Planned Parenthood v. Ashcroft DAY TWO: Tuesday, March 30, 2004. Excerpts from PPFA's direct examination of Dr. Katharine Sheehan (Midway down p. 2):
quote:Q. So do you ever use a chemical agent to cause fetal demise? A. Yes. Q. What is that agent? A. The agent is Digoxin. Q. What is Digoxin? A. Digoxin is the name for Digitalis, which is a cardiac medicine that is typically used for specific cardiac conditions, most typically heart failure. Q. And at what gestational age do you use Digoxin? A. We start using it at 22 weeks. 3 Q. Why do you choose 22 weeks? A. We like to prevent an eventuality of a live birth, and because it seems to make the procedure move along a little bit easier on the day of the procedure. …We administer the Digoxin with a needle through the abdominal wall of the woman intro the uterus. We are aiming to get it into the fetal heart, or at least into the fetal thorax. However, we are not able to do that every time. If we are not able to do that, then we attempt to put the Diogoxin into the amniotic fluid. And it seems to work less often when it is just put into the amniotic fluid. Q. What percentage of time are you successful in getting the Digoxin into the fetal heart? A. I would say approximately 50 percent. ~ Q. And what about the term "living fetus," what does that mean to you? A. It would be a fetus that still has a heartbeat, and that would still apply to many of my cases. Q. And in your practice do you bring the fetus to the point where the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the woman? A. Yes, I do. That's what I mainly do. Q. And that happens often? A. Yes. ~ Q. You testified yesterday, I believe, that you have performed approximately 30,000 surgical abortions throughout your career? A. That is my best guess.
That whole transcript was chilling. It's making me questions my views on abortion. I didn't find the quoted part to be the most disturbing, though.
quote: Q. In performing a D&E at 20 weeks gestational age and above, in your previous capacity, was there ever a time when you saw any indication that the fetus was experiencing pain? A. I have no idea what that means.
quote: Q. Doctor, if a woman’s cervix was so dilated the fetus could be delivered in intact it would not be necessary to collapse the skull because the fetus could pass through the cervix, right? A. Correct. Q. But you would not allow the fetus to pass intact if the fetus were at or about 24 weeks in gestation, correct? A. Correct. Q. Because if the fetus were close to 24 weeks, and you were performing a transvaginal surgical abortion you would be concerned about delivering the fetus entirely intact because that might result in a live baby that may survive, correct? A. You said I was performing an abortion, so since the objective of the abortion is to not have a live fetus, then that would be correct. Q. In your opinion, if you were performing a surgical abortion at 23 or 24 weeks and the cervix was so dilated that the head could pass without compression, you would do whatever you needed to do in order to make sure that the live baby was not delivered, wouldn’t you? A. Whatever I needed, meaning whatever surgical procedures I needed to do as part of the procedure? Yes. Then, the answer would be: Yes. Q. And one step you would take to avoid delivery of a live baby would to be to deliver or hold the fetus’ head on the internal side of the cervical os in order to collapse the skull; is that right? A. Yes, because the objective of my procedure is to perform an abortion.
It actually hadn't occurred to me that the fetus being aborted could be experiencing pain. I don't know what to think now.
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quote: Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief against the Act [Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003], which bans what the Act calls "partial-birth abortion." Those physicians who provide banned abortions risk criminal penalties and civil liability. The Act must be enjoined and declared unconstitutional because it suffers from the identical two constitutional flaws as the Nebraska statute banning so-called "partial-birth abortion" that was struck down by the United States Supreme Court in Stenberg v. Carhart, 530 U.S. 914 (2000).
First, in contravention of the Supreme Court's clear holding, the Act bans abortion procedures without providing exception for when such procedures are necessary or appropriate for the pregnant woman's health and without providing an adequate exception to protect women's lives. The Act thus deprives physicians of the discretion they need to make appropriate medical judgements regarding which abortion procedure to use, and requires physicians to use methods of abortion that impose unnecessary health risks upon patients.
