Interview with Pro-Life Activist Jill Stanek
I recently interviewed pro-life activist Jill Stanek about the practice of hospitals providing abortions. Of course, most pro-lifers are very aware about abortion “services” offered at clinics like Planned Parenthood, but many are surprised to hear that there are some hospitals that conduct abortions as well.
Jill was a registered nurse in the Labor & Delivery Department at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL. when she discovered that not only were abortions being committed there, but that babies were being aborted alive to die without medical care.
When hospital leaders said that they would not stop this practice, Jill went public and exposed the hospital’s abortion practices. Jill remained at the hospital fighting the fight from the inside, until she was terminated in 2001 for reasons related to her public outspokenness to the hospital’s abortion practices.
PLM: Jill, you worked as a registered nurse at a hospital that was performing abortions so you really had an inside view of this. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience and what happened at the hospital that caused you to speak out?
Jill Stanek: I went to work at Christ Hospital on the southwest side of Chicago in 1995 thinking that I would be safe from abortion there because who would think that a hospital named Christ would be involved in such a thing. Then I began working in Labor and Delivery and worked there for a year without knowing that abortion was going on all around me.
I came into work one night and heard that we were aborting a second trimester baby with Downs Syndrome and that’s how I found out about it. I then went on to find out that the method of abortion that the hospital used called “Induced Labor Abortion” sometimes resulted in babies being aborted alive, and if they were aborted alive they were just shelved to die in the hospital’s utility room.
My experience over the course of watching this for a couple of years was that somewhere between one-fourth and one-third of the babies survived their abortions and lived anywhere from a few minutes to one living almost as long as an eight hour shift.
Pro-life nurses weren’t forced to take part in this, as I said I didn’t even know it was going on, but it was brought home to me one night when a nurse and co-worker was taking a little abortion survivor to the utility room to die because his parents didn’t want to hold him, and she didn’t have time to hold him that night.
And when she told me what she was doing I couldn’t bear the thought of this suffering child dying alone in a soiled utility room so I rocked him for the 45 minutes he lived. He was between 21 and 22 weeks old, about the size of a hand, and he had been aborted because he had Downs Syndrome. He wouldn’t have survived even if he had been given resuscitation because his lungs weren’t developed.
Needless to say, during the course of that 45 minutes I was converted from an ambivalent pro-lifer, in other words “personally” pro-life but didn’t want to impose my judgment on others, to a pro-life activist.
I went on to privately appeal to the hospital to stop, and when that didn’t work I went public.
PLM: Jill, it’s such a powerful story. When you talked with the management of the hospital about this what did they say to you, and what were their reasons for doing this practice and then deciding not to halt the practice?
Jill Stanek: They indicated that they didn’t make this practice up, that it had been around for a long time. I later found out that the hospital had been doing this since the late 70’s and it had begun to be popular around the country but just was kind of kept “hush hush” for a couple of decades.
They never explained why other than saying that most of the mothers who had abortions at the hospital were carrying “wanted” babies who had been discovered to have some sort of anomaly. When a mom would go in for her second trimester ultrasound they would find out that she was carrying a Downs Syndrome baby, or spina bifida, or anencephaly, and they wanted to cut short the mom’s pain by 15 weeks, 20 weeks, by not having to carry a baby that was going to be handicapped, or a baby that was going to die. They wanted to give her what they considered a therapeutic alternative both for her, and somehow to also save the baby pain.
It’s all pseudo-compassionate. It sounds good but when you really critically analyze it it’s really heinous.
So anyway, that’s why the hospital wanted to offer this option to moms. And I also think that the hospital wanted to, not necessarily make a lot of money off of this because where I worked they didn’t commit that many a year (somewhere between 10 and 25), but they wanted to provide holistic woman care including whatever gynecological obstetric needs the woman might have and not farm her out to a seedy abortion mill. So I think it’s another way they thought they were being compassionate.
PLM: When you decided to go public about this what were the reactions of hospital management? What were the reactions of your co-workers?
Jill Stanek: Let me back up and say that the course of action I was following was in conjunction with Matthew 18 where Jesus said if you see someone in sin you go to them privately. If that doesn’t work you take a witness or two with you, again privately. And if that doesn’t work you go before the Church and go public. So that was the format I was trying to follow.
I also thought that this was a hospital that has a huge gold cross on top of it lit up at night, and the hospital is named Christ, and God knew what he was allowing me to get into, and I couldn’t quit. I couldn’t walk away.
So that’s why I followed this course of action. I wrote letters to the administrators. They said they weren’t going to stop. Then I had a couple of influential people privately appeal to them, such as Cardinal George from Chicago, and Dr. C. Everett Koop the former Surgeon General of the U.S. under President Reagan, he also wrote a letter.
Then when I went public the reaction on the inside was a surprise. The department was split about in half. Half the nurses were pro-abortion and half were pro-life. The pro-abortion staff, nurses and doctors, were understandably mad.
