Friday, October 24, 2003

"Partial-Birth Abortion", Still Propaganda

Slate has an article by William Saletan, The "Partial-Birth" Myth - No, it's not a birth. Here are a few passages:

"I'm no fan of second-trimester abortions. They're horrible, and if you can avoid having one, you should. They can be particularly disturbing when they're done by extracting the fetus intact, in a manner that looks like birth. But they aren't births."

"It's easy for journalists..." "... to gloss over this fact when we talk about the ban the Senate just passed. We know the procedure in question is an abortion that sort of looks like a birth, not a birth interrupted by an abortion. But it's far from clear that we've adequately conveyed this distinction to the public.

I watched the whole Senate debate yesterday. I lost count of how many times pro-life senators used language implying that the procedure they were banning was a birth interrupted by an abortion."

I think this is the most important point the article makes: the public simply, and regrettably, doesn't understand the issues involved. And the reason it doesn't is because the media, politicians, and healthcare professionals haven't done their duty. Yes, you read that correctly: their DUTY.

If you're a healthcare professional it's your duty to convey complete and correct medical information. Equally your duty: to make the patient understand what you're talking about. If you're a journalist, your duty is to report, accurately, the facts. If you're a politician, at least in theory, it's your duty not to lie to, or mislead the public.

After I read the article, I took a look at the discussion board associated with it. Oh, I shouldn't have done that! On one hand, the posts there clearly support the point that the majority of people don't know/understand the basic facts. On the other hand, I spent hours there, trying to shed some light. Here are a few examples. I hope they will serve to further clarify the "real" facts.

"Eighty percent of Americans demanded that their elected representatives outlaw the procedure loosely described as partial birth abortion."

When it comes to medicine and legislation, you don't want any "loosely described" terms. Here's one scenario. You and your pregnant wife/girlfriend/family member are in the ER, and she's having a spontaneous abortion (a miscarriage). She's bleeding, in pain, and scared. And so are you (scared, that is). Yet the ER physician is just sitting there, scratching his head. Why? Well, because this new legislation about "partial-birth abortion" was just enacted, and he's not really sure what to do, since the terms are loosely defined = open to interpretation, and he's afraid that if he misinterprets something, he'll end up in jail.

"The argument that, if only The People of the United States knew that a viable human being is killed "only" one in seven times the procedure is performed, that the overwhelming consensus against the outlawed procedure would evaporate, is as idotic a premise as has ever been uttered in human history."

The argument is not that "if only The People of the United States knew that a viable human being is killed "only" one in seven times the procedure is performed, that the overwhelming consensus against the outlawed procedure would evaporate". The argument is that THERE IS NO SUCH TERM OR MEDICAL PROCEDURE.

"You may call the procedure whatever you like, but saying that "partial birth abortions" do not exist is just silly. Call it whatever you want, but what happens is clear enough -"

What you, or I for that mater, call the/a procedure is irrelevant. What matters is what the medical procedure actually is.

"There is no medical necessity for vacuuming the brain and crushing the skull. The head could exit the birth canal quite easily without this being done - it has already travelled the length of it and has but inches left to go."

When a preterm fetus is passing through the birth canal (regardless of the reason--spontaneous labor or abortion, induced abortion, etc.) there is one crucial danger--that the fetus' head will get trapped in the birth canal (specifically, in the cervix, the end part of the uterus which protrudes inside the vagina). This happens because a preterm fetus has a very large head (when compared to the rest of the body) + because of the "preterm" situation, the cervix never fully dilates. (In normal, term labor, the cervix dilates fully=10 cm, to allow passage; in preterm cases it usually only dilates to 4-5 cm.) If the head gets stuck in the vagina, this is a life and death situation for the woman--the area is very vascularized (full of blood vessels), the tissue is fragile and can tear easily, and if this happens the woman can bleed to death. So, yes, indeed, there is a very important medical reason to insure that the fetal head passes through. As an aside, you should know that in surgery there is no such thing as performing a procedure without an indication.

"The problem is, if that head exits, we have to call the "fetus" a "baby," and you can't go vacuuming the brains and crushing the skulls of babies, can you?"

If the head has already exited the canal, there's no need to do anything to it and, if I may be flip for a moment, guess what, nothing is done to it! The medical procedure is done to FACILITATE EXTRACTION, NOT TO TERMINATE the pregnancy. Regardless of what you call the products of conception ("fetus", or "baby"), once a pre-viable fetus (remember, by definition, abortions only involve pre-viable fetuses) is delivered and is outside the uterus, that fetus will die. THE DELIVERY ITSELF TERMINATES THE PREGNANCY.

(via Advice Goddess)

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