Pro-choice advocates are outraged at what’s being called the most egregious congressional hearing they’ve seen.
Anti-abortion lawmakers berated a US District Judge for an abortion provider during a heated hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last Thursday.
The hearing stemmed from the removal of Dr. Steven Brigham from the operating room while performing a live autopsy on a dead fetus on Dr. Tony Nickas’ operating table.
“The body was covered in plastic,” the autopsy report showed. “The fetus had black scales on its head and blue skin [at the bottom of its spine].”
Brigham and Nickas took issue with a decision from the autopsy’s Medical Examiner, who told Brigham he could not cover the baby’s death in the autopsy. Brigham told Nickas that his role is to declare a death when he sees a death. Nickas testified that because of this decision, he returned the baby’s remains to Brigham’s office, thus providing only “nominal evidence.”
Dr. Rachel Langholm of Duke University told the committee that a fetus born alive and killed within 24 to 48 hours of its delivery is considered a live birth and is considered a criminal offence under federal law. As such, Langholm said any contribution to such a birth would be considered “professional misconduct,” which could result in “suspension, [and] in some instances termination” of an abortion provider’s license.
“I can’t understand what you have to hide,” Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) told Brigham. “Your continued practice as an abortion provider is reprehensible.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) explained that the time to act was long before the abortion occurred.
“You pushed to have this baby terminated,” Gaetz said. “I’m not a doctor and I’m just wondering how to treat a pregnant woman who is having the birth of her child. I imagine you would treat this in a different way than you treat any child born alive in a traditional, standard abortion procedure. Is that true?”
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wisconsin) asked: “Dr. Brigham, could you even feel what it is like to live a life of someone who has the potential for life but does not have it? Could you feel, can you see, does your physical body feel the pain you feel when a pregnancy terminates its life? And if so, why?”
Brigham responded that he could feel a “pain of being deprived of a pregnancy” and that this is why he tried to stop the process.
“I can’t do that to someone else,” he said.
But Gregory Faust, the surgeon who removed the baby from Brigham’s abdomen, is not so convinced. He said that abortion is only allowed if the mother’s life is at risk, and had never performed it on someone who hadn’t already undergone an abortion. He said that he decided to act after his own religious convictions formed.
“There was a strong argument by the baby’s parents that there was a real decision involved in their child’s life,” Faust said. “They wanted to decide what to do with their child and I would be willing to argue that was more important than my religious convictions.”
Faust continued, “By my faith, I believe life is defined by what happens in the first trimester of a pregnancy; I believe the sanctity of life is taken from the moment you conceive the life and you waste it in the first trimester.”
Joseph Sikora, acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said Dr. Brigham’s actions “played into the hands of those who would execute a pregnant woman” with a partial-birth abortion in order to eliminate the fetus.
During the hearing, the women who worked at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital’s OBGYN clinic testified about Brigham’s “unprofessional behaviour” and a lack of “professional discipline.”
Some of them also said he wouldn’t allow them to have access to ultrasounds, in some cases forcing them to improvise or lie.
The women also shared harrowing stories, including one about a 4-year-old girl whose father had an abortion and died in the process. He subsequently passed the girl to Brigham for an abortion. The girl is now 20 years old and had to undergo post-abortion care.
“There’s a higher power to the powers that be,” Nickas told the committee. “Dr. Brigham is an integral part of the majority of women who choose this procedure.”
Watch the clip below: