National Journal’s latest cover story by Beth Reinhard reflects that sensitive messaging. What it does not reflect is reality. There are at least 15,000 children killed in the later stages of pregnancy each year and according to the abortionists themselves, the majority are for elective reasons, not due to fetal abnormality. Dr. Martin Haskell, the pioneer of the “partial-birth abortion” procedure brought this issue to the attention of the nation, when he said that 80 percent of the abortions he performed this way were purely elective. Only 20 percent involved fetal defects.
James McMahon, another late-term abortionist, told researchers that, while slightly more than half of the late abortions he performed were for fetal health reasons, that term included easily correctable conditions such as cleft lip.
Most recently Dr. Leroy Carhart, who sends women to his Germantown, Maryland clinic to evade late-term bans in other states, was caught on tape speaking to the frequency of elective late term abortions:
WOMAN: [Seeking elective abortion at 26 weeks] So you don’t see a lot of women like me?
CARHART: Well, saw four this week, so.
WOMAN: Ok. At 26 weeks?
CARHART: Or more.
WOMAN: All right.
CARHART : Or more.
WOMAN: So I’m not unusual?
CARHART: No not at all.
What possesses mothers to seek an end to the life of their viable children – and what leads those who first pledged to “do no harm” to profit off this destruction of life – cannot always be known. Though the former is being partially addressed, with success, by the pregnancy care center movement across the United States and common sense laws in ten states, the fact remains that this happens – by the very admission of the latter party.
Where a lethal fetal anomaly does exist, patients and their families can and should be offered the compassionate, ethical option of perinatal hospice to support them. Studies have shown that carrying a fatally ill child to term rather than performing a late abortion does not result in increased maternal mortality. On the other hand, it brings comfort to parents who can indeed parent their child as long as time permits. Perinatal hospice also allows families to mourn, the same way in which we would allow families with an adult member for whom treatment has become futile. There are now at least 127 perinatal hospices in the United States – not one received a mention in Reinhard’s piece.
Fetal diagnoses, as acknowledged by state Rep. Andy Mayberry and his wife Julie in Reinhard’s piece, are not always fatal. This summer, Congresswoman Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and her husband Daniel announced that their first child, Abigail Rose Beutler, had been diagnosed in-utero with Potter’s Syndrome. Considered fatal, Potter’s Syndrome is essentially prenatal kidney failure. Without sufficient amniotic fluid in the womb the baby’s lungs are severely underdeveloped. These babies are usually aborted, but the Beutlers chose life, prayed for a miracle, and turned to doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for groundbreaking new treatment.
Whereas some would consider Abigail’s life unworthy of working to save, her life has now brought about potential medical advances from which many future families can benefit. The treatment was a success not only for the Beutlers, but for future children diagnosed with Potter’s Syndrome and their parents. Abigail’s story is a paradigm of how these situations should work – and how scientific progress occurs within the context of sound ethics.
Dannenfelser is president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national pro-life political organization dedicated to electing candidates and pursuing policies that will reduce and ultimately end abortion.