I know that I will draw on the knowledge and experience of this Academy’s training for ye “This is not an emergency. . . . All of our procedures were considered elective.”— Claudia Crown Ades (April 12, 1996)
The Clinton Veto: Defending Euthanasia for the Partly Born?
On April 10, 1996, President Clinton vetoed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Mr. Clinton then appeared before television cameras with five women who had received late-term abortions from the late Dr. James McMahon, including Claudia Crown Ades of Santa Monica, California. Mr. Clinton said the veto was necessary to preserve access to a “potentially life-saving– certainly health saving” procedure. The women who were with him “never had a choice,” he said.
On April 12, Ms. Ades and Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), were simultaneously interviewed by telephone on “The Mike Malone Show,” a live radio talk show broadcast on WNTM-AM in Mobile, Alabama. The following excerpts were carefully transcribed by NRLC from a tape recording provided by WNTM. Copies of the entire tape are available to legitimate news media from NRLC, (202) 626-8820, (301) 502-1170.
Claudia Ades: It is not a political agenda for me at all. It is simply that I want to protect women in the future that need this procedure. The procedure saved my life. [Material omitted.]
Douglas Johnson: I’ve heard Claudia say a couple of times that she thought this procedure saved her life. The bill explicitly permits the procedure to be done if it ever were necessary to save a woman’s life…. [material omitted]
Mike Malone: Since I am a layman in all of these matters, as far as the medical end of it goes: Why would a Caesarian section not be appropriate in your case, Claudia?
Ades: Oh, well, that’s very simple. There’s two reasons. A Caesarian section is an emergency surgery that was designed [for] when an emergency is at hand, when the baby’s life is at risk– when the baby needs to survive, and it’s an emergency situation. “A,” this is not an emergency. And “B,” we wanted to take our son out of torture. The purpose of this is so that my son would not be tortured anymore. Douglas would have it that I delivered this baby and held him ’til he died, while he gasped for breath.
Malone: Douglas, is that true? What would you have told her to do?
Johnson: Well, you know, the story keeps changing here. A little while ago, it was to save her life. And now it’s so that she wouldn’t have to have the baby born alive…
Ades: [interrupting] No, this procedure was not performed in order to save my life. Had I carried the baby to term, and my son had died inside of me, then I would have been at risk. There’s a severe risk if he had died inside of me.
Malone: Douglas, what would you have had her do?
Johnson: If a baby dies a natural death in utero– it’s a very tragic thing– the removal of that baby is not an abortion. It’s not a partial-birth abortion or any kind of abortion, and there’s never been any kind of law against that before or after Roe v. Wade. It is not true…
Ades: [Interrupting] So in other words, knowing that my son was going to die, and was struggling and living a tortured life inside of me, I should have just waited for him to die– is this what you’re saying?
Johnson: Well, this is an argument [by Ms. Ades] for pre-natal euthanasia– and we do disagree with that. But this is a far different argument than we started with, where it was asserted that this was necessary to save your life.
Johnson: Every M.D. in Congress voted in favor of this bill, with one exception [the exception being Rep. Jim McDermott]. Senator Frist, a surgeon [who supported the bill], checked with the most eminent authorities in obstetrics that he could find, as he said on the Senate floor, and nobody could tell him that there was any medical justification for this procedure whatever.
You know, Dr. Martin Haskell was asked a lot of interesting questions in that tape-recorded interview with the American Medical News. [The interview was conducted in mid-1993; the tape-recording transcript was provided to the House Judiciary Committee by American Medical News on July 11, 1995.] He was asked specifically about whether he did the abortions only in these extreme cases that we’re hearing about, these difficult circumstances. And this was his answer, and this is verbatim. He said, “I’ll be quite frank: Most of my abortions are elective…
Ades: [interrupting] Correct. That’s correct!
Johnson: [continuing quote from Dr. Haskell transcript] … in that 20-24 week range. In my particular case, probably 20% are for genetic reasons. And the other 80% are purely elective.” [End of quote from transcript of interview with Dr. Martin Haskell.]
Ades: That’s correct. My procedure was elective. That is considered an elective procedure, as were the procedures of Coreen Costello and Tammy Watts and Mary Dorothy-Line and all the other women who were at the White House yesterday. All of our procedures were considered elective.
Malone: Okay, gentleman and lady, please hang on, I am way over time here for a break.
Johnson: Where a baby has severe handicaps and disorders, it is sometimes necessary to deliver early. Most of the specialists in the country deliver babies with these disorders alive, without jeopardy to the mother. And they make the baby as comfortable as possible, give what pain relief is necessary, for whatever time that baby has allotted, in these cases. Again, the great majority of the partial-birth abortions have nothing to do with any of these [severe physical disorders of mother or baby] circumstances.
Continuation of excerpts from April 12, 1996, live radio debate between Claudia Crown Ades, who had appeared with President Clinton at the April 10 “veto ceremony,” and Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee. This transcript of the tape-recorded program was made by NRLC, (202) 626-8820.
Ades: This bill specifically is part of a political agenda…. It’s the political agenda of the extreme right.
Johnson: Let’s talk about that for a minute. This bill was supported by 39% of the Democrats in the House, including the leadership of the Democrats– the leader, Dick Gephardt of Missouri, certainly no part of the ‘radical right.’ [Democratic whip] David Bonior…
Malone: I see Patrick Kennedy here, who supported it.
Ades: No, no! Senator Kennedy, excuse me, Congressman Kennedy does not support this. Senator Kennedy was one of the leaders in the Senate opposing the bill.
Johnson: No, excuse me, we’re talking about Congressman Patrick Kennedy.
Ades: Congressman Kennedy was– along with Gephardt, along with many others– were very, very misinformed, and very, and now, I can’t guarantee you, I can’t speak for them, but I can assure you, now that the President has listened to us– and the President said to me [tangent on Clinton remarks at veto ceremony not transcribed here].
Malone: But the fact remains, does it not, that Gephardt and Representative Patrick Kennedy did support the bill?
Ades: Gephardt has stated that he was misinformed. [inaudible word] he made that statement.
Malone: Well, that’s his problem, then. But did he support the bill, along with Kennedy?
Ades: Originally, yes. When it goes back to the House, I would be very surprised if you don’t see a lot of those votes turn around. [material omitted]
Johnson: The question was, the ‘far right.” I guess that includes, then, the entire Alabama congressional delegation, of both parties, with the exception of Mr. Hilliard, and everybody out there that supports those members [of Congress], you can regard yourselves as part of ‘the far right.’