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Fundamentally Aware

 

Bringing America’s Own Religious Extremism to the Forefront

November 30, 2003

Volume 1, Number 12

 

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November 5 was an inimical, though less-than-surprising day for women’s health, when President Bush signed into law the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Read on for further details. And don’t miss the logic (or lack thereof) of our President, quoted in Politically Incorrect below.

 

As always, please feel free to share your comments with me.

 

Kimberly Blaker

 

KimberlyBlaker@sbcglobal.net

 

 

Contents

 

 

  1.  Late-term Abortion and the Misinformation Mongers

 

  2. Politically Incorrect

 

  3. Anti-abortionists Have Their Day

 

  4.  More on the so-called Partial birth abortion

 

Late-term Abortion and the Misinformation Mongers

 

The following is excerpted from Chapter 4: Eternal Subservience-Created from Man for Man by Kimberly Blaker in  The Fundamentals of Extremism.

 

Controversy over the procedure known as “partial-birth abortion” has drawn many unsuspecting proponents of choice into the Christian Right’s bandwagon regarding the procedure. The medical term most closely resembling the description of the “partial-birth abortion” is properly termed “intact dilation and extraction.” This method is sometimes used because prior to thirty-six weeks, the cervix is resistant to dilation. This resistance causes much physical pain during the two to four days it takes to dilate at this stage. Inductions done before this time also pose risk of uterine rupture. Therefore, continuous nursing supervision is required if drug induced labor is carried out rather than performing intact dilation and extraction.[i]

 

In the campaign against late-term abortions, pro-life activists have created the illusion women are deciding at the eleventh-hour that they suddenly do not want to have a baby and, with no concern for their pre-born, decide to abort. By creating this misperception and graphically depicting the procedure to appeal to the emotions of the public, even many pro-choice advocates argue the procedure must stop.

 

The reasons for the use of late-term abortion are not for women who have a last minute change of heart. The procedure is used for the sake of the woman’s health and, in some cases, when there is “severe fetal abnormality,” says obstetrician Dr. Allan Rosenfield, who is also the dean of New York ’s Columbia School of Public Health. Many complications can arise late in pregnancy threatening a woman’s life. Tragically, it is also sometimes discovered a fetus would be unable to survive birth. In these instances, continuing the pregnancy could pose other serious health risks to the mother or result in the inability to conceive again.[ii]

 

Furthermore, the reality is only 1.4 percent of all abortions are performed twenty-one weeks into pregnancy or beyond.[iii] The estimated number of abortions performed beyond twenty-six weeks is fewer than five-hundredths of a percent.[iv] Considering the number of babies born with severe defects and the number of health complications that women face during pregnancy or delivery, this number is exceptionally small. Still, anti-abortionists would have us believe pregnancy and childbirth are completely without risk. It matters not that the World Health Organization reports “585,000 women die each year during childbirth and pregnancy.” And “for every maternal death,” it is reported “as many as thirty women sustain often times crippling and lifelong health problems related to pregnancy.”[v]

 

Maureen Mary Britell of Sandwich , Massachusetts learned from a sonogram her fetus was not developing a brain. Medical experts confirmed the baby would not survive, so the couple, with the support of their priest, chose to terminate the pregnancy by inducing labor. Unfortunately, complications arose during the delivery, which required cutting the umbilical cord to abort the fetus to prevent health risks to Britell.[vi]

 

In another case, Coreen Costello of Agoura , California desperately wanted her daughter. But she discovered the fetus had lethal neuromuscular disease and would be unable to survive. Even after it was discovered dangerous levels of amniotic fluid had built up, the Christian couple struggled with the decision to terminate the pregnancy for more than two weeks. Finally, it became absolutely necessary for Costello to abort for the sake of her health.[vii]

 

Regardless of the health risks it would pose to expecting mothers, anti-abortionists propose legislation to ban the use of the procedure under all conditions and in spite of the recommendations of major medical associations. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists argues, “The physician, in consultation with the patient, must choose the most appropriate method based upon the patient’s individual circumstances.”[viii] The American Nurses Association agrees: “It is inappropriate for the law to mandate a clinical course of action for a woman who is already faced with an intensely personal and difficult decision.”[ix] Nonetheless, anti-abortionists place the life of the unborn, non-breathing fetus ahead of the life of the mother.

 

Read more on abortion and reproductive freedom in Chapter 4 of The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America.

 

Politically Incorrect

"I think the FDA's decision to approve the abortion pill RU-486 is wrong. People on both sides of the abortion issue can agree that we should do everything we can to reduce the number of abortions, and I fear that making this abortion pill widespread will make abortions more and more common, rather than more and more rare. As president, I will work to build a culture that respects life."

George W. Bush, as reported by the Associated Press, September 29, 2000 .

 

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Fundamentally Aware

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Kimberly Blaker

 

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The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America

 

 

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Anti-abortionists

Have Their Day

 

Contrary to the 2000 Supreme Court decision striking down a state law that banned the so-called ‘partial-birth abortion,’ on November 5, President Bush signed the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 into law. Immediately following, a Nebraska judge placed a temporary restraining order on it.

