By Randall K. O'Bannon
Does an unborn baby feel pain when she is aborted? Have there been any maternal deaths associated with the use of the abortion pill RU486? In what ways has the Supreme Court affirmed or modified its original 1973 Roe v. Wade decision? These are important questions.
Three new important factsheets which have recently been added to the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund's arsenal of educational materials can help you answer those questions with solid scientific data and carefully documented information.
The Trust Fund's latest offering, "Pain of the Unborn," documents the development of pain sensation and transmission structures in the unborn's body. There is no longer any doubt that the unborn child possesses the capacity to feel pain no later than 20 weeks after fertilization, at the time when most partial-birth abortions are performed.
Going further, the fetal pain factsheet offers scientific data indicating that the unborn child's experience of pain may actually be heightened at this stage. While everything needed for pain transmission is in place at 20 weeks, pain inhibition mechanisms don't develop until three months later. Moreover, between 20 and 30 weeks there is a higher concentration of pain receptors than at any other time before or after birth, which means abortion may be excruciatingly painful for babies this age.
The factsheet also documents how, under current U.S. law, even commercial livestock must be more protected against suffering than are unborn children. The reader will also learn why anesthesia given to the mother does not and cannot provide adequate pain protection for the child she carries.
A recent poll cited by the factsheet demonstrates how a substantial majority of Americans support legislation that would give information on fetal pain to women considering abortion at 20 weeks. The transcript of testimony from one of the recent partial-birth abortion trials reveals the callousness of abortionists who never even consider the pain of the children they kill.
This factsheet should prove invaluable to those who will be making the case for the fetal pain legislation now being considered in the U.S. Congress.
"Supreme Court Decisions: Abortion" provides on a single two-sided page a complete listing and description of all the abortion decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court since 1973. This factsheet will serve as a handy reference for any student or pro-life activist discussing or writing on the abortion issue.
In careful, but non-technical, language, the factsheet outlines the scope of Roe v. Wade, explains how the companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, defined the "health" exception of Roe so expansively as to allow abortionists a free hand throughout the whole nine months of pregnancy.
High Court decisions on parental involvement legislation are detailed in the factsheet, as are the Court's pronouncements on taxpayer funding of abortion, informed consent or "right to know" legislation, and spousal consent. The fate of laws related to record keeping, advertising, and "buffer zones" are detailed, as well as the Court's latest decision on partial-birth abortion in Stenberg v. Carhart.
Useful sidebars address common misbeliefs about what would happen if the court overturned Roe (abortion would not necessarily be illegal throughout the U.S. and there would not be, as many believe, a surge in "back alley abortions" and maternal deaths). They also show the ironic similarities between the Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, which denied the humanity of the unborn, and the Dred Scott decision of 1857, which denied that slaves possessed basic human rights.
"Deaths Associated with RU486" takes a look at the individual stories and circumstances of women known to have died after taking the abortion pill.
Regular readers of NRL News are familiar with the tragic story of Holly Patterson, the San Francisco area teen who died in September 2003. Less well know is that there have been at least six others.
Rebecca Tell Berg, a 16-year-old from Sweden, died in June 2003, bleeding to death in the shower of her boyfriend's apartment. Brenda Vise, a pharmaceutical representative, died in Chattanooga in September 2001. She had frantically called the abortion clinic about her severe pain and bleeding but was repeatedly told her symptoms were "normal and routine."
Details of these cases, as well as those of a Canadian woman who died in September 2001, two British women whose deaths were revealed only after a government inquiry, and a French woman, Nadine Walkowiak, a mother of nine who died in 1991, are also examined.
Those who have the Trust Fund's latest factsheet on RU486 abortions will be prepared to rebut the common retort, made by promoters of the abortion pill, that RU486 didn't actually cause these deaths, but rather that the victims died from infections or ruptured ectopic pregnancies. This is clearly false in the case of Rebecca Berg, who bled to death, displaying no signs of infection or tubal pregnancy.
As far as the other cases go, the factsheet shows that promoters of the pill have recklessly ignored the way that the chemical abortion process masks the symptoms of infection and tubal pregnancy, sometimes delaying treatment until it is too late to save a woman's life. Here's what can happen.
Abortions induced by RU486 (and its accompanying prostaglandin, misoprostol, used to induce contractions) are characterized by severe cramping, bleeding, and gastrointestinal distress. So, too, coincidentally, are reproductive tract infections and ectopic pregnancies. If discovered early enough, these infections and ectopic pregnancies can usually be medically treated and the mother's life spared.
However, if doctors expect heavy cramping and bleeding from an RU486 abortion, they may not recognize their patient is in distress and may delay examination or treatment. Sadly, this is what appears to have happened in some of these cases, and now several women are dead.
How the Factsheets Can Be Used
Pro-life activists armed with these factsheets are better prepared to counter the latest disinformation campaigns of the abortion lobby. For example, those who argue that Roe only authorized abortion for the first trimester - - and then only in limited circumstances - - can be shown the breadth of the High Court's decision that legalized abortion on demand throughout pregnancy.
Those who doubt the humanity of the unborn child can be swayed by scientific evidence that the child undergoing partial-birth abortion endures excruciating pain. Those who have been deceived by promises of safe, simple, easy "chemical" abortions can be given a reality check by the tragic stories of seven women whose families found out how hollow those promises were when they knelt at their mother or daughter's graveside.
Call the Trust Fund at (202) 626-8829 for your copies today, or download copies of these and other important factsheets from the www.nrlc.org web site. You'll be better informed and better prepared.
Special thanks to Kyle Bertoli, the Trust Fund's 2004 summer intern, for his research and writing on the fetal pain and Supreme Court decisions factsheets, and to Johan Lundell, executive director of JA till Livet, the Swedish right to life group, for translating documents and providing us details on the death of Rebecca Tell Berg.