Second, the term "partial-birth abortion," which is not a recognized medical term, is defined so broadly in the Act as to chill physicians from providing the safest and most common methods of abortion used in the second trimester of pregnancy prior to viability. The Act thus imposes an "undue burden" on the right to obtain previability abortions. Alternatively, the Act is so vague that it fails to give physicians fair warning of which abortion procedures are prohibited.
That's the question being debated. There are those who say that it isn't an infant until it is born...naturally. Others believe that life begins at conception. The term they're using here is "viable." I guess meaning when the baby can survive on their own.
Partial birth abortions are sick and that is all there is to it. My views about this have really changed over the past few years. Abortion has nothing to do with "reproductive freedom" as some put it. Reproductive freedom is having sex. Abortion is a way of escaping the consequences of your reproductive freedom.
(Note: that statement does not include medical cases and cases of rape.)
This will always come back to the "factoid" that 50 percent of zygotes will abort spontaneously (miscarry). You know, whales beach themselves. We don't know why, but it's generally considered a tragedy but a part of nature. If someone were to chase a whale onto the beach with their waverunner, even in the name of science, I think we'd generally find that unconscionable. Just to head off the "50 percent of pregnancies abort spontaneously in the first trimester so God believes in abortion" argument.
Oh, and Sopwith... I believe the age of sex differentiation is the age that society has an interest in protecting the fetus. That would be 7-10 weeks. Because (as far as I know) once a female has formed her eggs, her genetic contribution to society is determined. Morally, though, I'd say 3-4 weeks is the max someone would need to realize they have missed their period. But some women don't keep track. This is not a religious "moral". This is a responsiblity "moral".
The only exception I would make is where a person is being sexually abused by a first degree family member and no intervention can occur until the pregnancy is obvious. Or something of that nature. But in those cases, I wish the abortion could be performed in a way that is least painful for the fetus. Right now, an abortion would never involve anaesthesia for the fetus because it is not viewed as a patient, but as the illness to be removed.
It also comes back to the issue of personhood. There are many who think that there's a difference between the potential for personhoond and personhood itself. A zygote falls pretty clearly into the potential for personhood case. When does something cross the threshold from the potential to actually being a person? That's a big grey area.
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It saddens me that some people are not aware of the details of partial birth abortion. Not saying that to everyone here, hatrackers are notoriously better educated than the general population.
I would ask for only one thing - whether pro-life or not, I would hope everyone who takes a side in the issue would be educated as to what we're really talking about here. Please, don't just stand on the sidelines and scream "Women's freedom!" or "Life!" without knowing what happens.
A beating heart is terminated. Partial birth abortion involves partially delivering a baby, then puncturing it's skull and removing its brain, so that it isn't born alive.
The reason this has to be done the way it is, is that at the time partial birth abortions are performed - the baby is viable, and the doctor's can't take the chance that the baby might take a breath.
Viability changes almost daily. The hospital where I delivered my babies has had a baby that weighed 14 ounces survive until discharge, and as far as I know, is still alive. The baby was discharged with no major health problems - no blindness, no known heart problems, like used to plague premature babies. A pound used to be considered the "line", anything under a pound had no chance at survival - no longer true.
If you are for abortion in every case, then you have to admit that you don't mind doctors killing babies that otherwise would be healthy, normal children. Babies that are so large, the mother's cervix must be artificially dilated, and whose heads must be crushed to prevent them from taking a breath.
I've told this story before, but some people are new. My mother used to work for an ob/gyn department at a major research hospital. She was their billing manager, and was one day in the clinic on a weekend trying to straighten out some records. They did all their late term abortions on the weekends.
While she was in a doctor's office, going over some things with him, a nurse came in to tell him that one of the babies was born alive. She asked if she should call the nursery (this was a hospital, not a free standing abortion clinic, but at the actual hospital)
He told the nurse "No, take it there. But walk real slow."
My mom said she will never forget the coldness with which he said it, and the annoyance in his voice - he was annoyed that a baby had the audacity to be born breathing and struggling for life. So, he told the nurse to carry it to the nursery as slow as possible so it would die on the way.
Now, if you want to be for abortion on demand in all cases - then that's certainly your right. I hope, however, you've considered what it really means. These are not meaningless blobs of tissue that we're talking about.
