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Undercover abortion facility footage highlights abuses against women, prompts ethics complaint

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Unsplash/Anastasiia Chepinska

A pro-life organization’s investigation into a Washington, D.C., abortion facility already under fire for killing five full-term babies believed to have been born alive has raised concerns about how the facility handles such children and obtains consent from patients.

Live Action released undercover footage Thursday from inside the Washington Surgi-Clinic abortion facility operated by Cesare Santangelo. In the video, a nurse is seen telling the pregnant undercover operative that she needs to take Xanax before she can meet with the abortionist and provide consent for the abortion. 

According to Medical News Today, Xanax is a medication often prescribed for people who suffer from anxiety or panic disorders. Some of the side effects associated with taking it include drowsiness, lightheadedness, confusion and memory impairment.

“[W]e have to make sure that — that’s in your system before you talk to the doctor. He’s not going to be able to speak with you until he is ready to do [the abortion]. And you’re actually pants off in the room,” the nurse says.

Based on the content of the investigation, the undercover operative filed a complaint against the clinic Wednesday through the Barr & Klein PLLC law firm. 

“Because the mandatory ingestion of benzodiazepines prior to medical consultation raises important questions about informed consent and cognitive impairment, we write asking you conduct an investigation into the practices of Dr. Santangelo and Surgi-Clinic,” the complaint reads.

The nurse also told the operative that the clinic sees “a lot of people as far, further than you” after the operative revealed she was 28 weeks pregnant. The undercover footage also appears to show the nurse admitting the facility cuts the umbilical cord to drain blood from the child instead of killing him via lethal injection. 

In addition, the footage shows the nurse telling the undercover actress that she may deliver her baby in a hotel room, warning “there is a possibility that you could go into premature labor.” She also added that the facility could just tell the woman what to do with the remains if she went into labor prematurely.

As the Society of Family Planning noted in a January 2010 report, a drug called digoxin is typically used to ensure fetal demise in late-term abortions. According to Live Action News, failure to use digoxin in abortions can increase the risk of children accidentally being born alive. 

“The undercover footage released today shows that the [Washington] Surgi-Clinic abortion facility is forcing mothers to take mind-altering medications before meeting with the abortionist and giving final consent,” Live Action President and Founder Lila Rose stated in a Thursday press release.

“This is a grave violation of basic medical ethics, and the patient has filed a complaint with the D.C. medical board,” she continued.

“The footage also provides first-hand testimony that the Washington-Surgi Clinic performs late-term abortions without a feticidal drug, increasing the chance that babies would be born alive and then brutally and illegally killed.” 

“Tragically, this footage also shows the nurse relaying the reality that the patient may be left to deliver her dead child alone in her hotel room,” she added.

A previous 2013 Live Action undercover investigation featured Santangelo saying that he would not provide medical care to infants accidentally born alive at his clinic.

The abortionist’s clinic practices also attracted controversy earlier this year after another pro-life group, Progressive Anti-Abortion Uprising, recovered over 100 babies’ remains from the facility, five of whom the group believes were born alive before they were killed. 

On June 9, Sen. Ted Cruz joined PAAU and other pro-life groups for a press conference outside the US Department of Justice to announce the authorities would conduct an autopsy on the five aborted children. 

“We’ve learned that an attorney for PAAU has confirmed that the D.C. medical examiner has agreed to allow a private pathologist to examine the bodies of the five babies,” Cruz said. “This is a step in the right direction.”

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