Truth About Partial-Birth Abortion
(Printed in the Towanda Daily Review on 5/8/96.)
Editor: Recently, Congress passed and President Clinton vetoed legislation erroneously labeled the "Partial-Birth Abortion" bill. Proponents of the bill claim that viable fetuses are being aborted during the third trimester of an uneventful pregnancy by what they refer to as "partial-birth" -- delivery of all but the head which is then pierced while still in the birth canal, the brains removed, the fetus discarded.

The actual procedure is known as an intact dilatation and evacuation or D&E. The term "partial-birth abortion" was unknown to the medical world prior to its coining, for propaganda reasons, by anti-abortion groups. D&E is rarely used to terminate pregnancies, with less than 1000 being performed annually in the United States. Its use includes pregnancies where anomalies develop that cause the fetal brain to grow partially or completely outside of the skull (encephalocoele) and are not discovered until the third trimester, or in rarer cases in earlier pregnancies where continuation poses severe risks to the health or life of the mother. In cases where the brain is extracranial, the skull fills with fluid, expands, and can cause severe damage traversing the birth canal. In these cases the fetus has little or no chance of survival. However, the mother has excellent chances with a D&E, thus avoiding much riskier cesarean surgery, or a painful, prolonged, and damaging full birth.

The propaganda claims that the fetal skull is stabbed with scissors, and its brains sucked out. In fact, the skull is pierced with a surgical needle which is also used to remove fluid from the cavity. In the extracranial cases, there is little or no brain tissue in the skull. With the fluid removed, the skull can now pass through the birth canal without damaging it.

If the "Partial-Birth Abortion" bill had become law: it would save no fetuses, it would increase maternal deaths, and it would eliminate the safest procedure for terminating pregnancies that go terribly wrong in the third trimester.

Abortion opponents have lost almost all their legal battles. In desperation, they contrived hideous descriptions of a viable almost-born fetus having it's brains sucked out while still alive and moving. Congress conceded because abortion opponents, typically the Religious Right, have a lot of money and sway a lot of votes. And Congress legislates for votes, not for safe medical procedures that save women's lives.

If you are opposed to the so-called "Partial-Birth Abortion" procedure, you still have the choice to not have one if, sadly, a pregnancy of yours goes awry. However, it is wrong to eliminate the safest medical procedure available when circumstances warrant, and it is immoral to attempt to do so using misinformation, sensationalism, deceptive propaganda, and outright lies.

John L. Ferri
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