Partial-Birth Abortion: Is it ever needed?

What is a partial-birth abortion?
A partial-birth abortion is an abortion technique in which the person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a living fetus before killing the fetus and completing the delivery.  Publicly unveiled in 1992, this method was used to kill over 5,000 babies annually from 20 weeks through full term until the 2007 Supreme Court decision Gonzalez v. Carhart upheld a federal ban on the procedure.

The 2003 federal ban called partial-birth abortion “brutal and inhumane.”  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."

The abortionist grabs the baby’s leg
with forceps.

The baby’s leg is pulled out
into the birth canal.

The abortionist delivers the baby’s entire
body except the head.

The abortionist jams scissors into the baby’s
skull to enlarge the hole.

A suction tube is inserted. The child’s brains are sucked out causing
the skull to collapse. The dead baby is then removed.


Is a partial-birth abortion ever the only way to preserve a mother's physical health?
Pro-abortion advocacy groups made strenuous efforts to persuade the public that partial-birth abortions were necessary to protect the lives or health of pregnant women, and many uncritically accepted this claim at face value.  However, in the 2007 Gonzalez decision, the Court determined after reviewing extensive evidence that this gruesome procedure is never the only way to preserve the life and health of the mother. This determination is in agreement with Congress’s findings that the procedure is not medically necessary.

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 of partial-birth abortion:

It 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.

How often were 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 were 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 were performed in the fifth and sixth months of pregnancy, on healthy babies of healthy mothers.

Are partial birth abortions still being performed today?
The federal partial birth abortion ban and subsequent Gonzalez decision make it illegal to deliver partially a live baby with the intent to kill the baby. Some abortionists comply with the law while continuing to perform essentially the same procedure by ensuring that the baby dies in utero prior to delivery. In one such method, the abortion practitioner simply clamps the umbilical cord for several minutes to starve the child of oxygen immediately before delivery. More commonly, the abortion practitioner injects digoxin or potassium chloride into the baby one or two days before delivery, killing the child. Again, the baby is delivered feet-first up to the head, the skull is punctured and collapsed, and the baby is then delivered the rest of the way.

Let’s work together to end these inhumane practices and give women and children better medical choices.

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