Partial Birth Abortion Explained in Court


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The Supreme Court decision in the case of Gonzales v. Carhart included some quotes of testimony given to the court explaining just what Partial Birth Abortion is.

Note: There are many different terms used for the same procedure or minor variations, including "partial birth abortion", "D&X", and "intact D&E". The court choose the term "intact D&E".

Below are exact quotes from court decision, except that we have removed the references to the the title and page number of the court document or transcript that they are quoting.

As described by abortionists who do it

In an intact D&E procedure the doctor extracts the fetus in a way conducive to pulling out its entire body, instead of ripping it apart. One doctor, for example, testified:

“If I know I have good dilation and I reach in and the fetus starts to come out and I think I can accomplish it, the abortion with an intact delivery, then I use my forceps a little bit differently. I don’t close them quite so much, and I just gently draw the tissue out attempting to have an intact delivery, if possible.”

Rotating the fetus as it is being pulled decreases the odds of dismemberment. A doctor also “may use forceps to grasp a fetal part, pull it down, and re-grasp the fetus at a higher level—sometimes using both his hand and a forceps—to exert traction to retrieve the fetus intact until the head is lodged in the [cervix].”

Intact D&E gained public notoriety when, in 1992, Dr. Martin Haskell gave a presentation describing his method of performing the operation. Dilation and Extraction 110–111. In the usual intact D&E the fetus’ head lodges in the cervix, and dilation is insufficient to allow it to pass. Haskell explained the next step as follows:

“ ‘At this point, the right-handed surgeon slides the fingers of the left [hand] along the back of the fetus and “hooks” the shoulders of the fetus with the index and ring fingers (palm down).

“ ‘While maintaining this tension, lifting the cervix and applying traction to the shoulders with the fingers of the left hand, the surgeon takes a pair of blunt curved Metzenbaum scissors in the right hand. He carefully advances the tip, curved down, along the spine and under his middle finger until he feels it contact the base of the skull under the tip of his middle finger.

“ ‘[T]he surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull or into the foramen magnum. 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. With the catheter still in place, he applies traction to the fetus, removing it completely from the patient.’ ”

As described by a nurse who observed it

Here is another description from a nurse who witnessed the same method performed on a 26-week fetus and who testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee:

“ ‘Dr. Haskell went in with forceps and grabbed the baby’s legs and pulled them down into the birth canal. Then he delivered the baby’s body and the arms—everything but the head. The doctor kept the head right inside the uterus…

“ ‘The baby’s little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of his head, and the baby’s arms jerked out, like a startle reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall.

“ ‘The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby went completely limp…

“ ‘He cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta. He threw the baby in a pan, along with the placenta and the instruments he had just used.’ ”


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21 April 2007.

Copyright 2007 by Pregnant Pause
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