“Badly botched” doesn’t quite cover it

pregnancy_23weeksWe frequently discuss the “ghosts” that are present in various stories. It pains me to use that term for this story about a child born at 23 weeks gestation who was allegedly killed by an abortion clinic owner outside Miami. This is another story that had been percolating around the internet before being picked up by mainstream media this week.

Written by the Associated Press’ Christine Armario, the story is actually rather well done:

Eighteen and pregnant, Sycloria Williams went to an abortion clinic outside Miami and paid $1,200 for Dr. Pierre Jean-Jacque Renelique to terminate her 23-week pregnancy.

Three days later, she sat in a reclining chair, medicated to dilate her cervix and otherwise get her ready for the procedure.

Only Renelique didn’t arrive in time. According to Williams and the Florida Department of Health, she went into labor and delivered a live baby girl.

What Williams and the Health Department say happened next has shocked people on both sides of the abortion debate: One of the clinic’s owners, who has no medical license, cut the infant’s umbilical cord. Williams says the woman placed the baby in a plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

The headline to the piece is “Fla. doctor investigated in badly botched abortion.” But there are two investigations. There’s a hearing in front of the state Board of Medicine to determine whether the doctor who was to perform the abortion should lose his license. And the state attorney’s homicide division is investigating the death of the child.

I wondered whether the death should be referred to as a “badly botched abortion” or an “infanticide” or plain old “killing” — but the story, while also trucking in some euphemisms, does a much better job of distilling a rather complicated story in a straightforward fashion.

The story writer has some interesting background on the doctor in question and solicits comments from attorneys on both sides, one firm of which has some religious angles:

The case has riled the anti-abortion community, which contends the clinic’s actions constitute murder.

“The baby was just treated as a piece of garbage,” said Tom Brejcha, president of The Thomas More Society, a law firm that is also representing Williams. “People all over the country are just aghast.”

Would that be the pro-life law center named after Saint Thomas More?

A National Organization of Woman chapter president said the story disturbed her. The story includes a ton of details and even mentions why the woman seeking an abortion changed her view of ending the life of her child:

“She came face to face with a human being,” [attorney Tom] Pennekamp said. “And that changed everything.”

The complaint says one of the clinic owners, Belkis Gonzalez came in and cut the umbilical cord with scissors, then placed the baby in a plastic bag, and the bag in a trash can.

Williams’ lawsuit offers a cruder account: She says Gonzalez knocked the baby off the recliner chair where she had given birth, onto the floor. The baby’s umbilical cord was not clamped, allowing her to bleed out. Gonzalez scooped the baby, placenta and afterbirth into a red plastic biohazard bag and threw it out.

The story is very thorough, explaining that most 23-week-olds have a slim but legitimate chance of survival, noting a case last year of quadruplets surviving at that age. The baby was born alive, according to a medical examination.

It’s a heartbreaking story (for me, at least, as the mother of a baby who is 26-weeks-old currently) but the reporter did a good job of being balanced and including a ton of information.

Sure, there are many questions or angles to be explored in the future. I think an interview with Jill Stanek, the Illinois nurse who (after witnessing a failed abortion attempt) has been influential in attempting to pass the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act, is in order. And perhaps a discussion of President Barack Obama’s efforts against the bills that came up on the matter while he was a state senator. It’s probably too much to hope for a discussion of what religious adherents in the culture war think are the central issues at play in a story like this.

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  • Dan

    I came across this story only because Drudge linked to it. On January 22 (the anniversary of Roe) Laura Ingraham interviewed a woman who had a similar story. These stories should trigger a huge national discussion about what is happening in abortion clinics. They should but probably won’t because those who typically lead such “discussions” — the media — are numb to the horror of abortion.

  • Jerry

    I think your comment about a 23 week baby having a slim chance survival understates the chances. Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Premature_birth puts it this way:

    The earliest gestational age at which the infant has at least a 50% chance of survival is referred to as the limit of viability. As NICU care has improved over the last 40 years, viability has reduced to approximately 24 weeks,[65][66] although rare survivors have been documented as early as 21 weeks.[7] T

    Three’s always been an age limit for non-medically required abortions and the increasing survival rate of premature babies argues that age limit should be revisited and lowered. I’d bet that most Americans would agree.

  • http://rub-a-dub.blogspot.com MattK

    I can hardly stand reading about things like this. How do reporters hold themselves together to write about them?

  • http://realchoice.blogspot.com Christina

    Something to keep in mind amidst all the outrage: Things like this are literally an everyday occurrence. The strange and shocking aspect is merely that it’s being reported, talked about, and perhaps might even lead to prosecution.

  • Elanor

    The story reached by following the link seems to have been changed to a different one on the same topic, now titled “Fla. doctor loses license after botched abortion”. I was able to find the original by Googling for the original headline and then finding the cached version here:

  • Elanor

    Or, better, the story is still available here:


  • Gail F

    A film about a similar story is currently being made. It’s called “22 Weeks,” and is about a woman who goes in for an abortion but who gives birth before the “procedure.” To me the saddest part of the story is that the real woman, who has several children, says she is a Christian and chose the method of abortion on purpose, so that the child would feel the least pain. (The child was supposed to have been killed with an injection, then delivered dead so that he would not be mutilated or dismembered during the abortion.) She had arrangements with a funeral home and everything. It is such a sad perversion of what a mother should do for her child.

    In this case, the woman took her baby into the bathroom and called for help, but no one from the staff would call 911. When you think about it, why would they? Same with the staff in this story. They are in the business of dead babies. Apparently, when things don’t work out cleanly and clinically, they resort to cruder methods.

    It is strange to think that a “botched” abortion results in a live baby.

    You can find out more about the movie here:

  • elm

    The lengths that the abortionists and accomplices go to in order to hide the “deed” is diabolical. Here in GR, MI the babies bodies are put into industrial garbage disposals and washed away into the sewer system down the road to the waste water plant, just like so much garbage.

    Lord, have mercy on us.

  • Dave

    Was this story posted because the reporters failed to get religion, or got it?

  • http://www.getreligion.org Mollie


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