04 November 2006

Chabot, Cranley and "Partial-Birth Abortion"

Next week the Supreme Court hears arguments on a couple of cases challenging the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

It should be noted that the phrase "partial-birth abortion" is not medical terminology. As this review article in Salon states,

Despite its prevalence in the public debate, the term "partial birth abortion" is not recognized by the American Medical Association or the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The phrase came into use shortly after Dr. Martin Haskell presented an abortion technique called intact dilation and extraction, or intact D&X, at the 1992 National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar.

Antiabortion activists, infuriated by the advent of a new variation on an unforgivable act, adopted the phrase "partial birth abortion" to describe a procedure they believed amounted to murder. The term became ingrained in the public debate...

Aside from the whole issue of Congress allowing Christian fundamentalists to set parameters for the practice of medicine, this law cannot really be considered a serious attempt to curb abortion since it does nothing to prevent pregnancies. Moreover, it does almost nothing to reduce the number of abortions that actually do take place:

The CDC reports that 88 percent of abortions in the U.S. occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy; nearly 99 percent occur within the first 20 weeks; and only about 1 percent of terminations occur past 21 weeks of pregnancy.

And of those 1%, only a fifth are intact D&X procedures. So only about 0.2% of abortion procedures are affected by this ban. Here's a mother's story of her experience with the procedure.

The main issue surrounding the ban is medical necessity. Specifically, are there circumstances in which intact D&X is the only option that would preserve the life of the mother?

But what about preserving the health of the mother? That is a whole other can of worms, and people are challenging the ban because it does not include exceptions for health of the mother.

This is where Steve Chabot comes in. As NPR reported this week,

This isn't the first time the Supreme Court has considered a ban on the procedure that lawmakers call partial-birth abortion. Six years ago, on a 5 to 4 ruling, the justices struck down a ban passed by the Nebraska legislature. The majority said, among other things, that the law needed an exception allowing the procedure to be used not just to preserve the pregnant woman's life, but also her health.

That put sponsors of a similar federal ban, like Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), in a quandary. Adding a health exception was not something Chabot was willing to do.

So where does Chabot stand now? And for that matter, where does Cranley stand? Should the ban include exceptions for the mother's health? Should there be a ban at all? And philosophically, to what extent should religious doctrine set parameters for science?

1 comment:

Michelle Fry said...

Thank you for getting the word out there that "partial birth abortion" is a made up term and is not a medical one. My sister works in the public health secter, specifically in the area of rape prevention. I have long believed in abortion rights but have become increasingly supportive of them since my sister started working in her profession. Many women who have been raped and impregnated are so traumatized by the violence that they may pass the 12 week period before having an abortion. Of course, the introduction of the morning after pill has helped this situation for women who report the rape but there are many women that do not. I don't mean to say that only women who have been raped need to have access to abortions after 12 weeks, only that's one of many reasons abortion should not be restricted any further than it is.