Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Clearing the smoke over "partial-birth" abortion

The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to weigh the constitutionality of a ban on partial-birth abortion.

I generally steer clear of abortion topics because they're almost always pointless. You either think it's okay or you don't. If you're a moderate the issue tends to be where to draw the line, but even then the lines don't move much.

But the bloviating over this case threatens to obscure the underlying facts. So I'll do my best to lay it out.

The claims: Pro-lifers will have you believe they're trying to put an end to a horrifying procedure that kills thousands of babies every year merely for the mother's convenience. Pro-choicers will have you believe that if we restrict this procedure, it's only a matter of time before abortion itself is outlawed.

The facts: Late-term abortions (not all of which are "partial-birth" procedures) are exceedingly rare. In 2002 there were 1.5 million abortions. Only 320 occurred after the 26th week of pregnancy. There is not an epidemic of heartless women killing their babies at the last moment. Conversely, restricting this procedure will not significantly harm abortion rights.

The claims: Pro-lifers say there is no medical reason for the procedure. Pro-choicers say there are times when it must be used.

The facts: The case filings are full of testimony from doctors and patients outlining why late-term abortions are medically necessary. On the other hand, pro-lifers may have a point if they argue that there are alternative procedures that achieve the same medical end without the gruesomeness of partial-birth.

The claims: Pro-lifers say they are trying to outlaw a particularly gruesome and unnecessary form of abortion. Pro-choicers say they prefer that the procedure be rare, but that the definition of "partial-birth abortion" in the bill is so broad that it could outlaw procedures used as early as the 12th week, and there is no exception for the health of the mother.

The facts: Well, the claims are the facts in this case. But the bill's sponsors need to make sure the language is specific enough that it only affects the procedure they describe to the public. Otherwise it's a bait-and-switch. And there's no reason to exclude a "health" exception, since that exception was very clearly required by previous Supreme Court rulings. The bill's sponsors were picking a fight.

So in the end, the debate isn't about whether partial-birth abortion is a good thing or not. It's about how the term is defined and what exceptions the law should recognize -- for a procedure used in less than 0.02% of all abortions in this country.

Sensible people would carefully define the term and allow a "mother's health" exception. But sensible people are in short supply in abortion arguments.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you really understand how the partial birth procedure works?

There is no medically necessary reason to kill the baby in the final 6 inches of delivery (the baby is delivered feet first in this procedure).

If they've already delivered the bulk of the baby alive - will delivery of the baby's head really put the mother's life in danger. Anyone with common sense knows that it will not.

Surely you can see your own claim is false.

And viewed from the baby's perspective - they feel pain just like you an I. I personally wouldn't like being stabbed in the back of the head with surgical scissors and having my brain suctioned out.

So what if it's only 320 abortions a year. Lets call it what it is - 320 live infants murdered per year legally. It's the lowest of societies that kills its own children. It's a horrific crime.

The US is the only industrialized nation in the world that allows this procedure. Even other "non religious" nations don't allow this.

The American people have overwhelmingly spoken in favor of banning this procedure. It's a few liberal judges that keep thwarting the will of the people. Now it will be up to the supreme court to decide.

Will Ballard

6/17/2006 10:45 AM  

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