Thursday, October 27, 2022

October 27, 1991: The Baby The Don't Remember

People still wonder
about Baby Jessica.

Time goes by so fast. The little girl whose picture was once ubiquitous in the newspapers is now celebrating her 31st birthday.  After a brief spate of publicity in 1991 and 1992, she vanished totally from public view.

Nobody looks for updates on Baby Ana the way they continue to look for updates on Baby Jessica. The picture of Baby Jessica being rescued from a well was an image of hope and triumph. The picture of Baby Ana was an uncomfortable reminder that not all lives are valued as much as Baby Jessica's was. Ana's life, in fact, had no value at all.

How Ana wound up as front-page news, and featured on Phil Donohue, began on October 25, 1991 when Rosa Rodriguez, 20 years old, went to National Abortion Federation member Abu Hayat's Avenue A abortion practice on New York's lower East Side.. A single mother with a 2-year-old daughter, Rosa had found Hayat's practice, Women's Medical Clinic, by reading his ad in a Spanish-language newspaper, El Diario.

Hayat charged $1,500 for the procedure, for which Rosa produced $1,000 cash and her passport, green card, and her watch as collateral for the remaining $500. On this first visit, Hayat sedated Rosa, inserted laminaria to dilate her cervix, and gave her some sort of abdominal injection. When she awoke he sent her home, instructing her to return the following day.

Rosa returned as instructed at about 9 a.m., but she expressed misgivings about proceeding with the abortion, since she had felt fetal movement. She said that she had changed her mind. Hayat told her that it was too late to stop the abortion. Rosa said that two assistants held her down and clamped her feet into the stirrups while Hayat again sedated her. When she awoke, he told her that he had changed the laminaria, and again instructed her to return the following day. Hayat gave Rosa specific instructions that if she had any problems, she was to call his facility and no one else.

That night, Rosa was in pain, so she called as instructed. Hayat's assistant, who took the call, paged Hayat and then told Rosa that this was normal, that Hayat had said she "wasn't ready" for "further treatment".

Rosa called again when the pain would not abate. After several hours, she finally told her mother about the abortion. A family friend called an ambulance to take Rosa to Jamaica Hospital in Queens. There, at about 8 a.m. on October 27, Rosa gave birth to a 3 lb. 1 oz. baby girl of approximately 32 weeks of gestation. The little girl was healthy except for a traumatically amputated right arm. Doctors at the hospital performed a D&C, an abdominal X-ray, and an ultrasound on the young mother, trying to find the baby's arm. Evidently Hayat had removed it in the abortion attempt and disposed of it.
Nobody asks,
"What happened to
Baby Ana?"

 Somehow the story got out, and all hell broke loose.

The medical board took action, faulting Hayat with lack of informed consent,  failure to perform a complete examination,  having inadequate facility and staff, having medical records that were "not credible and are incomplete", and for performing an illegal third-trimester abortion. They revoked his license.

Hayat's receptionist, Marjorie Andrade, testified before the medical board that Hayat did any number of dubious things, including keeping a 6-month fetus in his freezer for two weeks in spite of the law requiring that fetuses be sent to a pathology lab. She testified that she never saw him sterilize any instrument, that he re-used them when they had dried blood on them. She also was interviewed on WNBC-TV, saying, "I've never seen any instruments sterilized. He used to rinse them out with water and soap."

More than thirty additional women stepped forward to complain that he had botched their abortions. Though he had been sued numerous times, none of the women had been able to collect because he did not have malpractice insurance and had declared bankruptcy.

While the circus was at its peak, National Right to Life seized onto the story in its attack on the newly-reborn late term abortion method they dubbed "Partial-Birth Abortion", even though Hayat had evidently been using an established variation of the more common Dilation and Evacuation procedure. And, interestingly, National Right to Life never took note of one particularly telling fact: Hayat was a dues-paying member in good standing of the prestigious National Abortion Federation.

Newspapers investigating "The Butcher of Avenue A" also learned from the medical board that the previous year Hayat had botched an abortion resulting in the death of 17-year-old Sophie McCoy.

Abu Hayat in court
Hayat was prosecuted for assault against both Rosa and her unborn daughter, as well as for other cases, and sentenced to a total of 29 years in prison. Hayat remained unrepentant, and told the judge who sentenced him, "I am in a very difficult situation. I know I am not guilty. .... I compare myself the best of any of the witnesses. I could teach them."

Rosa Rodriguez, noting the lack of success other patients had in seeking redress, didn't sue. "There really very little point," her attorney said.

It's hard for me to conjecture that Ana is thriving. The day before every birthday is the anniversary of the day that her arm was torn off during an attempt to kill her. And that attempt to kill her was something her mother had sought out and paid for.

Still, the human spirit is strong. Gianna Jessen, who has cerebral palsy as a result of a prenatal attempt on her life, is thriving and happy. Here's wishing the same to Ana Rodriguez. Wherever you are: Happy Birthday.

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