Why Women Have Partial-Birth Abortions

by Jay Johansen

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Why do women have abortions? From what you hear of the debate on television and in most major news magazines, you would probably conclude that most abortions are because of desperate circumstances: rape, incest, severe danger to the mother's health if the pregnancy continues, and so on. In fact, the major study on this question, conducted by a pro-abortion organization, found that 93% of abortions are for social or economic reasons: the mother feels that she's too young to have a baby, or her boyfriend has broken up with her, or she doesn't want her parents to find out she's been sexually active.

But in the recent debate on partial-birth abortions, the pro-abortionists claim that their own research is wrong or at least not applicable, that women getting these very late abortions are, in fact, getting them for desperate reasons: danger to their own health, or severly deformed babies.

An abortionist who was probably the #2 user of partial-birth abortion in the nation, James McMahon, put together a list of some of his clients, with the reason why he felt partial-birth abortion was called for in each case.

The following is an excerpt from the testimony of Dr Pamela Eleashia Smith, responding to Mr McMahon's list.

(For those interested in credentials, Dr Smith is an obstetrician/gynecologist, trained at Cornell, Yale, the University of Chicago, and Mt Sinai Hospital in Chicago. She has practiced in the inner city of Chicago for the past 15 years, and is presently the Director of Medical Education for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mt Sinai Hospital and teaches at several medical schools.)

Dr Smith: Earlier this year, the late Dr. James McMahon provided to the House Judiciary subcommittee a list of a self-selected sample of 175 cases in which he utilized the partial-birth procedure for so-called "maternal indications." Of this list, one-third (33%) of the time the partial-birth procedure would be more appropriately classified as a contraindication, because the mother already had medical problems that are associated with excessive bleeding, infection or a need to be delivered quickly. These conditions include eclampsia, abruptio placenta, amnionitis, premature rupture of membranes, incompetent cervix, and blood clotting abnormalities.

In addition, another 22% (39 cases) were for maternal "depression", and 16% for conditions consistent with the birth of a normal child (e.g., sickle cell trait, prolapsed uterus, small pelvis).


In a tape-recorded 1993 interview with American Medical News, Dr. Martin Haskell [the inventor of the partial-birth procedure] explicitly distinguished between the 20 percent of his "extraction" procedures (as he calls them) that he said involved fetuses with genetic problems, and the 80 percent that are, in his words, "purely elective".1

When President Clinton announced his veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act, he presented several women who, he said, had had partial birth abortions for serious health reasons. Yet one of these women, Claudia Crown, admitted in a radio interview on April 12 that, "My partial birth abortion procedure was elective, as were the procedures of Colleen Costello, Tammy Watts, Mary Dorothy-Line and all the other women who were at the White House yesterday. All of our procedures were considered elective."2


1Congressional Record, 6 Dec 1995.

2Right to Life of Cincinnati Newsletter, vol 26 no 6, June/July 1996.

Posted 5 Sep 2000.

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Copyright 1996 by Ohio Right to Life
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