Partial-Birth Abortion:
A Crisis in Law and Medicine

by Teresa R Wagner, Esq

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Twenty-six years of legal abortion on demand has clarified at least three things. First, the American abortion lobby has reached the extreme of apparently defending any abortion, no matter how advanced the pregnancy and no matter how developed the child. Second, the legal and medical professions are far more committed to abortion than the American public. Third, the judiciary will oblige abortion advocates no matter what they demand, regardless of the will of the people.

The backdrop for these assertions is the case law on state partial-birth abortion bans. Every month, it seems, we hear that another court has struck down a state's partial-birth abortion statute on the pretext that it is unconstitutional.

Partial-birth abortion is a relatively new abortion method whereby the abortion practitioner delivers the child feet first up to the head, stabs the base of the child's skull to create an opening to suction out the child's brains, and then crushes the head to complete delivery.

Twenty-eight states have passed laws to ban this barbaric abortion method, many in record time and three over governors' vetoes. The House of Representatives has voted overwhelmingly in favor of a federal ban, and even typically abortion-sympathetic politicians have recoiled upon learning about it. As Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan remarked, this is "near-infanticide".

The widespread consensus against this repugnant practice has not deterred the abortion lobby from defending it, however. This alone shows how out of step they are with the moral sensibilities of most Americans. Professional abortion litigators (those who challenge the "constitutionality" of abortion laws as a full-time job) have taken approximately 19 of these very popular laws to court, claiming that they violate a woman's "right to choose". How the elimination of one renegade abortion method could do this is a good legal question, but no real obstacle for courts seemingly committed to abortion above all else.

Two bogus claims are made in the challenges to these bans. First, abortion lawyers claim that the wording of the bans is "vague" and cannot be understood by those who perform abortions, with the result that they might stop doing most or all abortions. If only all businesses could be so free of regulation by conveniently claiming they do not understand the laws that apply to them. It's also curious that abortion supporters initially claimed that the targeted procedure was too rare to warrant legislation. Somebody understood the law's meaning then. Finally, the very same lawyers advanced the very same claim against an Ohio law that used completely different language.

The second argument is that these laws would deprive mothers of a safe abortion method and would therefore threaten their health. This too is spurious. Even seasoned abortionists have come forward to denounce the partial-birth abortion method as a threat to a mother's safety.

Nonetheless, almost every court to review these laws has sided with abortion advocates, telling American citizens that we cannot pass laws to protect the life of the human infant, even when the infant is in the very process of birth. Only three decisions out of approximately 19 have upheld state bans.

These decisions constitute a moral crisis within the legal and medical professions. It is one thing to know that abortion is killing; it is quite another to discuss that killing in graphic detail, apparently without compunction. The doctors and judges participating in these cases coolly describe dismembering arms, disarticulating legs, crushing heads and tearing up torsos. One waits in vain for recognition of the crime being committed against these young human beings. If our doctors and lawyers can testify and listen to such brutalities with not a hint of regret, then the moral corruption of these professions is frightening indeed.

These cases should remind all citizens that black robes and white coats do not confer moral authority. (Indeed, it was a doctor and a lawyer in Weimar Germany who laid the foundation for this century's other Holocaust: Alfred Hoche, a psychiatrist, and Karl Binding, a jurist, authored the 1920 pamphlet Permission for the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Life, arguing for euthanasia and the elimination of unwanteds.) Rather, the citizenry must assert the sound moral judgment it has displayed regarding this issue and reject the barbarity that the legal and medical elites would foist upon us.

Our task is to see through the legal citations and the medical euphemisms to recognize abortion for what it is: the violent and unjust destruction of human beings.

Teresa R. Wagner, Esq., is an analyst for human rights and life issues at Family Research Council. This article was adapted from The Truth in Black and White, FRC's new booklet on court challenges to state partial-birth legislation.
Posted 5 Sep 2000.

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