Addressing Partial-Birth Abortions
For some, accepting the reality
of partial-birth abortion is difficult. Does this gruesome abortion procedure
actually exist? If it does, it must have only been used to save the life of a
mother, right? Unfortunately, partial-birth abortion is real. Abortion
doctors perform the abortion on healthy women who do not want to be pregnant.
The end result is the brutal death of a partially-born child.
Indifference has set in because
the issue has been clouded. Some proponents of abortion stated that
the issue of banning partial-birth abortions is more about ending abortion
rights. Other abortion advocates stated there is no such thing as a "partial-birth
abortion" and that such a term has no medical meaning.
This fact sheet produced by
Right to Life of Michigan addresses partial-birth abortions. It contains
information about the attempts to ban partial-birth abortion, description
of the abortion procedure, information about the number and reasons behind
partial-birth abortions, the opinions of experts in fetal medicine and
the American Medical Association, and web sites where additional research
information on partial-birth abortion may be obtained.
Attempts to ban partial-birth
The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 was passed by Congress with
large bi-partisan majorities and signed into law by President George W.
Bush in November of 2003. After court challenges, this legislation was
eventually ruled constitutional in a 5-4 vote by the U.S. Supreme Court
in April of 2007. This ban became law after numerous previous attempts
to make this procedure illegal. Below is a brief history of legislative
attempts to ban partial-birth abortion.
As knowledge of this procedure
increased across the country during the early 1990s, prolife legislators
began to push for a ban on partial-birth abortion. On November 1, 1995,
the U.S. House of Representatives voted 288 to 139 to pass the ban on
partial-birth abortion. On December 7, 1995, the U.S. Senate voted 54
to 44 to ban this procedure. President Bill Clinton vetoed this bill on
April 10, 1996.
After President Clinton was re-elected, prolife legislators continued
to work to ban this procedure. On March 20, 1997, the House voted 295
to 136 to pass a bill that was similar to the one from 1995 with slight
language changes. On May 20, 1997, the U.S. Senate voted 64 to 36 for
the ban. Unfortunately, the Senate was three votes shy of the necessary
two-thirds majority to override the veto that was promised by President
President Clinton said that he would have signed this bill if it had made
exceptions for women who had serious health problems. Exceptions for "serious
health problems" would not prevent partial-birth abortions from being
performed because of a definition in a U.S. Supreme Court decision. In
the case Doe v. Bolton, the U.S. Supreme Court defined health (in the
context of abortion) as "all factors—physical, emotional, psychological,
familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the well-being of the patient."
This means that abortion doctors can pick from an endless list of health
reasons to abort a child, even during the last trimester of pregnancy.
On June 28, 2000, in the case of Stenberg v. Carhart, the U.S. Supreme
Court, in a 5-4 decision, overturned a Nebraska law that banned partial-birth
abortions. Because the U.S. Supreme Court deemed the Nebraska ban to be
unconstitutional, state and federal lawmakers were challenged to write
legislation which was different, but would still prohibit partial-birth
In response to the Carhart
ruling, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion
Ban Act of 2003 which provides a more exact definition of partial-birth
abortion and contains Congressional findings that partial-birth abortion
is never medically necessary to save the health of the mother.
Description of the procedure
In a 1992 seminar for the National Abortion Federation, Dr. Martin Haskell
described his new method of abortion called D&X (dilation and extraction).
Haskell thought that his new method was an improvement over D&E (dilation
and evacuation), where a child is dismembered inside the womb and removed
piece by piece.
Haskell invented this new procedure
to give himself and other abortionists an alternative method of completing
second-trimester abortions. Haskell also says that this method can be
used in the third-trimester. All of the quotes in the following paragraphs
are directly from a hand-out provided at the National Abortion Federation
seminar in D&X or partial-birth abortion is a three day procedure.
During the first two days, the pregnant woman's cervix is anaesthetized
and dilated. On the day of the operation, the abortionist uses an ultrasound
to find the "approximate location of the lower extremities."
The abortionist then inserts "a large grasping forceps" into
the uterus. "When the instrument appears on the sonogram screen,
the surgeon is able to open and close its jaws to firmly and reliably
grasp a lower extremity." The abortionist then pulls the lower extremity
into the vagina. "With a lower extremity in the vagina, the surgeon
uses his fingers to deliver the opposite lower extremity, then the torso,
the shoulders, and the upper extremities." At this point the child's
entire body is outside of his mother except for his head.
The abortionist then finds the
base of the skull and "forces the scissors into the base of the skull.
Having safely entered the skull, he spreads the scissors to enlarge the
opening. The surgeon removes the scissors and introduces a suction catheter
into this hole and evacuates the skull contents."
What are medical experts
The Physicians' Ad-hoc Coalition for Truth (PHACT) is a group
of experts in fetal and maternal medicine whose purpose is to "bring
the medical facts to bear on the public policy debate over partial-birth
abortion." PHACT states that "there is no medical basis"
for the assertion that "partial-birth abortion can be medically necessary
to protect the health of a woman carrying a child diagnosed with severe
congenital or genetic disabilities, and to also protect that woman's future
fertility and ability to carry other children."
PHACT also points out that the
"partial-birth abortion procedure itself can pose both an immediate
and significant risk to a woman's health and future fertility. To forcibly
dilate a woman's cervix over the course of several days risks creating
an 'incompetent cervix,' a leading cause of future premature deliveries."
