuses obtained by pro-life activist Lauren Handy and turned over to D.C. police on Wednesday? The powerful words of abolitionist William Wilberforce are applicable. “You may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know.” Yes, late-term abortions take place in the District of Columbia. Yes, they are gruesome.

As a practicing obstetrician (Dr. Skop) and neonatologist (Dr. Pierucci) who routinely care for infants of roughly the same size, we chose to look. What we saw in a series of photographs and videos raises serious concerns about the D.C. medical examiner’s decision not to perform autopsies given indications that the law may indeed have been broken.

Federal law prohibits an intact dilation and evacuation, also known as partial-birth abortion. In this procedure, a living fetus is partially delivered feet first to the level of her head, then scissors are introduced into the back of her skull to allow suctioning out the brain, so that the bones of the skull can be crushed to facilitate removal. One of the videos shows a baby girl with a collapsed skull, appearing as if she had anencephaly (absence of the brain). Yet what appears to be surgical incisions in the back of her skull indicate she may have been the victim of an illegal partial-birth abortion.

Other photographs show the intact body of a baby boy so large that he must be held by two hands in the photo. He measured 14 inches, but post-mortem changes caused contractions in his limbs, so he was likely at least 16 inches in life. Evidence-based charts of average gestational age measurements indicate that he may have reached 30 weeks gestation before death. His untraumatized body indicates he was probably delivered by induction abortion. Unless killed by a heart-stopping injection prior to induction, there is a reasonable likelihood that he was born alive and then allowed to die on his own.

Although abortion advocates reject the possibility of babies being born alive and left to die in abortion facilities, the doctor who most likely performed these abortions is on record saying that in the event of an abortion resulting in a live birth, “we would not help it.” Dr. Cesare Santangelo of the Washington Surgi-Clinic later clarified his comments in a Washington Post interview, saying, “you let nature take its course.”

We also examined photos of a baby demonstrated to be present within the intact amniotic sac, likely also the result of an induction abortion. The failure of the water bag to break indicates a rapid labor. Again, it is possible this baby survived the induction, but then died by drowning in his own amniotic fluid after birth.

It is difficult to make a determination of the legality of actions based on some of the other aborted remains, as the fetal bodies have been dismembered (or “disarticulated,” as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ recent guide to abortion terminology advises, in order to reduce the visceral emotional response to the procedure’s reality). Dismemberment is allowed by law, but one should be aware that extreme fetal pain in response to having her or his baby body pulled apart by surgical instruments has been documented at least by 15 weeks.  

While the law in D.C. (and 21 other states) allows nonintact dilation and evacuation abortions at late gestational ages, the public should be willing to examine their feelings about this barbaric procedure, which is performed upon defenseless, living members of our society, often for elective reasons. Abortions after viability comprise only 1% of U.S. abortions; nonetheless, this results in an excruciatingly painful death for about 10,000 unborn humans yearly.

Hopefully, this discussion will prompt the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office to follow the science and perform a forensic examination of these unfortunate children’s remains. Accurate gestational ages can be determined by weight, length and even foot measurement charts. Gross and microscopic examination should easily be able to discern if the female never had a brain, or if her brain was surgically removed, possibly while she was still living, in direct opposition to federal law. Pathologic examination of the lungs would document whether these children drew breath after a live birth.

For these reasons, and for the ethical well-being of our society, we call for a full medical examiner’s investigation of the outcomes of the forensic examination of the deaths of these children.

• Dr. Ingrid Skop, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., is senior fellow and director of medical affairs at Charlotte Lozier Institute. Dr. Robin Pierucci, M.D., M.A., is an associate scholar at Charlotte Lozier Institute.

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