With the help of two pro-life groups in the area, a Catholic hospital in Illinois has become one of the first in the U.S. to assist women who've changed their minds and want to stop the process of a second trimester abortion, which can often take several days.
Resurrection Medical Center in Chicago – in partnership with the Pro-Life Action League and local Women's Center – officially launched an initiative called the “Bethlehem Project” in January, which entails immediately treating women who enter the hospital and want to halt their second trimester abortion.
Pro-Life Action League vice president Ann Scheidler explained in a Feb. 10 interview with CNA that the abortion procedure at that stage of fetal development can take place over multiple days.
She said that a woman seeking a second trimester abortion is initially medicated with laminaria – seaweed sticks bound together – which cause the cervix to soften and dilate. Depending on how late into the pregnancy the abortion is and the size of the baby, the woman may have to return to the clinic a second day to have more laminaria inserted.
“Once the cervix is sufficiently dilated, the laminaria are removed in order to proceed with a dilation and evacuation abortion,” Scheidler said. “The baby is dismembered in the womb and sucked out through a cannula into a jar.”
Since October of last year, four women have entered the hospital to stop the process and three of them have had their abortions prevented.
The initiative came about after a young woman approached two Pro-life Action League employees standing outside a Chicago abortion clinic last July and asked for help. Desperate, she explained that she had undergone the first step in a second trimester abortion the day before but had decided on her way home that she didn't want to go through with it.
“She called several medical clinics for help in reversing the procedure, but no one could help her,” recalled Scheidler. “They just told her to go back to the abortion clinic and ask them for help.”
Scheidler said that the employees then took the young woman to a pregnancy resource facility called the Women's Center, just around the corner, where staff members recommended that the sidewalk counselors take the woman directly to the nearby Resurrection Hospital.
At the hospital, the emergency room personnel referred the woman to the obstetrics unit where she “happened to get a good pro-life doctor and nurse,” Scheidler said.
Although neither the doctor or nurse had ever done the procedure of removing laminaria to reverse an abortion, “they went ahead with the removal, monitored the woman for a couple of hours and all was fine.”
A few weeks later, another sidewalk counselor encountered a woman who had initiated the late-term procedure the day before, Scheidler said. Although the woman was ambivalent about her abortion, she agreed to go to Resurrection Hospital to have the laminaria removed.
“But once she got there she again had doubts,” Scheidler said. “In private consultation with the doctor she told him she felt pressured to change her mind and the doctor chose not to influence her either way.”
Sr. Donna Marie Wolowicki, CEO of the hospital, “intervened to help calm the girl and it seemed she would choose life,” Scheidler said. “But in the end she did not continue the process of reversing the abortion procedure.”
Scheidler explained that it was at this point that both the Pro-Life Action League and the hospital recognized that it was important to “establish a protocol for these eventualities.”
In October, the Pro-Life Action League arranged to bring Dr. Anthony Levatino – a former abortionist who is a practicing gynecologist – to the hospital to advise doctors and staff on removing the laminaria.
Scheidler said that as far as she knows, Resurrection Medical Center is “breaking new ground with their protocol” and that “they are more than willing to assist any other Catholic hospitals that would like to put such a program in place.”
She said that Sr. Donna Marie Wolowicki is planning to introduce the protocol at the five other hospitals they operate in the Chicago area and that members of the Bethlehem Project are currently looking into the question of whether an early chemical abortion can be stopped once it has begun.