Nation’s leading pro-life lobby group aims to outlaw dismembering the unborn in 2015
Ending the brutal dismemberment of unborn children through abortion will become a focal point of the pro-life movement in 2015, according to the nation's leading pro-life lobby. The National Right to Life Committee said a new emphasis on the brutality of abortion will “transform the landscape of abortion policy in the United States.”
The impetus comes from a new bill, the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, introduced by Kansas State Sen. Garrett Love, R-Montezuma. The motion would bar any Dilation and Extraction (D&E) abortion that severs an unborn child's body parts – a proposition national and state pro-life leaders believe most Americans can endorse.
"Dismemberment abortion kills a baby by tearing her apart limb from limb," said National Right to Life Director of State Legislation Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D. "Before the first trimester ends, the unborn child has a beating heart, brain waves, and every organ system in place. Dismemberment abortions occur after the baby has reached these milestones."
Kansans for Life Legislative Director Kathy Ostrowski believes the debate sparked by this bill – or companion bills introduced in other states – will cause a groundswell of support. "With the discussion about, and passage of this bill, the public will see that dismemberment abortions brutally – and unacceptably – rip apart small human beings who have all of their internal organs and who have perfectly formed fingers and toes,” she said.
The inhumanity of the action has been acknowledged by the U.S. Supreme Court. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his 2007 ruling in Gonzales v. Carhart, “No one would dispute that, for many, D&E is a procedure itself laden with the power to devalue human life.”
“The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn apart limb by limb,” Justice Kennedy wrote in his dissent in the 2000 case Stenberg v. Carhart. “The fetus can be alive at the beginning of the dismemberment process and can survive for a time while its limbs are being torn off.”
The most heartrending description of dismemberment abortion is also the most personal. In May 2013 Dr. Anthony Levatino, who performed 1,200 abortions before having a dramatic change of heart, graphically testified before Congress about D&E abortions after the doctor inserts the forceps:
Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard – really hard. You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about six inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.
The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a large plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see white gelatinous material coming through the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face may come out and stare back at you. Congratulations! You have just successfully performed a second-trimester Suction D&E abortion.
Such an abortion may take 10 to 15 passes to ensure the child's entire body has been removed.
Spaulding Balch said the revulsion inspired by the ghastly practice trumps that of partial birth abortion. "When you think it can't be uglier, the abortion industry continues to shock with violent methods of abortion,” she said.
But Elsie Higgins of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri said, "We will fight this bill at every step."
The focus on a particular method of abortion should prove politically beneficial. The pro-life movement has had notable successes barring certain abortion procedures. President George W. Bush signed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act, forbidding the practice Jill Stanek observed in Illinois of extremely premature babies being delivered, then allowed to die outside the womb. (Then-State Senator Barack Obama opposed a similar state measure.) President Bush also signed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, preventing “Intact D&E” abortions.
Such a ban could save tens of thousands of babies every year if implemented nationwide. According to the National Abortion Federation Abortion Training Textbook, “D&E remains the most prevalent method of second-trimester pregnancy termination in the USA, accounting for 96 percent of all second trimester abortions.” A total of 7.3 percent of all abortions took place during the second trimester, according to the CDC's latest abortion surveillance.
As with partial birth abortion, analysts believe it would still be legal to perform D&E abortions if the abortionist first ended the unborn child's life by another means, such as injecting Digoxin or potassium chloride through the heart or umbilical cord, stopping the fetal heartbeat. But it would be illegal to kill a child by tearing her body apart.
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The fact that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the partial birth abortion ban in 2007 means justices may be inclined to allow a similar prohibition on dismemberment abortions.
“Because of the close resemblance of the constitutional issues settled in the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act case to those applying to the Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, it is highly likely that the Supreme Court would uphold it against constitutional attack,” Mary Spalding Balch stated.