Fetal Life and Abortion:
Human Personhood at Conception
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Section 7: Some Effects Following the Start of Legalized Abortion


The following excerpts are taken from The Chicago Tribune of December 19, 1970, from N. Y. ABORTION LAWS TOO LOOSE: DOCTORS, by Ronald Kotulak, science editor: At least 26 babies have been born alive in legalized abortion procedures in New York City, the TRIBUNE learned yesterday. The child of one mother. who was aborted on August 28 survived and now is up for adoption. The others did not fare so well. Some breathed for only a few minutes and others cried and kicked before finally dying within two days after being artificially expelled from their mothers' wombs.

Even hard core advocates of liberalized abortion in New York say they are saddened by the destruction of life and that the law has gone too far. "I'm deeply saddened by this," said Dr. Jean Patker, director of the maternity and newborn services for the New York City Department of Health.

The Health Department played a key role in convincing the New York state legislature to liberalize the abortion statute. As a result the state, on July 1, put into effect the law which permits abortion on demand up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. "In many of these cases where the fetus comes out alive, it takes a gasp or two and that's it. This is not right. As a physician I don't like to see life ended or hurt in any way." An infant who is born prematurely at 26 or 28 weeks of pregnancy with an induced abortion stands a reasonable chance of survival.

"I'm not happy with the liberal extension of the law to 24 weeks," said Dr. Pakter, who is in favor of abortion. "That's going too far. I think the time has to be put way back." Opponents of the abortion law have become outraged by the live abortions. They maintain that it is a clear case of murder when the baby is born alive in an abortion but dies because he is just below the threshold to sustain his own life.

Two of the infants who were aborted alive were rushed to the premature center at St. Vincent's Hospital, where doctors did everything possible to keep them alive. "One of the infants lived for two days and the other died after several hours," said Dr. Vincent Fontana, director of pediatrics at the hospital. "To have a woman go in for an abortion and then to have the baby born alive only to die later is tantamount to murder," Dr. Fontana said. "There is no question about it."

Doctors in New York have been thrust into a compromising situation by the new law. At 20 weeks of gestation, the unborn child's heartbeat is strong; he moves around inside his mother's womb and he is almost completely formed. For these reasons, most gynecologists will not end a pregnancy beyond 20 weeks. In addition, an abortion performed 20 weeks is more hazardous to the mother. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.

In another article in the Chicago Tribune, the same science editor gives the following report, under the title: A.M.A. BLASTS LATE ABORTIONS: The American Medical Association, the nation's largest medical group, is "violently opposed" to abortions in advanced stages of pregnancy which are now permitted in New York, an A.M.A. spokesman said yesterday.

Bernard Hirsh, head of the A.M.A.'s legal department, said he was "horrified" at the news reported exclusively by The Tribune that 26 babies have been born alive in legalized abortion in New York City. These babies cried and kicked before eventually dying within two days. However, one baby, a 2½ pound girl born prematurely through an abortion on August 28, has survived and is scheduled to be adopted. "It's just horrible, whether you call it murder or anything else. It's just horrible," Hirsh said. Hirsh said that legalizing abortions up to 24 weeks is in opposition to the A.M.A.'s policy on good medical practice. He said most doctors believe that it is not right to abort a woman after 12 or 14 weeks. "I would hope that the New York law will be changed," Hirsh said. "I think it (live abortion) is an evil thing. Anybody in his right mind would say it is horrible."

Dr. Michael Newton, director of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said, "Obviously it is sort of a disaster to have this happen. I think most of us would regard 24 weeks as too high a limit for abortions. Medically it is desirable for abortions to be performed before 20 weeks and preferably before 12 weeks."

Another spokesman for the A.M.A. said, "I felt from the beginning that 24 weeks was much too liberal because it is so close to natural prematurity. It was inevitable that some infants would be born alive. The law should be changed."

One of the major difficulties in advanced pregnancies is that there is no way of being absolutely certain whether the pregnancy has gone beyond 24 weeks, Hirsh said. If a baby is born alive during an abortion he has all the rights of any other person and a doctor is obligated to do everything possible to try to keep the child alive, he said.