The pro-life nurses though were also mad because they were embarrassed in part. They would go to church and people would ask them is it really true, and how can you work at that hospital?
For two decades this had been going on and no one had ever said anything even if they were pro-life. Not just nurses saw this. Hundreds, if not thousands of medical students went through the department in residency training. There were cleaning personnel, and secretaries, and doctors, and no one said anything.
I think they were embarrassed too not only that they worked there but also that they had never gone public with it. So the reaction was not good. I was immediately blacklisted from wedding invitations and things like that which of course in the scheme of things was really nothing.
It became uncomfortable to go to work. Talk would stop whenever I would go into a room. But certainly there was never any physical pain or anything like that. It was just all mental and emotional.
After I went public I stayed at the hospital for two years until I was eventually fired. I was on “final warning” that whole two years. I got an anonymous hate mail one time with my picture all cut up. But again throughout the whole thing not so much as a fingernail was broken. They were killing babies so it was something I had to do.
PLM: I’m sure there are many hospitals that don’t provide abortions, but of the ones that do, are there some that are involved in the abortion business for different reasons than the “pseudo-compassionate” reason that the hospital you worked at gave?
Jill Stanek: There are certainly those hospitals around the country that will abort for any reason, that’s just what they do.
A hospital like Christ hospital had rules that it imposed on itself of wanting to abort only for “health” reasons of the mother; selective reduction, which is if a mom is pregnant with more than one baby offering her the option of killing some of the multiples inside of her; and rape and incest.
This was a hospital that was affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Lutheran Church of America, and these are both pro-abortion denominations, which I didn’t even know existed before I went to work at Christ Hospital.
Of course, for those people who want to be on the lookout they should not automatically assume that a hospital with a Christian name is not going to commit abortions, or that a hospital associated with a religious organization is not going to commit abortions.
And I’m sorry to report that even two Catholic hospital institutions came forward when this was all going public at Christ Hospital and said that they committed abortions too. They called them “early inductions of labor,” and Loyola here in Chicago and the Providence Healthcare System on the west coast were both involved too. So while with most Catholic hospitals you would be right in assuming they wouldn’t be at all involved in abortion, you just can’t be positive until you check.
PLM: In the years that have passed since your experience at the hospital you’ve testified before both federal and state government bodies. When you do that what is the primary message that you are trying to get across to those government representatives?
Jill Stanek: I’m there for personal testimony. I’m not necessarily there to provide expert testimony. I’m there to relay my experiences. I was scared the first time I went to testify but I was told not to worry because pro-abortion legislators would not want to be seen making a nurse cry, but also because I was giving personal testimony about what I had actually seen and that’s really hard to pick apart.
So what I’m doing is taking theory and saying, yes, this is really happening. In my case there was a law presented called the Born Alive Infants Protection Act at the federal level and also in Illinois and some other states.
The theory was that abortion would naturally lead to infanticide. Some people would be very skeptical of that but here was my witness and I wasn’t the only one. Another nurse in Christ Hospital did come forward and testify that this really was happening and that there was a real need for this law. That’s where my personal testimony came in and why I was there.
PLM: Have laws changed since the time you worked at Christ Hospital almost 10~15 years ago?
Jill Stanek: The Born Alive Act passed federally. The problem is it’s just a three sentence bill that basically says that any baby born alive is constitutionally protected no matter what age, no matter what reason for it being born, wanted or not. But there are no penalties attached to that law. It’s basically a definitions bill. They just wanted to pass the bill so they stripped away any of the hard parts of the bill. It was passed when President Bush was in office, and he’s pro-life and tried hard to find ways to enforce Born Alive through federal penalties. That said there has never been to this day a prosecution under the Born Alive Act.
Meanwhile, I mentioned that this law was presented in Illinois as a state law. This was in 2001 after the Attorney General investigated Christ Hospital and said that it wasn’t breaking the law and that’s when the Born Alive act was introduced here.
I testified three times before then State Senator Barack Obama who argued with me in committee that giving these premature but born babies the same rights as full-term born babies would lead to the overturning of Roe versus Wade. So he voted against the bill four times. By the third time it was presented he was the Chairman of the committee and actually blocked the bill from even getting a vote. He said later in the press that he took a leadership role in Illinois in trying to defeat Born Alive and the partial birth abortion ban. So of course, now that he’s President I’m sure there is no interest in enforcing the Born Alive Act, which is another reason to try to introduce the concept of penalties into the Born Alive Act.
Obama voted against the bill here but the identical bill passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate. Senators Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, and Dick Durbin, the most pro-abortion senators that you could name, all voted for the Born Alive Act because they understood that we were talking now about infanticide. Whether they wanted in their hearts to vote against it or not, politically it wouldn’t look good if they voted against it.
Obama said that he would recommend voting for it now even though he had voted against the identical bill. So now, he should be in favor of attaching penalties to the Born Alive Act, and we may see whether he actually is.
PLM: Without penalties if you prosecute someone, even if found guilty then nothing really happens, right?
