When a crying baby
is not ‘alive’

By Jill Stanek

A baby’s cry is not necessarily proof of life.

So concluded Illinois Circuit Court Judge Karen Thompson last November when she acquitted a mother previously convicted in two prior trials of murdering her newborn daughter.

Thus goes the latest of increasingly stretched decisions by judges nationwide to accommodate legalized abortion – first of unborn babies, then of partially delivered babies, and now of babies who are perhaps delivered but who have not “established a separate and independent life,” which was required of babies by Thompson in her reversal.

At question is whether a six-pound, 19-inch baby girl was “completely separated” at delivery when her mother, Elizabeth Ehlert, killed her.

Cook County State’s Attorney Dick Devine has now asked the Illinois Supreme Court to intervene, arguing that “complete separation” would mean the umbilical cord must be cut.

“If Elizabeth Ehlert’s murder conviction is wiped out, Illinois’ courts will have provided homicidal mothers a how-to-guide for getting away with killing their babies,” the Daily Herald reported prosecutors told the Illinois Supreme Court.

On Aug. 21, 1990, Ehlert delivered her daughter in her bedroom alone. Boyfriend Steven King heard the baby cry for two seconds from where he stood in the hall. Ehlert called for King to hand her a garbage bag. She went on to throw it with the baby inside into the creek behind her house.

According to trial court documents, King was “credible,” “honest and sincere,” and “truly shaken up” by the incident.

Ehlert was found to lie about events leading up to and following the birth, the age of the baby, that the baby was handicapped, and that she was even pregnant in the months preceding her baby’s birth. She refused to allow King to call an ambulance when she was in labor.

Cook County assistant chief medical examiner Dr. Mitra Kalelkar testified there was nothing wrong with the baby to have caused her death. There was air found in her lungs. Although no cause of death could be determined with certainty, Kalelkar testified, “I had a suspicion that this baby was born alive and that the cause of death would be drowning.” She called for a police investigation before knowing the circumstances of the baby’s birth.

In 1995, a jury of Ehlert’s peers found her guilty of murder.

The first conviction was reversed “because the prosecution presented irrelevant and highly prejudicial evidence that defendant had two abortions.” The prosecution attempted to demonstrate Ehlert had a history of killing her children. The court ruffled at the insinuation. In Illinois, if someone kills an unborn baby against her mother’s wishes, that person is arrested for homicide. If a mother kills her unborn baby by abortion, it is her choice.

Ehlert was reconvicted of murder by a bench trial, the conviction Thompson overturned last November.

“What you have here is the horrific scenario in which a mother who doesn’t want her baby delivers the baby, the baby is out and still connected by the cord, and under the complete separation doctrine … she can kill that baby,” said Peter Fischer, an assistant state’s attorney, as quoted in the Daily Herald. “She can stab it, she can strangle it, do anything, and it’s not murder. … It’s nothing.”

Until the umbilical cord is cut or the placenta delivered, a baby is not completely separated from his mother, because the umbilical cord is attached at one end to the baby’s navel and at the other to the placenta. It normally takes five to 30 minutes after a baby’s delivery for the placenta to be delivered.

Prosecutors pointed out babies rarely cry at the moment their heads appear from the womb. At that point the torso is still under pressure within the birth canal, and the lungs have not yet inflated. The first cry is usually heard only after complete delivery.

Some lawmakers have attempted to revise Illinois’ antiquated “born alive” definition three times in the past three years in light of medical and scientific advances as well as the discovery of an abortion technique being committed in Illinois and nationwide hospitals that sometimes results in babies being aborted alive and left to die.

The new wording stipulates a baby would be considered alive after complete delivery rather than complete separation. But pro-abortionists have repeatedly killed the measure, called the Illinois Born Alive Infants Protection Act.

President Bush signed the federal Born Alive Infants Protection Act in August 2002, redefining legal personhood, but that only relates to federal statutes and regulations and postdates the murder in question.

At issue is more than Baby Girl Ehlert’s murder. At issue is an added feature to abortion.

If a baby does not have rights until completely separated from her mother, then it follows to be perfectly legal for hospital or abortion clinic staff to deliver a baby and not cut the cord until mom decides if she wants the baby. What if the baby is a girl when mom wants a boy? What if mom and the boyfriend at her side are both white, but the baby is obviously mixed race (as I have witnessed)? Why was the girl who delivered at her prom and threw the baby in the trash convicted? If her baby was not separated when allowed to drown in the toilet, was not that legal?

It is almost a surprise that State’s Attorney Devine is pursuing justice for Baby Girl Ehlert. But he is a welcome ally in the fight to protect innocent babies from murder.