Dr. Bernard J. Pisani, an obstetrician at St. Vincent's hospital in New York City where two of the aborted live infants were taken, said "doctors are being made to be executioners." He said that the law has permitted an addition to abortion which denigrates the mother, destroys the child and makes the father irresponsible.

The A.M.A. lashed out last September against some of the effects of New York's liberal abortion law by condemning the abortion mills it charged were springing up. The association had received hundreds of complaints from doctors outside New York State complaining that they were being solicited by New York doctors to send them patients who want abortions. "We want to make it loud and clear to these hucksters in abortion that this practice is unethical and it is condemned by the medical profession," the A.M.A. said.

After having read the foregoing medical and legal opinions that late abortions should not be permitted, the reader probably agrees with those opinions. But the reader might well be suspicious of the position which condemns the killing of a 24-week-old baby and approves the killing of a 12-week-old one. Unless the proponent of abortion is merely squeamish about killing a crying baby, there must be some other reason why he'd rather kill only those not yet able to cry.

Historical note: Just prior to Roe v. Wade, New York and Pennsylvania both voted to repeal their liberalized abortion laws but, in both instances, their governors vetoed their legislative enactments.

Despite protests such as mentioned in the TRIBUNE article, it was only two years later that the Supreme Court made abortion-on-demand a reality throughout the United States. And now, less than two years after their decision, abortion has become a significant business enterprise. In Medical World News, February 8, 1974, p. 15, it is stated: "Abortions are being sold like soapsuds," reports Susan Weiss, director of Women's Medical Services in Philadelphia, where clinics are hiring ad agencies to work up full-scale campaigns.

For those who read the daily papers or who notice billboards along the streets and highways, it is not necessary to enlarge upon the callousness with which both the "do gooders" and the commercial agencies offer their services for the destruction of the humans who are waiting to be born. Behind the scenes, with less public fanfare, insurance firms and tax-supported agencies are selling abortions at the cost of all who subscribe to those insurance companies or who pay taxes.

But the commercial is only one area which reveals the sordidness of legalized abortion. The medical aspect shows a schizophrenic stance in the use of personnel and facilities, as indicated in the same MWN article cited above: Many hospitals don't see pregnancy termination as a priority. "We feel strongly that the purpose of the hospital is to save life, not to take it," states Vincent Foster, community relations director of Point Pleasant Hospital, a voluntary institution in New Jersey.

A schizophrenia of thought and expression is developing in the total society, as evidenced by such euphemisms as "termination of pregnancy" or "emptying the uterus" or "removing the products of conception" or "menstrual extraction" as synonyms for killing the unborn of human parentage.

And what violence is being done on society's sense of logic when it is stated that the child should be killed while waiting to be born, to avoid his being "unwanted" and possibly become a "battered child" after birth? Or to say that humans have an obligation to be kind to animals, yet, in a saline abortion, to subject the unborn child for several hours, at a time when his body is most sensitive to pain, to a corrosive salt solution which eventually brings about his death? There is no need to go into more examples, since even a casual observer of the media should be conscious of the gradual weakening, not only of moral sensitivity in society, but of the decreasing objectivity in the correspondence of reality and its verbalization.

In legal circles has arisen the problem of whether any person or medical facility can be forced to participate in the abortion procedure. At the present time, the resolution of this matter seems to be in favor of conscience. However, other legal decisions are not so favorable, as when the child's father, even when he is the woman's husband, has no legal right to prevent the killing of his child toward whom he feels an obligation to protect. In this instance, not only is the child destroyed, but a family also.

As for the incidence of irresponsible sexual conduct and of venereal disease, it would not be difficult to show that the easy availity of abortion has been a contributing factor. To show how easily the adverse effects of legal abortion become deep-rooted in society, a final quotation is cited from the MWN article cited above: If a constitutional amendment becomes a reality -- and pro-abortion groups take the threat very seriously -- many people will be faced with a difficult choice. Planned Parenthood of New York City has already taken a bold stance. "We made the decision," says Executive Vice President Al Moran, "that no matter what happened we would not stop providing abortions on an open basis. If it meant we all had to go to jail, maybe we would be better off."

Perhaps many readers would agree with Mr. Moran that they would be better off in jail than to be permitted openly to violate the amended constitution. It is reasonable to assume that, under those circumstances, the rest of the nation would be better off also.

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