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WASHINGTON (ChurchMilitant.com) - Five late-term aborted babies will likely not be receiving a respectful burial despite petitions made to government officials.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has directed the Washington, D.C., medical examiner to destroy the remains of five babies aborted at Washington Surgi-Clinic, an abortuary operating since 1973, the year the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion.
The remains were originally intercepted at the abortuary in 2022 by pro-life activists, and most recently, according to reports, have been stored in the D.C. Medical Examiner's Office.
High-profile pro-lifers Lauren Handy and Terrisa Bukovinac, members of Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising (PAAU), maintain the babies' bodies indicate that the clinic was performing illegal abortions and that destroying the remains would preclude autopsies proving it.
Martin Cannon, an attorney from the Thomas More Society who is representing the pro-lifers, told the Daily Signal on Monday that, unless the medical examiner receives a court order, it will dispose of the babies by the end of the week.
Cannon questions the medical examiner's office for accepting "such stark marching orders from the DOJ."
He told the Catholic News Agency:
If I understand the structure of things correctly, there's no real reason the DOJ should have such sway over the examiner's office ... . There is a general need to have these babies examined. There is literally exactly a 50% chance that two of these babies … that each of them was born alive and left to die. ...There's some chance that the others were subject to illegal partial-birth abortions.
"The DOJ knows this," Cannon added. "Those are federal crimes."
Members of PAAU originally obtained the remains of the five babies when, in 2022, they intercepted a box containing the remains of 115 aborted children that were being hauled from the abortuary in a garbage truck. According to the group, injuries observed on five nearly full-term babies suggested they were illegally killed, perhaps by being left to die after being born alive.
Reacting to what had been uncovered, in April 2022, almost 70 lawmakers called on the DOJ and the FBI to investigate whether the abortionist, Dr. Cesare Santangelo, and his facility had violated the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. This federal law prohibits abortion after a child is partially born.
"We demand that you conduct a comprehensive investigation on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of each preborn baby," the April 8 letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland read.
The lawmakers wrote:
Official statements made by the Metropolitan Police of DC have made the assumption that each preborn baby died as the result of a legal abortion. However, we question whether such a conclusion can be reasonably reached regarding the cause of death for each preborn baby until an official autopsy is performed.
The lawmakers enclosed graphically unsettling photos of some of the babies who may have been victims of partial-birth abortion or infanticide.
Dr. Santangelo has been at the center of controversy for years for his late-term, allegedly illegal, abortion practices.
In 2012, an undercover pro-life activist who was 24 weeks pregnant recorded a conversation with Santangelo in which she asked about the possibility of the baby surviving an abortion.
In a released video of the conversation, the abortionist says, "I cut the umbilical cord first, wait for the baby to expire, and then we do it that way. ... Hopefully the fetus will expire first. Then we do the pregnancy termination that way," he said.
When the undercover pro-lifer pressed about what would happen to a baby born alive, he told her that "legally we would be obligated to help it to survive. But you know, it probably wouldn't. It's all in how vigorously you do things to help a fetus survive at this point."
He went on to say that if the woman "delivered before we got to the termination part of the procedure here, then we would do things — we would — we would not help it. We wouldn't intubate, let's say. ... like a 'do not resuscitate' order," he added.
The abortionist contrasted his approach with a hospital's, saying, "If you were in a hospital in Virginia, let's say, and you went into labor, and you went to the hospital, and then they saw you deliver, they would do everything possible to help that fetus survive."
The PAAU website presents numerous alleged incidents of Santangelo's malpractice. It points to the 2010 case of Rebecca Carey Charland, who had suffered a second-trimester miscarriage. According to PAUU,
She was referred to Santangelo's office for a dilation & evacuation (D&E) procedure to remove the remains of her deceased child. Santangelo prevented Carey from finding out she was at higher risk of hemorrhaging and infection. He perforated her uterus, allowing fetal remains to contaminate her lungs. He waited almost twenty minutes to contact emergency services. Because he waited so long, the EMS responders could not save her. She died later that afternoon at the GWU Hospital.
Santagelo is accused on the website of failing to provide "informed patient consent" and "omitting options and lying about necessity" of certain procedures performed on women. The site also accuses him of neglecting continuing medical education, refusing to renew his medical license, and avoiding federal taxes.
Handy, who helped intercept the box of babies' remains in 2022, was one of five anti-abortion protesters found guilty in August 2023 of violating the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act.
In 2020, she and other pro-lifers entered the Washington-Surgi Clinic and, according to the DOJ, conspired to create a blockade to prevent the facility from offering services.
A DOJ press release states the defendants each face up to a maximum of 11 years in prison, three years of supervision upon release, and a fine of up to $350,000.
Handy has maintained that viewing the undercover video of Santangelo catapulted her into pro-life work.
Pro-life activists have been urging the public on social media to contact government representatives to demand justice for the babies, referred to as #DC5. The posts contain a link to representatives' contact information.