I wonder how many pro-choice activists have the courage to talk to someone who was born live in an abortion procedure and survived. I've heard one speak before, a beautiful, articulate woman who defied the doctor's attempts to kill her and actually lived.
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Wow. Good post Belle. I'm a marginal pro-choicer, although that margin is getting slimmer and slimmer every year. I think the taking of a life, even a potential life, is a great tragedy.
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quote:But in those cases, I wish the abortion could be performed in a way that is least painful for the fetus. Right now, an abortion would never involve anaesthesia for the fetus because it is not viewed as a patient, but as the illness to be removed.
Some doctors perform these with the mother under general anesthesia, which in most cases does represent an increased risk to the mother. There's testimony in one of the other transcripts from a doctor who does that, who says that the anesthesia crosses the placental barrier so likely saves the fetus some pain.
I don't know how to approach this subject without being offensive and you did a beautiful job. I have done the complete pedulum swing. In high school and my first year of college I was completely pro-choice. The older I get and the more I want children, the more pro-life I become. It also has to do with my understanding of accountability for my actions. That was the key to my change of mind and heart.
Aretee, what changed me from Pro-choice is very personal thing.
In college, I had a very serious relationship with a girl and sex was a big part of it. I wanted to marry her and spend my life with her at that time.
About the eighth month in, she announced that she needed some time alone and we needed to break it off. I had no choice but to accede to her wishes. That weekend, she and a couple of friends went off to Chapel Hill for St. Patrick's day weekend. They were going to stay with some of her friend's friends.
Four or five days later, she called me and we got together. She wasn't feeling good and something was laying heavy on her chest. She wouldn't and didn't speak of what it was, but we did get back together. I couldn't touch her for a while and she went through what I'd best call a depression.
A couple of months later, we broke up for good at her request and she ended up dating (and eventually marrying) my roommate, the guy who had introduced us.
I went on with life and one dark, dark early morning on St. Patrick's day, I was lying in bed unable to sleep. Somewhere in that haze of angst, puzzle pieces began falling into place. Her symptoms and depression, the change in the relationship and a thing she had said once in a discussion, something that I had let pass at the time it was said... "If I get pregnant while I'm in college, I'll just go off and quietly have an abortion. I couldn't face my parents, I couldn't give up on the career I want to have, I couldn't just get married and give up on college."
There was something about the profound hollowness I felt, the sense of a loss I'd never known before, that told me what had happened years before was what I now feared had happened. I've never had the guts to ask her, and my life has gone elsewhere with life and I am quite happy and completely in love with my wife.
But every St. Patrick's day, there's a quiet melancholy that sets in for me, one that most people don't know the reason for, not even my wife, I believe. And I wonder what it would be like to have that 12 year-old kid with me, the one I never got the chance to know.
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Sopwith, I can't imagine. I have some of the same feelings when I see my best friend's daughter who might have been aborted (in reverse, of course, since she wasn't). I can't imagine what it would be like if my own daughter were involved.
Sopwith... my husband has three of those children to meet someday in Heaven. It haunts him too. Not on a daily basis...just certain times of the year, and whenever he hears about someone we know having an abortion.
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Having given birth to three children, my feelings on this matter are very tender. I understand that there are some circumstances where abortion may appropriate or necessary, but the idea of ending a life in the womb hurts to think about. The quotes above are very painful to read.
And that story you shared Belle, wow. That is incomprehensible to me. It makes me think of the midwives of Israel while in slavery in Egypt who were ordered to kill any child born male. They could not bring themselves to do such a horrid thing and went ahead and did what they felt was right in the face of the punishment they might receive.
Edit: Sopwith, thanks for sharing your story. I can't help but be reminded of the song by Ben Folds Five "Brick". IIRC, that song is about the father of an aborted child. That song makes me cry.
That's part of what the pro-choice people don't understand. They talk about the right of a woman to control her body, but what of the man who helped in the conception of that potential life?
Sopwith, I am so sorry. I know a woman who gave her child up for adoption. I see the pain she suffers every year on mother's day. But, she can take solace in the fact that her daughter is still alive and even thriving. She has that comfort. She made that choice. You did not even have a choice as you were not given the knowledge of the pregnancy.
