Videos show clinic workers saying they were willing to kill babies born alive after botched abortions
Live Action used a pregnant woman to secretly record abortion clinic workers
Left-leaning watchdog group says content actually undermines Live Action's allegations
Attorney for clinic and one of the providers says video defames his client
An anti-abortion group that released two controversial undercover videos from a months-long investigation of abortion service providers has vowed to soon put out six more – perhaps releasing a third as early as this week.
The group, Live Action, claims that all of the videos will show varying degrees of an illegal act: abortion clinic workers admitting to being willing to kill babies who are born alive after botched abortions.
“There definitely are more videos coming out,” Live Action Founder and President Lila Rose told CNN. “There’s likely going to be another one coming out this week. And then more in coming weeks. So, you know, we’re again focused on reaching as many people possible with … kind of the expose of what’s happening on a daily basis in the [late-term] abortion industry.”
Rose also admits an attempt to draw more attention to a Philadelphia case with such gruesome allegations that it could aid the anti-abortion cause. Prosecutors accuse abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell of running a “house of horrors” where babies were born alive – then murdered, charges the doctor denies.
After a six-month investigation, Rose explained her group’s videos.
“In many of them, there’s definitely themes going on here,” she said. “So there’s a theme of infanticide or the willingness to commit infanticide. There’s the theme of the danger to women. There’s the reality of the brutality of the late-term abortion procedure. So all of these realities will continue to emerge.”
Rose said the undercover videos are designed to draw attention to the practices in, what she called the “vastly unregulated [abortion] industry.” On Wednesday, Live Action will protest outside a clinic featured in one of its videos – the D.C.-based Washington Surgi-Clinic.
Live Action is urging local, state and federal health officials as well as law enforcement toward two actions: shutting down the clinics seen in the videos and launching full-scale investigations.
At issue: what should happen if a baby is born alive during an abortion procedure.
Experts say those cases are rare. However, the federal government has tackled the question.
In 2002, Congress passed, and President Bush signed, the “Born Alive Infant Protection Act.” It states that any infant born alive, including any in an abortion attempt, must receive legal protections. Doctors must also work to save their lives.
Live Action alleges that its video investigation shows far too many abortion clinics are willing to violate this law.
Its first video, released Sunday, features clinic workers at the Dr. Emily Woman’s Health Center in the Bronx, New York. A doctor from the Washington Surgi-Clinic is featured in the second.
In both instances, individual clinic staff members speak with a pregnant woman who is working undercover for Live Action. The workers are unaware they are secretly being video recorded.
In the first video, an unidentified clinician at the Bronx facility counsels the 23-week pregnant Live Action worker after being asked a series of questions.
At one point, the undercover worker asks what would happen if the baby emerged alive out of the mother’s womb. “Like, what if it was like twitching or like something like that?” the pregnant woman asks.
“The solution will make it stop,” the clinic worker responds.
Seconds later, the pregnant woman asks: “So like if it, if it looked like it was, like, like breathing or something like that?”
“It’ll automatically stop,” the clinic worker said. “It won’t be able to breathe anymore. … Not with the solution,” explaining that the solution was toxic.
Moments later, the pregnant woman poses another hypothetical.
During the procedure over two days, “Like, what if it, like, pops out at home?”
“Flush it,” the worker responds. “But you still have to come in. Because we have to make sure that everything came out. But we never had a situation like that.”
The pregnant woman did not specify, in her hypothetical question, that the child came alive. So it’s unclear if the worker was advising the woman to flush a live baby.
The video then cuts to another clinic worker who is unequivocal on what the law states about abortion procedures.
Explaining that the abortion must be done inside the body, the woman states the doctor performing the abortion “cannot do a termination once it’s outside of the body. He has to resuscitate it. He has to send it to the hospital. That’s the law.”
During her phone interview with CNN, Rose addressed the different messages from the Bronx workers.
“The question of infanticide, that’s going to vary [across the undercover videos]. Because, even in the Bronx [video], one staffer is saying they’ll asphyxiate the child in a jar of toxic solution. The other staffer is saying, we’re required to take it to the hospital. So you have doublespeak. And these videos will reveal, even within the industry, there is a complete lack of clarity about what is lethal and what’s not.”
In the second video, Dr. Cesare Santangelo explains to an undercover worker, “Hopefully we’ll get this pregnancy out intact. But it doesn’t always happen that way.”
The doctor stressed that a baby never survived an abortion at his clinic. But he is asked: What if it did?
“I mean technically, you know, legally we would be obligated to help it, you know, to survive,” Santangelo said. “But, you know, it probably wouldn’t. It’s all in how vigorously you do things to help a fetus survive at this point.”
Then Santangelo gives this hypothetical.
“Obviously you’re in here for a certain procedure,” the doctor said. “And if you were – let’s say you went into labor, the membranes ruptured and you delivered before we got to the termination part of the procedure, you know, then we would do things – we would – we would not help it.”