 

Medically termed ‘intact dilation and extraction,’ the procedure has been dubbed ‘partial-birth abortion’ by anti-abortionists, or the religious-right, in an attempt to misrepresent facts pertaining to late-term abortion and to create public fear and outrage.  The reason for this is clear; anti-abortionists are striving to impose their religious views on others.

 

Regardless of what side of the abortion issue Americans are on, this late-term procedure is not performed on women who have suddenly decided against having a baby.  Most women faced with this decision desperately want their unborn child and must make a painstaking decision. 

 

Intact dilation takes place when the woman’s life or health is seriously at risk.  Other late-term procedures take place when the fetus has fluid in the brain, no brain at all, other serious diseases and deformities, and would be unable to sustain life outside the womb. 

 

Because these conditions often place the mother at risk, doctors, with their patient’s consent, sometimes choose to abort using intact dilation in order to protect the mother’s health and reproductive capabilities, often knowing that the unborn is incapable of sustaining life.

 

While this time around the law is allowing the late term procedure in a highly restricted manner, there are several disastrous flaws. 

 

The wording of the ban makes it difficult to deem exactly when it is within the law to perform the procedure.

 

If the procedure is performed when it is not deemed within the law, a physician will be fined or imprisoned up to 2 years. 

 

Should a physician be accused, he is allowed to go before the State Medical Board, which will determine the life saving necessity of the procedure for the given circumstance.

 

In a sue-happy culture, women’s physicians are in quite a predicament.  If they deem the procedure necessary to a woman’s life and perform it, even with her consent, a physician runs the risk of later being accused and charged with performing the procedure unnecessarily.  This is especially of concern for distraught women who’ve undergone the procedure and are guilt-induced and coerced by pro-life or misinformed family and friends.

 

While such a scenario could happen without this law, physicians now risk prison, not just a lawsuit.

 

Physicians’ fears of such probable situations would most certainly affect medical decisions, as doctors may opt to avoid the procedure against their own best judgment. Contrary to their oath, physicians will need to act not solely on the best interest of the patient, but rather in the best interest of the physician.  This is a serious compromise to women’s health.

 

With America’s shortage of obstetricians that has resulted from skyrocketing insurance costs, this is just one more needle as the legislation could lead to further rate increases causing more obstetricians to close their practice. 

 

Moreover, it is traumatic for any mother-to-be to learn of severe fetal defects and that her unborn will be unable to sustain life; but more tragic is forcing a mother to carry an unviable fetus to full-term, which would be required under this act.  How many women could handle the anguish for days or weeks on end knowing that their unborn baby will die at birth or shortly after?

 

An anti-abortionist once argued, “The by-word of the medical profession used to be ‘above all, do no harm.’”  Do such critics not think that restricting necessary medical treatment for the health of a woman falls under this same oath?

 

It’s imperative that women in their childbearing years are aware of the implications of this legislation and thoroughly and quickly distinguish fact from fiction in the rhetoric of this debate. I hope that in the end it is concluded that when dogma crosses over and places others’ lives in danger, it’s time to put on the restraints.

 

Kimberly Blaker is editor and coauthor of The Fundamentals of Extremism: the Christian Right in America . Visit http://www.NewBostonBooks.com for details.  Read her column The Wall™ at http://www.thewall-onchurchandstate/com © 2003, Kimberly Blaker

 

 

More on the so-called ‘Partial birth abortion’

 

Read these articles and commentaries reveling the many similarities between Christian, Islamic, and other fundamentalisms:

 

This article offers further details on the D&X procedure, aka Partial Birth Abortion.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_pba1.htm

 

Here is a statement of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

http://www.acog.org/from_home/publications/press_releases/nr02-13-02.cfm

 

Myths and facts about “Partial-Birth Abortion” bans.

http://www.aclu.org/ReproductiveRights/ReproductiveRights.cfm?ID=4998&c=148

 

 

 

 


 



[i] John M. Swomley, “The ‘Partial-Birth’ Debate in 1998,” The Humanist March/April 1998, 7.

[ii] Swomley, “The Partial-Birth.”

[iii] Wright, The New York , 370.

[iv] Percentage based on 320 to 600 abortions performed per year as reported in Swomley, “The ‘Partial-Birth,’ Debate in 1998,” The Humanist, March/April 1998, pages 6-7 and the 1,184,758 total abortions reported in the United States in 1997 as reported in John W. Wright, The New York Times Almanac 2001, 371.

[v] John M. Swomley, “The Population Wars,” The Humanist July/August 1998, 26.

[vi] Swomley, “The Partial-Birth,” 5.

[vii] Swomley, “The Partial-Birth,” 5.

[viii] Swomley, “The Partial-Birth,” 6.

[ix] Swomley, “The Partial-Birth,” 6.


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