Jill Stanek: Right. It’s not a law that is enforced proactively. It’s not a law that the HHS, particularly this HHS, would be interested in trying to discover if babies in hospitals are abandoned to die, or outright killed. So it requires some sort of mechanism that forces some sort of proactive enforcement of the law too.
PLM: How can we in the pro-life community find out if hospitals in our local communities are conducting abortions or not? And for the ones that we find out that are conducting abortions is there anything that we as a community can do to try to influence the management of the hospital to stop committing abortions inside their facilities?
Jill Stanek: I think the way to try to find out is by paying a visit to the Chaplain’s office at the hospital. I think that is where you’ll get the straightest answer.
Even when you go there they may use code language like they will say they don’t do elective abortions, they only do therapeutic abortions, which means that the woman would have to have a reason like the baby has a handicap.
But even in those cases, like with rape and incest, it’s not acceptable. Particularly, just because babies are handicapped, it means nothing. You would never kill an older person with Downs Syndrome, so you don’t kill a preborn person with Downs Syndrome.
So I suggest going to the Chaplain’s office and asking to see policy, see it in writing. Then if there is something going on publicize it with letters to the Editor at a local newspaper. Of course, you could try to reach out privately to the hospital first. Even consider a Forty Days for Life campaign in front of these hospitals that are confirmed as performing abortions.
This can alert the public that abortions are talking place there so that pro-lifers can stay away and not give that hospital business. Sometimes that is what it will take to get them to stop.
PLM: I think that’s a great point. Even most people that are staunchly pro-life would never even think about that. Most people who need some kind of surgical procedure would just go to the hospital their doctor told them to go to. It would never have crossed my mind to think otherwise until I talked with you about this issue.
Jill Stanek: Even though it’s not in your heart to do that of course, when you go to these hospitals you are still helping fund an institution that kills babies. Remember that most times most doctors can do surgical procedures in different hospitals. Of course, if it’s an emergency situation then you have no choice because it’s a different circumstance.
Another point here is that if you are in the medical profession then you need to do your due diligence like I didn’t know to do. When you go apply for a job, when you interview for a job at a hospital or doctors office you can check to see if they are involved in abortion. And if they are then you just don’t work there, and you let it be known that you are not going to work there because they commit abortions.
This would be very hard on hospitals because nursing staff is especially hard to come by these days because there is a shortage. So if enough nurses would refuse to work at hospitals that commit abortions the hospitals would have to stop.
And if you are working at a hospital that commits abortions, some small part of your paycheck, even if it’s a penny a month, is coming from abortion. Your place in one good department, say like ICU where you are doing good things, still frees up someone else to do bad things. So you can’t comfort yourself by saying that you work in the pediatrics department, for example.
No, you shouldn’t work at a pro-abortion hospital and if you find out that you do, like I did, then you have two options. You can stay and actively fight it like I did, or leave and go to a pro-life hospital.
PLM: Jill, thank you so much for your time today and for helping to make us more aware of what’s going on in some hospitals. Like you said, many hospitals have an interest in keeping what they are doing silent, and I think that’s a tragedy.
For people who want to follow your work, and get in touch with you how can they reach out to you?
Jill Stanek: I have a blog at jillstanek.com and on there you can find how to reach me on Twitter and Facebook, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org as well.
PLM: As you know I’m a big fan of your blog. You and the people who work with you put out incredible content several times a day about a host of pro-life issues. I’m always excited when your emails show up in my inbox. I highly recommend that our readers go to your website and check it out and get signed up on your list.
Thank you again and God Bless you for the work you do.
About Jill Stanek
Jill Stanek is a nurse turned speaker, columnist and blogger, and is a national figure in the effort to protect both preborn and postborn innocent human life. Jill was a registered nurse in the Labor & Delivery Department at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL. when she discovered that not only were abortions being committed there, but that babies were being aborted alive to die without medical care.
When hospital leaders said that they would not stop this practice, Jill went public and has become a national figure in the effort to protect both born and preborn infants. Jill remained at the hospital fighting the fight from the inside, until she was terminated in 2001 for reasons related to her public outspokenness to the hospital’s abortion practices.
Jill has been quoted in the national media on television, on radio, in print, and by local and national legislators. Jill has now testified twice before the Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives and in several state legislatures.
On August 5, 2002, President George W. Bush invited Jill to his signing of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, which protects live aborted children from infanticide. Jill was honored to be publicly thanked by the President during his speech for her help with the bill.
On November 5, 2003, President Bush invited Jill to his signing of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, which protects partially delivered babies from being killed by abortion.
In January 2009, Jill was a recipient of the prestigious Life Prizes Award by the Gerard Foundation.
Jill oversees her own blog, jillstanek.com, the top ranking pro-life blog in the U.S. She is a member of Parkview Christian Church in Orland Park, IL. She is wife to Rich, mother to three children, and grandmother to nine grandsons. She has addressed many groups at the local, regional, and national levels sharing her testimony and giving an insider’s view to the atrocity of abortion.