What of all the poor women (and men!) who are never told of the emotional trauma they will suffer later? The pro-choice people never talk about that. I know I didn't when I was pro-choice. I've seen too many people sick over the choice to terminate a pregnancy.
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I have a bad habit of avoiding painful situations, even when they shouldn't be avoided. Reading about this was painful, but it's a good thing that I have read it. Thank you for educating me.
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quote: I wonder how many pro-choice activists have the courage to talk to someone who was born live in an abortion procedure and survived. I've heard one speak before, a beautiful, articulate woman who defied the doctor's attempts to kill her and actually lived
Belle, in a way I agree with you. But we should define "pro-choice" then. Because I don't think abortion is "always" bad, and still I think that abortion after 3 months pregnancy is murder, and what is described in the first post of this thread really makes me sick. I would define abortion as the last choice, when being raped or the baby to be abnormal and die in a lot of pain, if as a mother you don't think you can cope with it. But, I repeat, before three months pregnancy. I think that before, it isn't really a baby, but, as it has been said, potentiality of human being. BTW, I think that the "father" should always be consulted, or, at last, know what happens.
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The organismal test, from D.V.'s link, is interesting. But whether it protects a zygote (ferlized egg) or a second trimester infant is in question to me.
In the beginning of pregnancy, the hormones are governed by the corpus luteum within the woman's ovaries. This tends to be a time of the greatest illness and physiologic stress for many mothers. (anatomical stress obviously continues to increase until birth) Then around three months the pregnancy begins to be governed by the baby's placenta.
By the organismal definition, I would almost say that in the beginning, the embryo is part of the mother's organism. Unless we go with the zygote definition, which makes the use of most birth control pills abortion (which I consider extreme).
I found it a very thought provoking article. For myself, I don't know if I could abort a baby, even if it wasn't planned, even if it were defective. But a large reason is I have already endured the death of a child. I wouldn't judge as damned anyone who decided otherwise.
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Anna, I agree it should be defined. I got flamed in a thread on hatrack for using the phrase "abortion-on-demand" But, that's teh best way to define it- some people think abortion should be appropriate in any situation, at any time, on any whim or demand of the pregnant woman.
Most, in fact a huge majority, of the people who call themselvs pro choice don't support abortion on demand. They think that there should be some limits on abortion whether it's term limits, or parental notification, or mandatory waiting periods or ultrasounds before the procedures.
I want any pro-choicers reading this to know that I understand your POV in most cases - I used to hold it. I used to believe that abortion was a private decision best left to the woman and her doctor and the government should stay out of it. You're not evil or bad for thinking that way, it's got a lot of validity behind it. Government regulation of medical procedures is a bit worrisome.
However, I've come to realize that the protection of life should override that concern. I came to the realization by education, and the personal experience of being pregnant.
I would hope that everybody holds their views based on factual information. It's impossible to remove emotion from such a highly sensitive topic with so many religious implications in it. But, as best as possible, it should be looked at objectively.
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Anna, I think all but the most zealous "Pro-Lifers" admit that there are times when abortion is appropriate. I could be wrong, but I understand that most abortions that happen are about convenience.
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quote:By the organismal definition, I would almost say that in the beginning, the embryo is part of the mother's organism.
I didn't get a chance to read the article, but I don't think a baby can ever be part of the mother's organism. It's got separate DNA, it may even be a separate gender.
And it's the implanted zygote that sends the chemical signals through the uterine wall that begins the physiological changes in the mother at the time of implantation. So, the zygote is working at ensuring its own survival at that point.
Birth control pills by the way, when working properly, prevent ovulation itself. That prevents conception, not just implantation. If no egg is released, no conception can take place.
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I do hope some fence riding, pro choice people read that and are as shocked and horrified as I am. I think it points up the inherent selfishness in so many abortions. Why not let the child be born live, and adopted?
Sopwith, my sympathies are with you. I had a friend in college who attempted suicide on the anniversery of his girl friend's abortion.
