Attorney General Jeffrey B. Pine Friday assured Women & Infants Hospital that inducing early labor in a woman whose fetus cannot survive outside the womb "does not appear" to violate state law.
As a result, the hospital has agreed to begin inducing labor Monday in Gilda Restelli, who learned a month ago that the baby she is expecting has little brain tissue and no chance of survival after birth.
Mrs. Restelli, 27, is 30 weeks pregnant, and doctors at the hospital had recommended inducing labor. But the hospital administration said the procedure could be viewed as an illegal third-trimester abortion and would not allow it without assurances from Pine that he would not prosecute.
Pine, however, initially refused to provide such assurances, saying his office does not give advisory opinions to private entities.
Pine said that, after reading a story in yesterday's Providence Journal describing the Restellis' plight, he called the hospital's lawyer, Richard Sherman, to ask, "Is there a way I can help with this?" He proposed drafting a letter offering some guidance to see if it would satisfy the hospital.
Pine said that he felt bad for the Restellis. "I'm a parent like anybody else," he said. "I know it sounds corny, but we're here to help people and not to hurt them. . . . I'm not looking to get involved in people's personal choices and medical choices, but if I can help resolve the situation, I want to do that. And I feel good that we did it."
Previously, Pine said, his office only had information on Mrs. Restelli's medical condition, not on the hospital's legal concerns. When he learned which statutes the hospital was concerned about, he offered to write that they did not seem to apply to this situation.
The two laws the hospital cited are the state's partial-birth abortion law, which is under a court order preventing its implementation, and an older statute banning the killing of a "quick (live) child." Pine said that the proposed procedure was not a partial-birth abortion and that the Restellis' unborn baby would not meet the definition of a "quick child."
In a one-paragraph statement, the hospital said that Pine's letter provided the "needed clarification and guidance."
Reached at home in Westerly yesterday, Gilda Restelli and her husband, Mark, were grateful but subdued. "The worst is yet to come," Mark Restelli said. "This is the easy part. Now we have to go into the delivery room. Anybody want to be there with me? That's the hard part."