In a letter to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum concerning a bill to ban partial-birth
abortions, P. John Seward, the executive vice-president of the American
Medical Association, wrote, "Thank you for the opportunity to work
with you towards restricting a procedure [partial-birth abortion] we all
agree is not good medicine."
Why are partial-birth
No one is certain how many partial-birth abortions took place each year.
Some sources claim that there may have been only 500 to 1,000 a year . In 1996,
The Sunday Record (September 15) reported that New Jersey abortion providers
stated that they provided at least 1,500 partial-birth abortions in their
state alone per year. In 1997, Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of
the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, estimated that the method
was used 3,000 to 5,000 times annually. One should also note that the
purpose of Dr. Haskell's seminar goal was to spread the use of his technique.
In terms of reasons for having
a partial-birth abortion, Dr. Haskell is quoted by the American Medical
News as saying, "In my particular case, probably 20 percent are for
genetic reasons. The other 80 percent are purely elective." During
2009, there were at least 223 abortions performed in Michigan after the
20th week of pregnancy. Michigan was recently ranked last in the country
by the National Abortion Rights Action League for offering women access
to abortions, however, second and third trimester abortions are performed
A February 1, 2001, Detroit
Free Press article reported that abortionist Dr. Jose Higuera might be
criminally prosecuted in Michigan for performing an abortion after the
28th week of pregnancy. The prosecution of Dr. Higuera stemmed from an
abortion performed in 1996 with no "health" or "life"
reason for the mother. The woman, whose identity was not disclosed in
the Free Press article, stated she did not know she was so far along in
While many people do not realize
that an abortion can be legally performed throughout all nine months of
pregnancy, the truth is abortions can be performed for any "health"
reason at any time.
Issue of anesthetics
Many pro-choice individuals against the ban on partial-birth abortion
claimed that the anesthetic given to the mother before the procedure killed
the child before she was partially delivered. Planned Parenthood handed
out sheets to Congress which stated, "The fetus dies of an overdose
of anesthesia given to the mother intravenously . . . This induces brain
death in a fetus in a matter of minutes."
When the president of American
Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), Dr. Norig Ellison, heard this, he
testified, "There is absolutely no basis in scientific fact for that
statement . . . I think the suggestion that the anesthesia given to the
mother, be it regional or general, is going to cause brain death of the
fetus is without basis of fact ."
Dr. Martin Haskell has even
said that about a third of the children die from intrauterine stress and
ruptured membranes due to the dilation (nothing to do with the anesthetic)
but the other two-thirds weren't dead before he started removing the fetus .
and Partial-Birth Abortion
The Michigan Senate passed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (S.B. 776)
by a 24-13 vote on January 22, 2008, the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade
and Doe v. Bolton, the two U.S. Supreme Court decisions which legalized
abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. The bill passed the Michigan
House by a vote of 74-32 on May 27, 2008, only to be vetoed by Governor
Jennifer Granholm on June 13, 2008, because it lacked a so called “health”
The bill, sponsored by Sen.
Cameron Brown, would have made it a felony to perform a partial-birth
abortion, unless the mother’s life is endangered by a physical disorder,
physical illness or physical injury. Sen. Brown said that banning the
barbaric procedure, which involves partially delivering the baby and then
stabbing the baby’s head and suctioning out the brains, is something
the vast majority of people can agree on.
"While there may be a point of division on the abortion issue, few
people differ on the egregious nature of partial-birth abortions, a practice
not worthy of a civilized society,"
The most recent attempts to ban the procedure came as a response to the
Legal Birth Definition Act being ruled unconstitutional by the 6th Circuit
Court of Appeals on June 4, 2007. This ruling was appealed to the U.S.
Supreme Court. However, the U.S. Supreme Court decided in January to reject
an appeal. Michigan’s Legal Birth Definition Act became a reality
only after a record-setting petition campaign allowed lawmakers to override
a veto by Governor Jennifer Granholm. The Legal Birth Definition Act,
which would have effectively banned partial-birth abortion, defined birth
to be at the point where any portion of a child is vaginally delivered
outside the mother’s body.
The Michigan Partial-Birth Abortion Ban mirrors the federal Partial-Birth
Abortion Ban Act of 2003. That law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court
in Gonzales v. Carhart on April 18, 2007.
“This time we’re using federal language banning partial-birth
abortions that has already passed judicial muster,” Brown said.
Opponents of the bill argued that since there is a federal ban, no additional
laws are needed. Brown disagrees, pointing out that the state has many
laws that duplicate federal laws, and the state ban is needed to commit
Michigan resources to prosecute violators.
"Michigan should enact this legislation in order to provide enforcement
by our attorney general and county prosecutors," he said. "The
federal law is only enforced by federal attorneys who may be focused on
Click here for the status of legislative efforts in Michigan to ban partial-birth abortion.
1 - New York Times, March 28, 1996 2 Senate Judiciary
Committee Hearing record J-104-54, Nov. 17, 1995, p. 153 3 American Medical
News, Vol. 38 (43), November 20, 1995
2 - Senate
Judiciary Committee Hearing record J-104-54, Nov. 17, 1995, p. 153
3 - American Medical News, Vol. 38 (43), November 20, 1995
Produced by: Right to
Life of Michigan, PO Box 901, Grand Rapids, MI 49509, www.rtl.org