The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (HR 1833) would prohibit performance of a partial-birth abortion, except in cases (if there are any) in which the procedure is necessary to save the life of a mother. The complete text of the bill is attached to this factsheet.
The bill defines a "partial-birth abortion" as "an abortion in which the person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a living fetus before killing the fetus and completing the delivery." [emphasis added] Abortionists who violate the law would be subject to both criminal and civil penalties, but no penalty could be applied to the woman who obtained such an abortion.
This procedure is generally used beginning at 20 weeks (4 1/2 months) into pregnancy, and "routinely" to at least 24 weeks (5 1/2 months). It has often been used much later-- even into the ninth month. The Los Angeles Times accurately and succinctly described this abortion method in a June 16, 1995 news story:
The procedure requires a physician to extract a fetus, feet first, from the womb and through the birth canal until all but its head is exposed. Then the tips of surgical scissors are thrust into the base of the fetus' skull, and a suction catheter is inserted through the opening and the brain is removed.
In 1992, Dr. Martin Haskell of Dayton, Ohio, wrote a paper that described in detail, step-by-step, how to perform the procedure. ["Dilation and Extraction for Late Second Trimester Abortion."] Dr. Haskell is a family practitioner who has performed over 1,000 such procedures in his walk-in abortion clinics. Anyone who is seriously seeking the truth behind the conflicting claims regarding partial-birth abortions would do well to start by reading Dr. Haskell's paper, and the transcripts of the explanatory interviews that Dr. Haskell gave in 1993 to two medical publications, American Medical News (the official AMA newspaper) and Cincinnati Medicine. [All are available from NRLC.]
Here is how Dr. Haskell explained a key part of the abortion method:
With a lower [fetal] extremity in the vagina, the surgeon uses his fingers to deliver the opposite lower extremity, then the torso, the shoulders and the upper extremities. The skull lodges at the internal cervical os [the opening to the uterus]. Usually there is not enough dilation for it to pass through. The fetus is oriented dorsum or spine up. At this point, the right-handed surgeon slides the fingers of the left hand along the back of the fetus and "hooks" the shoulders of the fetus with the index and ring fingers (palm down).... [T]he surgeon takes a pair of blunt curved Metzenbaum scissors in the right hand. He carefully advances the tip, curved down, along the spine and under his middle finger until he feels it contact the base of the skull under the tip of his middle finger.... [T]he surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull or into the foramen magnum. Having safely entered the skull, he spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening. The surgeon removes the scissors and introduces a suction catheter into this hole and evacuates the skull contents." ["Dilation and Extraction for Late Second Trimester Abortion," pages 30-31.]
Dr. Haskell also wrote that he "routinely performs this procedure on all patients 20 through 24 weeks LMP [i.e., from 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 months after the last menstrual period] with certain exceptions," these "exceptions" involving complicating factors such as being more than 20 pounds overweight. Dr. Haskell also wrote that he used the procedure through 26 weeks [six months] "on selected patients." [p.28] He added, "Among its advantages are that it is a quick, surgical outpatient method that can be performed on a scheduled basis under local anesthesia." (p. 33).
In sworn testimony in an Ohio lawsuit on Nov. 8, 1995, Dr. Haskell explained that he first learned of the method when a colleague
described very briefly over the phone to me a technique that I later learned came from Dr. [James] McMahon where they internally grab the fetus and rotate it and accomplish-- be somewhat equivalent to a breech type of delivery. [emphasis added]
Dr. James McMahon, who died in 1995, used essentially the same procedure
thousands of times, and to a much later point in pregnancy-- even into the ninth
month. Other abortionists also employ the procedure, as discussed below.
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