05/28/04 — Reverse effects: Testimony on abortions raises interesting issues

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Reverse effects: Testimony on abortions raises interesting issues

Some doctors who perform late-term abortions are giving fascinating court testimony about the procedure. Much of it does not seem favorable to their cause.

The question of continuing to allow this type of abortions — which are performed in the last two-thirds of a pregnancy — will go back before the U.S. Supreme Court soon. The court has rejected a bill passed by Congress and signed by President Bush that would let states outlaw them. Another bill, modified to address the court’s concerns, is working its way through Congress.

These procedures are called “partial-birth abortions” because of the way they are done. The abortionist actually delivers part of the baby’s body, and then he punctures the head and vacuums out the brain to allow the skull to collapse.

Pardon that gruesome description, but let’s face it: We’re talking about a gruesome procedure.

Some doctors have said that the babies feel pain from the procedure. Some simply say they give the babies injections that stop their heartbeat before beginning the procedure. What humanitarians they are.

Perhaps the most ironic testimony by a doctor came from Dr. Amos Grunebaum, who testified in a suit that was filed in New York in an effort to block enforcement of a partial-birth abortion ban — which about 30 states have passed. If anyone wanted to prove a distinction between a late-term fetus and a baby, Grunebaum’s testimony would not help.

He told the court that the procedure “is the same as any baby dying” and the parents want to hold it. So, he puts a cap on its head and sets the dead baby in the mother’s arms, just as if it were a live baby. This is an admission that both the doctor and the mother see a well developed fetus as more than just a lifeless glob of tissue.

Bills allowing partial-birth abortion bans were passed by Congress three times while Bill Clinton was president, and he vetoed them every time. His reason was that the procedures should be allowed when a pregnancy risks the life of the mother, but most doctors who have testified in courts or before Congress say partial-birth abortions are never medically necessary.

The health of the mother was also the issue that the Supreme Court cited when it turned back the act that Bush had signed. Congress is amending the ban to remove that objection.

It is important to get it before the court this year in case Bush is not re-elected. His successor undoubtedly would veto the ban, as Clinton did.

Published in Editorials on May 28, 2004 12:16 PM