More Partial-Birth Abortion Information
What follows is the lead letter published in The Washington Times for
November 4, 2003.
Letters to the Editor
Aborting the facts
Writing about the partial-birth abortion ban act ("Partial
birth ban wailers," Commentary, Oct. 27), Michael Fumento wrote, "[T]he
National Coalition of Abortion Providers back in 1997 estimated that the
method was used 3,000 to 5,000 times annually; while a recent Alan
Guttmacher Institute [AGI] survey indicates the number is steadily
Fumento's column drew
response from AGI Vice President Beth Fredrick ("Tracking numbers,"
Letters, Wednesday). AGI is affiliated with Planned Parenthood.
Ms. Fredrick said Mr. Fumento "misrepresents findings" of the AGI survey.
She repeated the 1997 estimate by the abortion-providers group of 3,000 to
5,000 of what she called "dilation and extraction" abortions, but then noted
that the AGI survey of abortion providers found that 2,200 were performed in
the year 2000, "contrary to Mr. Fumento's intimation that the number ... was
on the rise."
Not so fast. Ms. Fredrick neglected to mention that AGI itself had conducted
an earlier survey of abortion providers, and on that basis released (in
1998) a much ballyhooed estimate that only "about 650" such abortions had
been performed nationwide during 1996.
This estimate of "about 650" was accepted as factual by news organizations
for years and was steadfastly defended by AGI senior researcher Stanley
Henshaw, who ran both studies.
"The numbers aren't exact, but I'm pretty sure it's in the 500 to 1,000
range," Mr. Henshaw told the New York Times (Dec. 11, 1998).
Mr. Fumento may have reasonably inferred that because the same organization
used the same question and the same methodology in two surveys four years
apart and came up the second time with a figure more than triple the first,
that "indicates the number is steadily increasing."
However, one also could conclude that the original AGI figure of 650 for
1996 was absurdly low, an interpretation supported by other evidence -- such
as the fact that two abortionists reported elsewhere in 1996 that they
performed 1,500 partial-birth abortions annually at a single abortion
Surely, even the more-than-tripled figure of 2,200 for the year 2000 is a
bare minimum. Responses to AGI surveys are voluntary. The 2,200 figure is
just a portion of an iceberg of unknown size.
That figure is a fraction of 1 percent of all abortions, as Ms. Fredrick
noted. If a new virus was killing 2,200 premature babies annually in
neonatal units, it would be on the TV evening news every week. Keep in
mind, most partial-birth abortions are performed in the fifth and sixth
months of pregnancy.
Ms. Fredrick also asserted that "there is no accepted medical definition for
the term" partial-birth abortion. Check out the Merriam-Webster Medical
Dictionary on the MedLine Web site, which is affiliated with the National
Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, at
www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/mplusdictionary.html . Partial-birth
abortion is defined as "an abortion in the second or third trimester of
pregnancy in which the death of the fetus is induced after it has passed
partway through the birth canal." The pseudo-medical term preferred by Ms.
Fredrick, "dilation and extraction," does not appear.
Why not just call it partial-birth abortion, Ms. Fredrick? The medical
dictionary does. Besides, it's
National Right to Life Committee