September/October, 1998 Volume XIII Number 2

"Baby Phoenix" survives, against all adds

Phoenix, AZ--Newswatchers around the country reacted in horror to a story that abortion doctor John Biskind of Phoenix, Arizona had "misjudged" the age of an unborn baby. What began as a routine abortion ended in the delivery of a six pound two ounce lacerated baby girl affectionately dubbed "Baby Phoenix."
The A-Z Women's Center facility advertises abortions through the 24th week. On June 30, Biskind began a standard D&E abortion on a baby conveniently judged only the day before to be 23.6 weeks old. Determining the baby's age as greater than 24 weeks would have meant that the abortion could not be performed at the A-Z Women's Center.
An A-Z staff person, who has asked that we not identify her, stated that Biskind first dilated the cervix of a 17 year old woman beginning on June 29. After the dilation process was well under way, the woman "returned for the actual abortion. The amnio-sac was punctured, and Biskind made several efforts to reach the baby" with a sharp cutting instrument. The baby's "body was larger than expected" and resisted Biskinds efforts to cut it.
D&E abortions are generally done after the twelvth week of pregnancy. The difficulty in doing a D&E on a more mature child is compounded by changes which include hardening of bone, connective tissue, and muscle which make it progressively more difficult to dismember a baby as they grow older. For this reason, abortionists often charge more to do later abortions, and many states require such killing to be accomplished in a hospital.
An Associated Press story reported that the baby girl was being aborted using the D&X-partial birth-procedure in which the baby's body is delivered in a breech position, feet first. The head is made to remain inside the birth canal until a sharp scissored instrument can be used to jab a hole into the base of the skull. The wound is enlarged to allow the contents of the cranium to be suctioned out, and the head is then delivered.
Promoters of the D&X procedure state that the suctioning of brain tissue, and therefore the guaranteed death of the baby, is necessary due to the size of the premature baby's head. The collapse of the skull is intended to prevent injury to the woman.
Opponents point out that women frequently give birth to premature infants with no injury to woman or baby without collapsing the skull. The skull of a newborn is soft and compresses relatively easily since cartilage, not bone, connects the various plates.This allows the infant to go through the birth canal and emerge without unusual trauma. Bone eventually replaces cartilage within the first 18 months following birth.
The A-Z staff person said that the abortion was a D&E though. The woman quickly went into full-blown labor, she said, and rather than continue efforts to bring the baby out in pieces, Biskind and Women's Center staff elected to allow the woman to expel the child without additional force. Even then it was apparent to staff that the baby's age and size had been, intentionally or not, misjudged by at least several weeks.
Just after delivery, the newborn was wrapped in towels and rushed across the street to the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. She was diagnosed with a skull fracture and at least two deep facial lacerations as a result of Biskind's attempt to abort her. The little girl was judged at that time to be approximately 37 weeks old rather than 23 as estimated by Biskind only the day before.
Within days a Texas couple was identified as ready to adopt the infant. Police have guarded the identity of the birth mother and baby, as well as the adoptive couple.

Phoenix resident Jean Dove smiles upon finding the A-Z clinic locked after the facility was kicked out of the strip mall.

