Re: Let Me Get This Straight . . .

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From: Matt Jensen (
Date: Sun May 13 2001 - 18:09:01 PDT

Abortion raises many deep questions, of course. But in the limited
context of current constitutional rulings, many of these interesting
questions are not relevant. IANAL, but...

The courts have determined that the legal milestone in abortion rights is
"viability." After viability (as determined by an attending doctor), the
state gains a compelling interest that outweighs a woman's constitutional
right to abortion, except where her life or health may be put in danger.
Therefore, a state may regulate or prohibit abortion after viability (with
various legal qualifiers).

The intact dilation and extraction (D&X) operation, which is the medical
term for the brain-sucking operation John described, is typically done
between 20 and 24 weeks, or at 27 weeks[1], according to different
sources.[1][2][3] A fetus appears to have about a 15% viability rate at 23
weeks, 56% at 24 weeks, and 79% at 25 weeks.[4] Other sources put
viability near 80% at 24 weeks.[2]

However, recent state and federal laws regarding "partial-birth" abortions
do not use the terms "intact D&X", or "late-term". Rather, they are vague
enough with regard to time and procedure that courts have found them

It is not clear how many of the approximately 1 million abortions each
year are intact D&X late-term abortions. Estimates seem to range from a
few hundred to the tens of thousands. Data from CDC is not helpful for a
number of reasons, particularly that CDC data does not distinguish between
intact D&X and the more standard, earlier-stage D&E (Evacuation).

In short, from what I've read, intact D&X is more widely practiced than
pro-choice groups first acknowledged, and includes elective cases (where
the mother's health is not an issue). So, in line with previous rulings
and legislation, a ban on *elective* intact D&X on viable fetuses could be
constitutionally valid. (Note that I'm not stating that it would be good
or bad policy.) In a health-threatening case, the woman would appear to
have a constitutional right to an intact D&X, if the attending doctor
found it warranted.

At the same time, it appears some pro-life advocates have used the graphic
image of the intact D&X emotionally, to pass legislation under the
"partial-birth" label that is broader than the issue they claimed to

-Matt Jensen

[1] Gans Epner JE, Jonas HS, Seckinger DL. Late-term abortion. JAMA.

[2] Sprang ML, Neerhof MG. Rationale for banning abortions late in pregnancy. JAMA. 1998;280:744-747.

[3] Grimes DA. The continuing need for late abortions. JAMA. 1998;280:747-750.

[4] Allen MC, Donohue PK, Dusman AE. The limit of viability: neonatal outcome of infants born at 22 to 25 weeks' gestation. N Engl J Med. 1993;329:1597-1601.


On Sun, 13 May 2001, John Klassa wrote:

> > >>>>> On Sun, 13 May 2001, "Jeff" == Jeff Bone wrote: > > Jeff> such as the view that a fetus is a human being > > I hate to jump into the middle of this, because I really don't have the > energy to post 30 messages to FoRK in a single day, like some of you do > :-), but I have to ask... In your mind, at what point is that fetus a > human being? If it's a human being when it comes out, why isn't it one > when it's inside? If it's one when it's on the inside, why isn't killing > it the same as murder? Is murder acceptable to tolerant, open-minded > people? > > I realize that not every abortion is a partial-birth abortion. > Nonetheless, a partial-birth abortion is an abortion, and so in your mind, > it isn't something that my beliefs should be allowed to interfere with, > where you and your body (or that of your wife/girlfried/whatever) are > concerned. > > I put "partial-birth abortion" into Google, and the first hit was: > > > > I have no idea whether this site is for or against the procedure, because > I didn't read that far. I read the first paragraph, which says: > > So-called "Partial-birth" abortion is performed in the second and > third trimesters and entails (1) inducing a breech delivery with > forceps, (2) delivering the legs, arms and torso only, (3) > puncturing the back of the skull with scissors or a trochar, (4) > inserting a suction curette into the skull, (4) suctioning the > contents of the skull so as to collapse it, (5) completing the > delivery. A partial breech delivery is not considered a "birth" > at common law, where it is the passage of the head that is > essential. > > Apparently, were the head to come out, the law would deem this a real > birth, and the result would be a real child. Were the doctor to kill the > child after its head is out, the doctor would presumably be guilty of > murder. Just because its head happens to be inside, though, it's legal to > kill it... This isn't murder? This is acceptable? This isn't something > I should be incensed against, and should work to prevent? <boggle> > > Society would have you believe that spanking is akin to child abuse. If > you swat your kid on the rear, you should go to jail. Yet, if you're so > inclined, you're free to suck your kid's brains out through a tube, so > long as the kid's head is still inside its mother. Unbelievable. > Absolutely unbelievable. > > John >

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