I apologize in advance for the following story - it's hard to read. But I hope everyone will, because it's a very powerful testimony.
quote:Accomplices in Incest Case Study: "Doris Kalasky"
Forced to have sex with her father, Doris became pregnant. When the pregnancy was discovered, she refused to have an abortion. Her father, however, found an abortionist who would perform the abortion without her consent. She alone has had to pay the price. I am a victim of incest; one of the "hard cases" for abortion. I was raped by my father when I was fifteen years old. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last. However, this time, I became pregnant.
One night, I became very sick and my parents took me to the hospital. (I believe now that they knew I was pregnant since they took me to a different hospital than normal.) The emergency room doctor discovered that, along with a very bad case of the flu, I was 19 weeks pregnant.
My father flew into a rage, accusing me of all sorts of things, and demanding I have an abortion. The doctor informed me that I was pregnant and asked me what I wanted. I had seen the "Silent Scream" in high school religion class and knew that abortion was murder. In spite of the pain and guilt I felt, knowing who the father of the baby was, it was far better to have a baby than the alternative - to kill it. I refused to have an abortion.
My father flew into an uncontrollable rage and demanded that I consent to the abortion, or that the doctor do it with or without my permission. The doctor refused because of my wishes. My father demanded that an abortionist be found - regardless of the cost.
Within one hour, this man arrived at the hospital, talked with my parents and decided to do the abortion, without speaking to me. I refused and tried to get off the examining table. He then asked three nurses to hold me while he strapped me to the bed and injected me with a muscle relaxant to keep me from struggling while he prepared to kill my baby. I continued to scream that I didn't want an abortion. He told me, "Shut up and quit that yelling!" Eventually, I was placed under general anesthesia and my child was brutally killed.
I was told that an abortion would solve my problem, when it was never really the problem in the first place.
I was told, "Your parents know what's best," when they obviously were only concerned about their own reputations.
I was told, "You make the right decision," when I was never given a choice. More importantly, where was my baby's choice?
I grieve every day for my daughter. I have struggled to forget the abuse and the abortion. I can do neither. All I think of is, "I should have done more, fought more, struggled more for the life of my child."
My situation may not be common, but I know it's not unique either. The emotions and problems I've had to deal with as a result of my abortion are common. The trauma of the rape and abuse were only intensified by the abortion. The guilt of knowing my baby is dead is something I will have to live with for the rest of my life.
I was violated and betrayed over and over by my father, who God created to love and protect me. I was humiliated, hurt, and yes, violated again by the abortionist.
Why do even pro-lifers talk about making exceptions for abortion in cases of rape and incest as if that is a way to have "compassion" for the mother? Why is this the only "loving" response to the situation? I have talked with pro-lifers who consider my abortion acceptable, under the circumstances. I want to tell people, "If you really want to be compassionate, give this mother the opportunity to choose life for her child. If you really love the mothers who have been victimized, don't let them be exploited again by someone who will make a profit from their dead child -- a memory that will haunt them for the rest of their lives."
The next time you hear of the "hard cases," please remind people that every crisis pregnancy is difficult for the mother. If you believe these cases are hard, you're correct -- they are extremely hard for the mother. But if you choose abortion, it's an impossible situation for the baby. The mom needs love, support and understanding, not the pain of allowing herself to be violated again in order to kill her child. Regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the pain involved, that helpless, innocent child has no voice, no defense, and no chance, unless we offer real love and real compassion to the mother.
My abortion was over five years ago. God is still healing me, but it has been a difficult fight. I hesitated to write to you because, although I'm actively pro-life, very few people know my story. It's still very difficult to share with people, however, I wanted to encourage you in your uncompromising stand for life.
"He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Psalm 147:3) God bless you.
Whether or not an abortion may be acceptable in extreme cases, it would likely haunt the mother (and the father) for the rest of their lives.
Having watched both of my beautiful children appear and take their first breaths, the thought of any abortion is completely repugnant to me. Abortion done just because the mother feels she has the right to choose, when the fetus is otherwise viable, represents the bottommost point in the deep, dark pit of selfishness, IMO. I don’t think there are any other issues that evoke such a visceral reaction in me.
Sopwith, I am sorry you have to deal with something like that. What a sad story.