Initially, Phoenix police Sgt, Mike Torres confirmed that detectives were assigned to investigate both A-Z and John Biskind, however, he declined to speculate as to whether or not formal charges might be filed against the Women's Center or abortionist Biskind. Later Torres remarked that "It doesn't appear anybody will be charged with anything."
However, after the public reacted in shock, an investigation was broadened. A-Z employees, both past and present, are being interviewed by police and medical board staff in order to determine what procedures the facility used to estimate age and destroy unborn babies. Employees too could be charged if investigators determine that facts would warrant arrests.
Medical records from the A-Z facility have been subpeoned, prompting A-Z to file for protection against having to turn over documents. However, a judge rejected a motion to prevent the records from being obtained. ,The facility medical records will be handed over to a Grand Jury to determine if charges can be brought against Biskind, employees, or the abortion mill.
A special committee of lawmakers in Arizona has been formed to determine how the A-Z facility has functioned so long without a license. Arizona law requires licensure only of facilities that administer general anesthesia and/or keep patients overnight. It is likely that new laws will be proposed in the wake of the recent birth.
Additionally, at present Arizona law provides for some protection to babies who have passed a 24 week "viability" point. Because of this standard, Arizona abortionists have an added incentive to estimate advanced pregnancies as earlier than 24 weeks.
"Nobody believes [he thought] this was a 23 week abortion," Representative John Shadegg said of Briskind's alleged miscalculation.
Reacting to news of Briskind's work, another Phoenix area abortionist remarked that "miscalculating-confusing a 23 week old baby with a 37 week baby-would be unusual and "unacceptable" even among those who commit abortions. Calling the delivery "an abortion nightmare," Brian Finkel who also kills children worried that the live birth would result in increased anti-abortion sentiments. His concern mirrors the community at large, as little effort has been made to gain information about the health of the infant. A hospital spokesperson announced only that the baby girl appears to have suffered no brain damage.
Planned Parenthood executive, Bryan Howard, eager to suppress further investigation into abortion practices, assured media that "the vast majority wouldn't even be approaching this point" in a pregnancy before having the child killed.
Shrugging aside questions concerning Briskind's age miscalculation, Howard responded, "As with all health care, it's an imprecise science."
Dr. Carolyn Gerster, a Phoenix area physician opposed to abortion responded to the report of Biskind's gross miscalculation of the baby's weight by stating, "I don't know how such a grave error could be made in estimating the size. There shouldn't be that kind of discrepancy in an ultrasound. It's horrendous."
A few Phoenix area residents responded to the news of the birth at the abortion facility with anger at both Biskind and the 17 year old mother of the baby. "She is the one who walked in the door . . . she should be held responsible too," one woman argued.
At the same time that Briskind was aborting, and then delivering the baby girl, Congress was engaged in discussions aimed at over-riding President Clinton's October 1997 veto of the ban on partial birth abortions.
In July the House of Representatives easily took the veto away from Clinton in their over-ride vote. However, the Senate, with a larger number of both Democrats and moderate Republicans is expected to be a more difficult arena for the battle.
Arizona passed its own Partial Birth Abortion Ban in 1997. However, the law has never been formally enacted as it has been blocked in court by pro-abortion U.S. Disctrict Judge Richard Bilby. With the birth of the girl dubbed Baby Phoenix, new life has been pumped into the campaign to see the ban take effect. Though the manner of abortion, as reported by an anonymous staff person, was not a D&X, the baby's near demise has incited support with some even using the suggestion that the abortion procedure was D&X in order to encourage public support.
"Okay, if it was a D&X, that's bad. But it's just as bad if they were trying to kill her by doing a suction abortion or one where they cut the baby into pieces," according to Phoenix resident Jean Dove. Dove and her husband Jack support a ban on all abortions.
Altogether, 24 states have passed legislation to ban the Partial Birth procedure, but because of legal challenges, only seven states are enforcing bans.
Washington, DC anti-abortion activist Jim Rudd denounced congressional battles over the proposed ban stating, "By lobbying for incremental legislation, these [para-church special interest] groups have dramatically shifted the focus of the pro-life movement from the right of personhood to squabbling over an abortion procedure." Other activists warn that such splitting over the legitimacy of a particular procedure will only falsely reinforce the idea that other procedures are less morally troublesome.
At present John Biskind is without a paractice. The medical review board withdrew his license pending a full investigation, and the A-Z facility has been evicted from the strip mall in which it has been located. On August 4 employees were busy emptying the space in response to the voiding of their lease.
Deli operator Isabel Camez whose work place shared a wall with the abortion facility expressed relief that A-Z was unable to continue operating. The Deli has been in the strip mall since long before the abortion mill was opened, and Camez says the deli was badly hurt because customers did not want to eat in the restaurant knowing that babies were being killed next door.
"Abortion is murder," Comez commented, explaining that she and the deli owner have vigorously opposed having any abortions take place.
Mall maintenance workers responsible for clearing furniture and trash out of the facility on August 4 commented that they were glad to see the offices closed. On moving day a "For Lease" sign had already been hammered into the ground near the space vacated by A-Z. A number of Phoenix residents hailed the closure as a victory and suggested that "Baby Phoenix is a Godsend" because her arrival has constituted more than the delivery of a baby. She may deal a significant blow to the abortion industry in Arizona as well as other parts of the country.

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© 1997 Advocates for Life Ministries