Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Life and Death in Abortion Land: William Waddill and the Case of Baby W

Most people presented with a breathing newborn -- even a tiny, premature newborn -- would not hesitate to seek care for the baby. It seems to go without saying that a medical facility would be the safest place for a vulnerable baby. Thus, people tend to be shocked into disbelief at the idea that a newborn could be left to die or outright killed. But the world of abortion is not the world that most people live in. The 1977 case of Dr. William Baxter Waddill and "Baby W" illustrates how the abortion facility culture -- what I call Abortion Land -- views babies very differently from the way the rest of us do.

Mary W., a high school student, was examined by an ob/gyn on February 22, 1977, and found to be 28 weeks pregnant. This ob/gyn counseled that Mary's pregnancy was too advanced for an abortion, and advised Mary to consider an adoption plan. Somehow, Mary learned that Waddill would be willing to do an abortion, which he initiated by saline injection on March 2 at Westminster Community Hospital in California.

Mary's baby, a 2 lb, 8 oz infant girl, was expelled that evening and discovered by a nurse who was attending Mary.

The nurse clamped the cord and was about to put the baby in a bucket for transport to the pathology lab, when she noticed that the baby was moving and crying. In a normal hospital, the nurse would have, without hesitation, have taken the baby straight to the nursey for care. But this nurse was not working in a normal hospital setting. She was on an abortion ward. She was working in Abortion Land. Live babies weren't to be expected. They constituted a dismaying surprise. Thus, the nurse was uncertain about how to proceed. Another nurse suggested that regardless of any signs of life, the baby should just go into the bucket and off to the pathology lab per routine. Yet another nurse testified that she had seen the infant move but said nothing about this to avoid distressing Mary. Thus a third Abortion Land nurse, presented with a crying baby, was left uncertain about how to proceed. The first nurse summoned the nursing supervisor, who quite likely supervised the entire ob/gyn department and thus was not a resident of Abortion Land, like the three other nurses. The supervising nurse noted that the baby was pink and making sucking motions. She did whatever any normal person would do. She sent the baby to the nursery and summoned the mother's attending physician -- in this case, Waddill.

Once the baby was in the nursery, she was no longer in Abortion Land, so the nurses there responded to her as they would to any baby. One nurse cleared the infant's throat, placed her in an isolette, and charted a heartrate of 88. A neonatal ICU nurse began providing respiratory assistance on the little girl, and asked for help performing an intubation, which is routine NICU care.

Waddill arrived and chased everybody away. Several witnesses heard Waddill instruct staff "not to do a goddam thing for the baby." An ER doctor -- who evidently had noticed that something was up and had popped in to see for himself what was going on -- saw Waddill squeeze the umbilical cord, whereupon the "child jerked its body and gasped for air."

Waddill evidently had prepared for the birth of a living baby -- though not, one would guess, one that had been removed from Abortion Land and transported to the NICU. A tape was entered into evidence of a call from Waddill to a pediatrician, Dr. Ronald Cornelsen. In this call, Waddill told Dr. Cornelsen to come to the hospital, because the law required a pediatrician to assist when a newborn was in distress. Waddill said, "If we all tell the same story, there will be no trouble. ... So long as we stand together, no one anywhere can make any accusations anywhere. ... Do not get squirrely. Just tell them exactly as we've discussed. Just say you went in, there was no heartbeat and you left."

Dr. Cornelsen testified that when he arrived at the hospital the infant, a baby of about 31 weeks gestation, was breathing and had a heart rate of 60-70. There were bruises on her neck. Dr. Cornelson said that Waddill told him, "Sorry to get you in this mess. We had a baby that came out live from a saline abortion, and it can't live!" Dr. Cornelsen testified that he saw Waddill press on the infant's neck, saying, "I can't find the goddam trachea," and "This baby won't stop breathing." Dr. Cornelsen testified, "I said, 'Why not just leave the baby alone?' He said, 'This baby can't live or it will be a big mess.'" Waddill requested potssium choloride, for an injection to stop the baby's heart, but Dr. Cornelsen wouldn't let the nurse get it. Dr. Cornelsen said Waddill also asked for a bucket to drown the baby in.

Waddill later claimed that he hadn't strangled the baby, that she had died of natural causes before he even arrived at the hospital to deal with the delivery. He asserted that all of his actions were done in the best interests of the mother and the baby. However, having died in the nursery rather than in the abortion ward meant that rather than going into the medical waste incinerator, Mary's baby was afforded an autopsy, which backed what the witnesses said.

A pathologist examined the baby's lungs and concluded that she'd been alive for at least 30 minutes. Though saline causes capillaries to break down and thus gives the aborted baby a mottled, bruised look, the neck trauma was "consistent with manual pressure, and inconsistent with saline." The pathologist also testified that only the infant's placenta and small bowel seemed to have been "significantly affected by the saline," meaning that Mary's baby had not suffered fatal injury from exposure to the saline in-utero. Had the nurses in the NICU been allowed to proceed, Mary's baby would almost certainly have lived. The autopsy found the cause of the baby's death to have been "manual strangulation." Her gestational age was determined to have been 29 to 31 weeks at autopsy, consistent with the observations of Dr. Cornelson.

All told, over 13 weeks of testimony, the witnesses described three unsuccessful attempts by Waddill to strangle Mary's baby, and the fourth, successful, attempt. But during deliberations, the jury asked for clarification of a procedural point. A few phone calls to clarify the point led to the discovery by the attorneys and judge that there was a definition of "death" in the California health and safety code that the jury had not been informed of. Because the testimony hadn't directly addressed this particular definition of "death," the jurors became hopelessly deadlocked over whether Waddill's actions, though clearly causing what laymen would consider the "death" of the baby, had caused what the law would call the "death" of the baby. The judge had to delcare a mistrial. A second jury was also deadlocked, and the charges against Waddill were eventually dismissed.

Mary later sued Waddill, saying that he'd never told her that her baby might been born alive, and that she never would have consented to the abortion had she known this was possible. She said that Waddill "willfully and unlawfully used force and violence upon the person of the baby [W.] ... causing the decedent baby [W.] to die."

Waddill continued to perform abortions in California, and as of 2000 was working for National Abortion Federation member Family Planning Associates Medical Group, a chain where the following women and girls suffered fatal abortions: 

In a society where a jury can't even convict a man who strolls into a NICU and strangles a baby in front of half a dozen witnesses, it truly is astonishing that Gosnell was convicted.

No comments: