Is is ever needed?

Partial-Birth Abortion

What is a partial-birth abortion?

A partial-birth abortion is an abortion technique used in which the person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a living fetus before killing the fetus and completing the delivery. Registered nurse Brenda Pratt Shafer witnessed several partial-birth abortions and described the procedure: “The baby’s body was moving. His little fingers were clasping together. He was kicking his feet. All the while his little head was still stuck inside. The abortionist took a pair of scissors and inserted them into the back of the baby’s head. Then he opened the scissors up. Then he stuck the high-powered suction tube into the hole and sucked the baby’s brains out.”

Partial-Birth Abortion Ban -- History

In 1996, the US Congress passed a ban on partial-birth abortions, but it was vetoed by President Clinton. Although the House voted to override the veto, the Senate failed to generate enough votes for the override. In 1997, a bill to ban partial-birth abortions was once again introduced in Congress again passed by both the House and Senate and again vetoed by President Clinton. In 1999, a third attempt to pass a Partial-Birth Abortion Ban was successful by Congress, but President Clinton stated that he would veto the legislation.

Following are some key questions and answers to consider when talking to elected officials about your support of a ban on partial-birth abortions. At this time, it is unclear when another ban will be taken up by Congress. It is important, however, to let those who represent you know the facts regarding partial-birth abortion.

Is a partial-birth abortion ever the only way to preserve a mother’s physical health?

Pro-abortion advocacy groups have made strenuous efforts to persuade the public and Congress that partial-birth abortions are necessary to protect the lives or health of pregnant women, and many have uncritically accepted this claim at face value. However, these claims are coming under increasingly sharp challenge from prestigious medical experts. The sort of cases highlighted by pro-abortion groups — third-trimester abortions of babies with disorders incompatible with sustained life outside the womb — account for a small fraction of all the partial-birth abortions. Confronted with identical cases, most specialists would never consider executing a breech extraction and puncturing the skull. Instead, most would deliver the baby alive, sometimes early, without jeopardy to the mother — usually vaginally — and make the baby as comfortable as possible for whatever time the child has allotted to her.

In an interview published in the American Medical News, former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop said, “I believe that Mr. Clinton was misled by his medical advisors on what is fact and what is fiction in reference to late-term abortions. Because in no way can I twist my mind to see that the late-term abortions as described— you know, partial birth, and then destruction of the unborn child before the head is born— is a medical necessity for the mother. It certainly can’t be a necessity for the baby.” Dr. Koop, a world-renown pediatric surgeon, was asked by the American Medical News reporters whether he had ever “treated children with any of the disabilities cited in this debate? For example, have you operated on children born with organs outside of their bodies?” Dr. Koop replied, “Oh, yes indeed. I’ve done that many times. The prognosis usually is good.” The Physicians’ Ad Hoc Coalition for Truth (PHACT) which consisted of over 230 physicians, mostly professors and other specialists in obstetrics, gynecology, and fetal medicine said: Congress, the public — but most importantly women — need to know that partial-birth abortion is never medically indicated to protect a mother’s health or her future fertility.

At a briefing on Capitol Hill, PHACT member Dr. Curtis Cook, an ob/gyn perinatologist with the West Michigan Perinatal and Genetic Diagnostic Center, said that partial-birth abortion:

is never necessary to preserve the life or the fertility of the mother, and may in fact threaten her health or well-being or future fertility. In my practice, I see these rare, unusual cases that come to most generalists’ offices once in a lifetime— they all come into our office. We see these every day....The presence of fetal disabilities or fetal anomalies are not a reason to have a termination of pregnancy to preserve the life of the mother— they do not threaten the life of the mother in any way....[and] where these rare instances do occur, they do not require the death of the baby or the fetus prior to the completion of the delivery.

What about the small minority of cases that do involve serious fetal deformity?

It is true that some partial-birth abortions — a small minority — involve babies who have grave disorders that will result in death soon after birth. But these unfortunate members of the human family deserve compassion and the best comfort-care that medical science can offer— not a scissors in the back of the head. In some such situations there are good medical reasons to deliver such a child early, after which natural death will follow quickly. Dr. Harlan Giles, a professor of “high-risk” obstetrics and perinatology at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, performs abortions by a variety of procedures up until “viability.” However, in sworn testimony in the U.S. Federal District Court for the Southern District of Ohio (Nov. 13, 1995), Prof. Giles said:

[After 23 weeks] I do not think there are any maternal conditions that I’m aware of that mandate ending the pregnancy that also require that the fetus be dead or that the fetal life be terminated. In my experience for 20 years, one can deliver these fetuses either vaginally, or by Cesarean section for that matter, depending on the choice of the parents with informed consent. . . But there’s no reason these fetuses cannot be delivered intact vaginally after a miniature labor, if you will, and be at least assessed at birth and given the benefit of the doubt.

What if all late-term abortions were ended?

Elected officials who support abortion on demand skillfully use the argument that all late-term abortions should be ended. That language sounds good, but would partial-birth abortions end?

The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act is a bill to ban performance of a partial-birth abortion during any point in pregnancy. Not all partial-birth abortions are performed past viability, or late-term in a pregnancy. According to a 1997 interview with Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, the vast majority of partial-birth abortions are performed in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy. It is clear a bill to ban “late-term abortions” would not end the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure.

Some lawmakers will say they cannot support a ban on partial-birth abortions because exceptions to preserve the life or health of the mother are not included. Congress has only considered bans with life of the mother exceptions.

Because the U.S. Supreme Court has defined so broadly “health” in Roe vs. Wade and in Doe vs. Bolton in regards to abortion, any “health” exceptions to abortion legislation would render it useless and would not end even one abortion. We have learned from experts that partial-birth abortions are never necessary to save a woman’s physical health. Therefore no “health” exception is ever needed.

How often are partial-birth abortions performed?

According to Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, and other sources, it appears that Partial-Birth Abortions are performed 3,000 to 5,000 times annually. (Even those numbers may be low.) Based on published interviews with numerous abortionists, and interviews with Fitzsimmons, the “vast majority” of partial-birth abortions are performed in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, on healthy babies of healthy mothers. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services reported 9,865 abortions were performed after 21 weeks gestation for selected states in 1997 the most recent statistic available. Second and third trimester abortions are being performed in the US in large numbers. Let’s work together to end partial-birth abortion giving women and unborn children better medical choices.