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by Rubel Shelly
Published in LoveLines (May 28, 1997)
The so-called abortion "debate" hasnít been one for years. Positions have been staked out, and conversation hasnít been seriously engaged between them.
The pro-choice position has emphasized the rights of the pregnant woman. "It is her body, and she has the right to do as she pleases with it!" The pro-life position has staked its case on the rights of the unborn child. "The sanctity of human life must be respected!"
When a woman is in the first few weeks of her pregnancy, it is hard for some to take the notion of her unborn baby seriously. The developing mass of differentiating cells in her womb doesnít look like a baby yet and doesnít give her the sensation of a baby growing inside her.
Thus a frightened teen-ager or inconvenienced woman can convince herself ó for the moment, at least, if not permanently ó that she is not dealing with another life. Her issue is her own body. So she decides to abort what she will likely term a "fetus," for this term does not have the personal dimensions of a word like "unborn child" or "baby in utero."
But recently the abortion debate has entered new territory and created common ground for many pro-choice and pro-life persons. The new issue is "intact dilation and extraction" or partial-birth abortion.
In this type abortion, a fully formed infant who has long been making his or her presence felt to a mother by moving, hiccuping, and kicking is pulled two-thirds of the way out of her body. Then, instead of completing the delivery process, a doctor pierces its head and suctions out the brain. The skull collapses, and a dead baby is delivered.
Ron Fitzsimmons of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers admitted in February of this year that he lied before Congress when he testified last year that partial-birth abortions are performed only in cases where mothers are critically ill or the baby is monstrously deformed. He now says that most of the women and babies involved in partial-birth abortions are healthy. Fitzsimmons originally claimed the procedure was employed no more than 450 times a year. He now admits the figure is nearer 5,000.
A bill to ban partial-birth abortions except when necessary to save the motherís life passed the U.S. Senate last week by a vote of 64-36. President Clinton has threatened to veto it ó as he did a similar bill before.
Most people in America know that abortions of this sort are wrong. Church-goers and atheists, feminists and ditto-heads, supporters of first-trimester abortion and committed pro-life advocates ó people from all these backgrounds can be cited who agree on this much.
Reason and morality may prevail on this issue someday. For now, at least, it appears that we will continue to live in a society that can tolerate killing babies that all of us know are alive and capable of surviving outside their mothers.
I find it incredible that any physician can perform such a procedure and utterly dispiriting that our culture will sanction it.