At 3:20 a.m. on December 17, 1985, 22-year-old Nadine Bourne gave birth to her baby while seated on a toilet at Vancouver General Hospital. The little girl weighed about three pounds -- consistent with an infant of 30 or 31 weeks gestation, well into the third trimester. The trouble was, Nadine had been admitted to Vancouver General Hospital the day before to be treated for fever and rapid pulse after an abortion she'd undergone four days earlier at a Bellingham, Washington Planned Parenthood. Nadine had told hospital staff that she'd been 14 to 16 weeks pregnant. Dr. Jaroudi, a resident summoned by the Emergency Room physician when Nadine was admitted, examined the young woman but failed to notice that she was still pregnant. The baby came as a complete and very unwelcome surprise to everybody.
A nurse, Vera Wood, did not call a resuscitation team or an infant transport team to take the shivering, whimpering, gasping infant to Children's hospital. Instead, according to court records, "She took the baby into the service room where dead fetuses are stored, and left it there [in a bedpan] for 40 minutes."
Thomas Berger, an attorney representing the child and her adoptive family noted, "We could prove that Vera Wood and other nurses did nothing to suction the baby or to provide warmth or oxygen for the child. Our case was that the baby suffered severe [trauma] as a result of these acts or omissions by VGH and its employees, resulting in brain damage in the form of mental retardation and cerebral palsy." After 40 minutes, nurse Wood called the night nursing supervisor, Joyce Hatherall, who cleared the baby's air passages, provided warmth and called for oxygen.
Mr. Berger also said, "We also had evidence that Dr. Jaroudi, called up to the ward, realized the baby had been delivered by Nadine Bourne, and realized it was viable, but nevertheless told the nurses not to resuscitate the baby ('...let it go')." Which, while not exactly rushing to the child's aid, was an improvement over what William Waddill did while nurses were attempting to resuscitate Baby W. in a California hospital. Jaroudi's attempt to complete the abortion was limited to an order to let the baby die, an order Joyce Hatherall ignored.
But even after Hatherall's intervention, the baby was placed on a metal counter, where she likely suffered further hypothermia. And when Jaroudi finally contacted the transport team for Children's Hospital, he gave them insufficient information, causing an additional half-hour delay in providing care to the baby.
That neglected baby, left to die, has since been adopted. And she has a name: Ximena Renearts. But thanks to the attempts on her life both before and after her birth, she suffered permanent brain damage. She is quadriplegic and has the mental capacity of a three-year-old.
BC police made two abortive (how appropriate!) investigations of the case, with spokesman Sergeant Bob Cooper calling the case "bullshit", comparing it to cases where children die when being delivered by midwives. Which leaves me wondering if BC midwives routinely leave premature infants in metal bedpans in the closet for over half an hour at a time before somebody else comes along and provides care over the midwives' objections.
Part of the reason for the callous attitude of the police may be that the spokesman for the BC Minister of Health's Office, Michelle Stewart, is dismissive of the issue of infants born live during abortions, commenting, "As you know, this Ministry is very much in favor of giving women choices about their reproductive health." British Columbia's Chief Coroner Larry Campbell included a letter in a report on such live births, and dismissed them as to be expected in abortion and therefore outside the purview of BC coroners, who only get involved if a death is "unexpected". In other words, at least in British Columbia, abortion is 100% about achieving the death of the infant, even if the infant is born alive. Which leaves me to wonder if a perpetrator who shot Ximena dead tomorrow would face charges at all. Is she still, legally, only an aborted fetus?
The family filed suit against the hospital, the doctor, and the nurse, settling out of court for over $8 million, which will be used to build an accessible house for Ximena and to provide her with the care she will need for the rest of her life.
The hospital never conducted an internal review of how a live-born infant was treated like a pathology specimen on their premises, in violation of the law forbidding anyone to abandon or expose a child under the age of ten "so that its life is or is likely to be endangered or its health is or is likely to be permanently injured." Under Canadian law, having been born alive, Ximenia was a living human being entitled to full protection under the law. Prolife activists hold that charges of attempted murder might be more appropriate, since nurse Wood's intent in putting the child in the bedpan aside in a room for dead fetuses was to allow the baby to die and be sent to the pathology lab with the other results of recent abortions.
Ximena's adoptive mother, Margaret, says, "How can you ever bring justice when all the damage is done? I guess my big hope that what happened to Ximena won't be in vain. It could be you in the hospital and what if they feel that you're not worthy of life. We have to stop somewhere."
And it must be a sad overtone to every birthday Ximena's family celebrates, to realize that they're also celebrating the day she was stuck in a bedpan and left to die.