Even though the doctor was answering a hypothetical, it’s his answer of not helping the born alive baby that Live Action claims is illegal. The group claims the same illegality based on answers from the worker at the Bronx women’s facility.
Yet much of this is based on the group’s interpretation of the law. The law itself is not clear on whether or not simply saying “we would not help” a born-alive child is illegal by itself.
Live Action urges local health officials, as well as local and federal law enforcement, toward two actions: shutting down both clinics seen in the videos and launching a full investigation of their practices.
CNN reached out to the various local and state health agencies as well as the U.S. Attorney General’s office and the Office of the Attorney General of New York. Representatives have not yet responded about whether or not actions will be taken against the clinics in question.
CNN is not aware of any suspicion or accusation from local and federal health and law enforcement officials that either clinic broke the law.
Also, CNN repeatedly attempted to contact senior staff at the Dr. Emily Woman’s Health Center in New York. During initial calls, a representative said Director Marjana Banzil was unavailable until Wednesday. During subsequent attempts to reach senior staff, representatives grew agitated and, in one instance, screamed, “No comment!” before hanging up.
Banzil was quoted in the Washington Post responding to Live Action’s allegations.
“I have never had any fetus that was born alive,” Banzil is quoted as saying during a Friday interview. “If my staff or somebody had mentioned something [like that], it was something they didn’t understand.”
Banzil said she had not seen the Live Action undercover video.
Alfred F. Belcuore, an attorney representing the Washington Surgi-Clinic and Santangelo, e-mailed a statement to CNN.
“It is one thing for people to disagree with social policy and laws implementing them, like those governing the termination of pregnancies in the District of Columbia. It is quite another for an organization secretly to tape record what was thought to be a private exchange between a physician and his patient; and then to publish excerpts of that recording with commentary placing that physician in a false light and defaming him,” Belcoure wrote.
“Dr. Santangelo practices medicine in full compliance with the laws controlling in the District of Columbia. He is not a public figure, is not an advocate for any cause, and has not placed himself in any public debate on this issue. He is a private physician serving patients in need of his services in full conformity with the law.”
“Dr. Santangelo has no further comment at this time,” Belcuore closed the letter.
Meanwhile, Live Action is also under fire from critics.
One of them, the liberal-leaning media watchdog Media Matters, reacted on its website to the Bronx video: “The anti-abortion rights group Live Action released today an undercover video claiming to reveal ‘illegal and inhuman practices’ at an abortion clinic in New York City. … The video reveals nothing of the sort, and actually undermines Live Action’s baseless allegations that the clinic is performing illegal procedures and endangering the lives of patients.”
Media Matters continued: “Live Action and its founder, Lila Rose, have a long, disreputable history of perpetrating hoaxes and concocting false allegations against abortion rights supporters, Planned Parenthood in particular. This latest ‘undercover video’ project is timed to coincide with the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion provider facing multiple murder charges resulting from the monstrous and horrific procedures he is alleged to have carried out under the guise of women’s reproductive health.”
In the Gosnell case, the 72-year-old doctor allegedly killed babies with scissors that were used to cut their spinal cords. Some of the babies, authorities allege, were born viable and alive during the sixth, seventh and eighth months of pregnancy.
Gosnell is accused in the deaths of four babies. His defense lawyer maintains Gosnell is innocent, arguing that no infants were killed and that babies were already dead as a result of Gosnell administering the drug Digoxin, which can cause abortion.
Media Matters also criticized the way the Bronx video was edited, saying that vital context was left out.
Regarding the exchange between the clinician and the pregnant woman, the site says, “the video is edited down to make it appear as though the clinician describes a procedure in which a baby that survives an abortion is killed using a toxic solution.”
“But Live Action edited out from the video the portion in which the clinician makes clear that the situation they’re talking about has never happened in her experience and the discussion is hypothetical, and the video shows the [separate] counselor explaining to the woman that the doctor would have to resuscitate the baby if that situation did occur.”
Media Matters also questioned Rose’s true intentions, pointing to her history behind other undercover videos purporting to show illegal practices in areas such as sex-selection abortion and child sex trafficking.
And the group also points out Rose’s association to James O’Keefe – the controversial conservative videographer who previously used undercover videos to embarrass community organizing group ACORN and who tried to coerce a CNN correspondent onto a boat filled with sexually explicit props then secretly record the encounter.
Rose dismissed the criticism.
“Our critics at Media Matters, I think they’re divorced from reality,” she said. “They accuse of us false editing to deceive people. But we’re the ones who put the full footage and full transcripts … for their sake and anyone else who wants to read them. So we have nothing to hide here.”
“We urge people to view the footage for themselves and draw their own conclusions.”
Rose does admit one thing.
“We’re not saying we have a film or footage of a child crying in a sink. Or a child left on a table who’s still breathing,” she said. “Our investigators didn’t go in there to peek through the trash cans. We don’t have that information.” That, Rose said, would be for investigators to find out.
CNN’s Sarah Hoye contributed to this report