Some opponents of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (HR 1833) insist that anyone writing about the bill should say that it bans a procedure "known medically as intact dilation and evacuation." But when journalists comply with this demand, they do so at the expense of accuracy. The bill itself makes no reference whatever to "intact dilation and evacuation" abortions. More importantly, the term "intact dilation and evacuation" is not equivalent to the class of procedures banned by the bill.
The bill would make it a criminal offense (except to save a woman's life) to perform a "partial-birth abortion," which the bill would define-- as a matter of law-- 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]
In contrast, the term "intact dilation and evacuation" was invented by the late Dr. James McMahon, and until recently, was idiosyncratic to him. It appeared in no standard medical textbook or database, nor anywhere in the standard textbook on abortion methods, Abortion Practice by Dr. Warren Hern. Because "intact dilation and evacuation" is not a standard, clearly defined medical term, the House Judiciary Constitution Subcommittee staff (which drafted the bill under Congressman Canady's supervision) rejected it as useless for purposes of defining a criminal offense. Indeed, it is worse than useless-- a criminal statute that relied on such a term would be stricken by the federal courts as "void for vagueness."
Although there is no clear definition of the term, we know enough to say that it is inaccurate to equate "intact dilation and evacuation" abortions with the procedures banned by HR 1833, since in his writings Dr. McMahon clearly used the term "intact dilation and evacuation" so broadly as to cover certain procedures which would not be affected at all by HR 1833 (e.g., removal of babies who are killed entirely in utero, and removal of babies who have died entirely natural deaths in utero). Indeed, at least one of the specific women highlighted by opponents of HR 1833 had various types of "intact D&E" abortion procedures that were not covered by HR 1833's definition of "partial-birth abortion."
[In his 1992 instructional paper, Dr. Haskell referred to the method as "dilation and extraction" or "D&X"-- noting that he "coined the term." When the bill was drafted, the term "dilation and extraction" did not appear in medical dictionaries or databases.]
The term chosen by Congress, partial-birth abortion, is in no sense misleading.
In sworn testimony in an Ohio lawsuit on Nov. 8, 1995, Dr. Martin Haskell-- who has done
over 1,000 partial-birth abortions, and who authored the instructional paper that touched
off the controversy over the procedure-- 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. McMahon where they internally grab the fetus and rotate it and
accomplish-- be somewhat equivalent to a breech type of delivery. [emphasis
The term "intact dialation and evacuation" should not be confused with "dialation and evacuation," which is a procedure commonly used in second-trimester abortions, involving dismemberment of the fetus/baby while still in the uterus. The bill does not apply to "dialation and evacuation" abortions at all.
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