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If we make this a matter of the law, and of the courts, then who gets to decide? What does a girl or woman have to do to prove she was raped? Whose definition of viable do we use? Who pays the bills for the premature babies?
I abhor the thought of parents killing their unborn children in the womb. It's a terrible thing. And yet, the alternative seems worse to me.
I still feel the right way for society to go about solving this problem is by education about abstinence and birth control, including actual figures for how effective different birth control methods are, giving examples of the liklihood compared to other common events of which they may have experience like auto crashes or cancer rates. Education and a strong dose of reality are the most important thing. This will prevent more unwanted pregnancies.
Secondly, we should make birth control freely available to anyone, and provide good prenatal care and good health care for pregnant moms who are willing to give up their children for adoption, then find good adoptive families for those children. It does no good to take a punitive approach, outlawing abortion and then leaving the girls and babies with nothing, no resources, no health care, no loving family to raise them. If you want to talk about cruelty to children, let's talk about what it's like to grow up in poverty with parents who would rather you had never been born.
Yes, these things are horrific. Let's not replace them with something even more horrific. Let's have an enlightened and loving policy toward unborn children, one that actually does them some good.
quote:Secondly, we should make birth control freely available to anyone
Unquestionably. Mandatory would be even better, were it not for pesky civil rights Maybe if it were in the water like fluoride...
quote: It does no good to take a punitive approach, outlawing abortion and then leaving the girls and babies with nothing, no resources, no health care, no loving family to raise them.
That's a pretty unfair characterization. We have the resources to have our cake and eat it too.
quote:Anna, I think all but the most zealous "Pro-Lifers" admit that there are times when abortion is appropriate.
I don't think I share that conclusion. The mother's life being in danger poses a veritable exception, but in practice is often a red herring where a c-section and neonatal ICU would suffice. (I don't advocate forcing the pregnant to go to court, though; at some point there must be trust, perhaps reviewed statistically).
However, the rape exception makes little sense for someone purporting to sympathize with the fetus. It's not at fault.
Personally, I see little rationale to ban abortion before the age of 18 months or so, when cerebral development surpasses that of other primates. We are not experiencing a population crunch like Europe, and immigration seems poised to make up any difference regardless, perhaps excepting the benefits from the children of Nobel prize winners and such. I very much appreciate the argument for potential life, having been a potential myself at one point, but its implications are too imposing on the entities we already consider people. (No Pill? Infertile couples must seek IVF?)
As for the immediate topic: abortions should be performed as humanely as possible. If we're going to be sucking people's brains out, a little spinal anaesthetic is the least we could provide.
[ April 16, 2004, 06:55 PM: Message edited by: Richard Berg ]
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While I find abortion -- any abortion, but especially past 40 days post-conception -- repugnant, I do not consider it murder. And I agree that abortions for convenience alone (or instead of birth control) are awful beyond words.
I have carried and given birth to three children; I have lost one. Unless it were to save my own life (a choice which a friend of mine had to make ), I don't think I could possibly abort a child.
But sometimes the lines are so blurry. Where is the line that determines acceptable risk to the mother's life/health? What about a woman who is quite seriously at risk of psychological damage if forced to continue a pregnancy? What of other children she may have, and the risk to them?
The government is not known for its ability to decide matters of complexity -- and certainly not rapidly. While there is no question that the private sector has NOT done well with the issue, I fear government regulations (with some exceptions) would make things worse.
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Okay, so that's how you feel about abortion in general, but what about this specific case. The thread-starter is specifically about partial birth abortion. Is anyone still willing to defend that particular practice?
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You have my deepest sympathy. I'm sorry that such a thing happened.
Why do you think that banning abortion means we would ignore the girls? On the contrary: all the funds that are used to pay for abortion can now be used to pay for counselling and education to prevent pregnancy.
The embryo is alive and human. To kill something that is alive and human is considered murder. Abortion is murder. What else is it?
I am appalled. Have you ever had children?
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When I read these stories I often feel depressed or ill at ease. That story Belle related made my just plain ill. That's disgusting in the worst way and helps me understand why people believe in Hell if only to send "people" like her father to burn in it forever. I wish I could forgive someone if they did something like that to me, but I doubt I'm strong enough for it.