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The news was a real bummer. A reporter named Tom Szyszkiewicz, who writes for the Catholic publications, Our Sunday Visitor and the National Catholic Register, was calling to tell me he had discovered two Catholic hospital systems were committing the induced-labor abortion procedure – live-birth abortion – on handicapped babies.

The bad news warped to bizarre when Szyszkiewicz said these hospitals were waiting until babies were 23 to 26 weeks gestation before aborting them – i.e., until they were of viable age – so they could say these weren’t abortions at all, but simply labor inductions and, thus, sanctioned by the Catholic Church.

“That’s crazy,” I thought. Most hospitals I’m aware of that commit LBA do just the opposite: They make sure to abort babies before 23 weeks – the most recent viability cutoff date according to the American Heart Association and American Academy of Pediatrics – to avoid the ethical and legal dilemmas of deciding whether to resuscitate a baby they just tried to kill.

The Catholic hospitals’ abortion strategy seemed even more risky when taking the Born Alive Infants Protection Act into account. It states that live-born babies, no matter what their gestational age or circumstances of birth, are “persons.” According to the 14th Amendment, “persons” born in the United States are automatic citizens who cannot be “deprive[d] … of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor den[ied] … equal protection of the laws.”

This means live-aborted babies can’t be cast aside to die in hospital soiled utility rooms, or drowned in buckets of water, or sealed to suffocate in biohazard bags. They must be medically assessed and cared for just like wanted babies.

Last week, I contacted both hospital systems to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I wasn’t.

Loyola Health System in Chicago, and Providence Health System on the West Coast and Alaska, both commit live-birth abortion.

But they don’t like the word, “abortion.” They call what they do, “early induction of labor.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines abortion as, “the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus.”

So now “termination of pregnancy” is called “early induction of labor.” Euphemisms … what would abortion proponents do without them?

Other Catholic hospitals may also be involved. Szyszkiewicz reported in the March 7, 2004, Our Sunday Visitor that Providence is the 10th largest U.S. Catholic health system, and “spokespersons for the other nine … were either vague about their hospitals’ practices or did not return calls.”

Loyola and Providence say they are acting in accordance with the 2001 U.S. Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services that states, “For proportionate reason, labor may be induced after the fetus is viable.”

Theologian James LaGrye from the bishops’ doctrinal office said the term “proportionate” is used “for situations in which some grave risk would be incurred if an action were not taken to avoid it,” wrote Szyszkiewicz, who added, “LaGrye said the mental health of the mother ‘is a reason’ to perform early induction.”

In addition to having “mental health” concerns, Fr. Jack O’Callahan, staff ethicist at Loyola, said they are trying “to ward off the physical complications of bringing to term a child who is not going to live anyway.”

But, euthanizing one’s handicapped child is not the solution to maintaining mental health, nor do handicapped babies normally spread voodoo vibes to make their mothers sick.

What about the physical and mental complications of abortion?

Even fatally ill babies, left to develop until term, give their mothers the gift of lowering their risk of breast cancer. Contrarily, mothers who abort dramatically increase their risk.

Aborting mothers also stand a much greater chance of ending up in hospital high-risk maternity departments next time they get pregnant. Their forcibly stretched cervixes will have difficulty keeping subsequent babies inside until full term.

But I digress.

The Aug. 19 New England Journal of Medicine reported that the smallest known surviving preemie just celebrated her 15th birthday. In 1989, Madeline Mann was born at Loyola Hospital at 27 weeks, weighing 9.9 ounces. She is now a violin playing, roller-blading, high-school honor student.

Doctors at Loyola delivered Madeline early by Caesarean section after determining she might fare better in their care than in her mother’s uterus.

Oh, the irony.

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