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Doctors Groups Say Partial-Birth Abortion Unnecessary, Hurts Women

by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
November 23, 2003


Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) -- A number of reputable doctors' groups say there is no medical reason for a pregnant woman to have a partial-birth abortion. In fact, such abortions, which are at the center of a national legal debate, can be dangerous to women who have them.

These physicians say there is no truth to the claims made by the abortion industry that the second- and third-trimester abortion method is necessary for a woman's health.

Groups including the Christian Medical and Dental Society, the Catholic Medical Association, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and the Physicians Ad Hoc Coalition for the Truth have all stated that partial-birth abortion is a dangerous practice for both mother and child. 

The groups support the federal ban passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush. Judges in Nebraska, New York, and California have issued injunctions preventing the law from taking effect. Hearings on the ban are scheduled to take place in late March.

The pro-abortion lobby won the injunctions because its attorneys claim the law is unconstitutional in that it does not include a health exception for the woman. But distinguished doctors around the nation, including ob/gyns, insist that, rather than safeguarding a woman's health, partial-birth abortion jeopardizes a woman's physical well-being.

For instance, Dr. David Stevens of the Christian Medical and Dental Society asks, "How can abortion proponents defend the indefensible? A side benefit of this effort is that it shows the medical people how radical the abortion movement is."

Meanwhile, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists notes that there has been "zero peer-reviewed safety data" on partial-birth abortion, which the group describes as "a procedure involving overtly dangerous obstetrical techniques on a mid-trimester uterus over a period of two-to-three days."

In June, Dr. Jane Orient of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons wrote a letter to a Congressional subcommittee, noting that partial-birth abortion "has no medical indications." Orient went on to say that the doctors in her organization "conceive of no circumstance in which it (partial-birth abortion) would be needed to save the life or preserve the health of a mother."

Orient noted that, if a pregnant woman was suffering from a complication such as toxemia, her doctor could either perform a Caesarian section or induce labor. "The only purpose of the partial-birth abortion," Orient wrote, "is to assure that the end of the pregnancy is accompanied by the end of the life of a child about to be born.

Contrary to claims made by the pro-abortion lobbying group NARAL, Orient points out that partial-birth abortion is not a safe practice, since it "carries the risk of maternal injury or death, as by uterine rupture or laceration and hemorrhage."

Orient's group was among the organizations that filed an amicus brief in Stenberg v. Carhart, a U.S. Supreme Court decision on a Nebraska partial-birth abortion ban. The High Court ruled that ban unconstitutional, claiming the law's language was vague and that it did not contain a health exception. The most recent partial-birth abortion ban passed by Congress includes a Congressional finding noting that partial-birth abortion is not needed to safeguard a woman's health.

Likewise, the Physicians Ad Hoc Committee for the Truth has said, "Because of the dangers posed to women, the distortions regarding the so-called 'medical necessity' of partial-birth abortion must not be allowed to stand...Given the many potential risks the procedure entails for the mother, far from being medically indicated, partial-birth abortion is actually contraindicated."

Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop has also spoken strongly against the abortion method. "Partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary to protect a mother's health or her future fertility. On the contrary, this procedure can pose a significant threat to both." 

Ironically, even one of the nation's leading abortion practitioners has said that partial-birth abortion is not safe. Speaking to the American Medical News in 1995, third-term abortionist Warren Hern said, "You really can't defend it…I would dispute any statement that this is the safest procedure to use…Turning the fetus to a breech position is potentially dangerous. You have to be concerned about causing amniotic fluid embolism or placental abruption if you do that."

A number of doctors note that, if a woman's uterus was in danger of rupturing, a reputable ob/gyn would not forcibly dilate the woman's cervix for three days, turn the baby inside the uterus into a breech position, and then stick a pair of sharp scissors into the woman's body.

Then why do it?

Dayton, Ohio abortionist Martin Haskell, who has reportedly performed more than 1,000 partial-birth abortions, told an abortion conference in the early 1990s that the method was easier for the abortionist. The alternative, dismemberment, requires the abortionist to pull the arms and legs from the unborn child—a more labor-intensive practice.

Haskell also told American Medical News that 20 percent of his partial-birth abortions involved babies with handicaps, while 80 percent were, in his words, "purely elective." This confirms the contention made by pro-life groups such as National Right to Life that the vast majority of partial-birth abortions are done on the healthy babies of healthy mothers.

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