October Baby, telling the story of a young woman who learns that she was adopted as an abortion survivor, was inspired by the story of Gianna Jessen, born alive during a saline abortion. The specific abortion scenario in the film is based on the birth of Ana Rosa Rodriguez during an attempted D&E abortion.
Not all live births take place during abortions known to be performed late enough in pregnancy that survival is possible, and not all babies are as fortunate as Gianna and Ana Rosa. Some are deliberately killed or left to die.
Unspecified abortion method, multiple babies, left unattended to die: Dr. Ronald Bolognese performed abortions at Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. He stated in November 1974 that live births in late abortions were addressed thus: "it has been our policy to wrap the fetus in a towel. The fetus is then moved to another room while our attention is turned to the care of [the woman]. ... Once we are sure that her condition is stable, the fetus is evaluated. Almost invariably all signs of life have ceased." In a 1979 interview, Bolognese stated, "That's not what we do now. We would transport it to the intensive care nursery." (Philadelphia Inquirer 8-2-81)
Misdiagnosis of fetal age, suction abortion, baby survived: Melisha W., age 17, underwent an abortion by Joseph Durante at Womancare on March 7, 1992. Durante did not follow standard exam procedures or use an ultrasound. He estimated that Melisha was 11-12 weeks pregnant, but during the abortion he discovered that the fetus was much larger than he expected. Only then did Durante perform an ultrasound, which revealed a 25-26 week fetus. Durante gave Melisha painkillers and referred her to a facility specializing in late abortions. Melisha's mother instead took her to Kaiser medical center, where infant Victoria G. was born weighing 1 lb 13 oz. The baby suffered physical and cognitive disabilities. (Why Would Planned Parenthood Bother?)
Unspecified abortion method, baby denied medical care and left to die: Dr. Joseph Melnick was convicted of infanticide and unlawful abortion after the death of 32-week infant girl (3 lb, 9 oz) born during an abortion Melnick performed on a 13-year-old girl at what was then West Park Hospital, Philadelphia, in 1984. The nursing supervisor testified that "Baby Girl Smith" showed signs of life and gasped and moaned following the abortion, others in room pointed out infant's condition and requested that Melnick aid the infant. The nursing supervisor attempted CPR on the baby, detecting a heartbeat. She found a death certificate filled out by Melnick stating that the infant was stillborn. She tore up the death certificate, whereupon Mewlnick filled out a birth certificate for the infant. Another doctor ordered resuscitation, but the baby died after 90 minutes. Melnick indicated on medical records that he observed "agonal breathing" in the infant, which he defined for the judge as "It's the last effort a human being makes to sustain life." After the judge asked him three times he admitted that agonal breathing would not be observed in a stillborn infant. An autopsy found that the infant had a full head of hair, and skin typical of a term infant. Melnick allegedly admitted, "After the fact, it occurred to me that I had miscalculated." He also admitted that when the patient insisted that she was four months pregnant, Melnick noted the size of the infant and told her "if that's true, your baby would have been 18 pounds at birth." Melnick's defense claimed that the prosecution was based on "frustration raised over the abortion issue" rather than the evidence, and that a conviction would have "chilling effect" on other doctors' willinglness to perform abortions. (LA Times Magazine 1-7-90; Houston Chronicle 6-13-89; United Press International 10-3-84; Associated Press 3-16-89, 5-13-89, 6-12-89, 12-20-89)
Unspecified abortion method, misdiagnosed fetal age, baby survived: Fred H. Pulver voluntarily surrendered his medical license at the age of 79 in the wake of allegations regarding his January 18, 1990 attempt to perform an abortion on a woman who gave birth to a three-pound, 27-week baby boy five days later. Pulver said that the woman was obese and had deliberately misstated her last menstrual period in order to get the abortion. Pulver had estimated the pregnancy as 11 weeks. Planned Parenthood Health Services of Northeastern New York, where the abortion was attempted, did not have an ultrasound to verify estimated gestational age. (Sources: Schenectady Daily Gazette 11-1-91, 11-5-91, Sunday Times-Union 11-24-91, 12-8-91)
Suction abortion, misdiagnosed fetal age, baby survived: "Taranda," age 17, went to Family Planning Clinic for Reproductive Health for an abortion on December 22, 1989. Dr. Karen J. Smiley estimated the pregnancy at 6 weeks and performed an abortion. Four days later, Taranda gave birth to a one pound, critically ill infant girl in a hospital corridor. Taranda's lawyer said, "She's devastated, obviously. She would never have dreamed of having an abortion had she known it was 26 weeks old." Taranda needed psychiatric care after her ordeal. (Sources: The Tennessean 3-15-90; Today's Tennessean 2-2-90; Associated Press 1-11-90, 1-26-90, 1-29-90)
For more cases of infants born alive after abortions, see The Dreaded Complication.