Timing is everything: The foolishness of U.S. law

This is the world in which we live. A Florida woman, who was seeking an abortion as an 18-year-old, sued a doctor, a clinic and its staff because her daughter was born alive and then put into a trash bag. The murderer, who was not present at delivery but later “cleaned up,” had his license to practice medicine revoked because he falsified records by saying he was present for delivery.

There are no heroes in this tragic story, where a matter of minutes changes an action, in the eyes of the law, from legal and “safe” (for the mother, not the child) to shocking and harmful (to the mother’s mental health, apparently). From the report, which points out, “(t)he state attorney’s office …said its criminal investigation into the incident is ongoing and no charges have been filed. A fetus born alive cannot be put to death even if its mother intended to have an abortion, police said when the incident occurred in 2006.”:

The baby’s mother, Sycloria Williams, sued [doctor Pierre Jean-Jacques] Renelique, the clinic and its staff in January, seeking damages.

She alleges in her suit that “she witnessed the murder of her daughter” and said she “sustained severe emotional distress, shock and psychic trauma which have resulted in discernible bodily injury.”

“This is not about a pot of gold,” said Tom Pennekamp, her attorney. “What this is about is right and wrong and making a statement, making sure it doesn’t happen to other young women.”

According to the suit, Williams, then 18, discovered while being treated for a fall that she was 23 weeks pregnant. She went to a clinic to get an abortion on the morning of July 20, 2006, after receiving medication and instructions the previous day.

Renelique was not at the clinic, however, and Williams was told to wait for him. She was given two pills and told they would make her ill. When she complained of feeling ill, clinic staff members gave her a robe and told her to lie down in a patient room, the suit says.

Renelique was still not present when Williams “felt a large pain” and delivered a baby girl, according to the suit.

“The staff began screaming and pandemonium ensued. Sycloria watched in horror and shock as her baby writhed with her chest rising and falling as she breathed.”

A clinic co-owner entered the room and used a pair of shears to cut the baby’s umbilical cord, the suit said. She “then scooped up the baby and placed the live baby, placenta and afterbirth in a red plastic biohazard bag, which she sealed, and then threw bag and the baby in a trash can.”

Staff at the clinic did not call 911 or seek medical assistance for Williams or the baby, the suit said.

Renelique arrived at the clinic about an hour later and gave Williams a shot to put her to sleep. “She awoke after the procedure and was sent home still in complete shock,” the suit said.

Police were notified of the incident by an anonymous caller who told them the baby was born alive and disposed of.

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