And You Thought Partial Birth Abortion Was Bad…
Fr. Frank Pavone
Priests for Life
I will never forget the day when I came across Dr. Martin Haskell s medical
paper "Dilation and Extraction for Late Second Trimester Abortion," presented at
the National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar, September 13, 1992. It
describes what has come to be known as "partial-birth abortion." "[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."
Prior to the days when partial-birth abortion was in the news or debated in
the halls of Congress, I began taking this paper to parishes across the country
and speaking and preaching about it. Others had likewise discovered the paper
and were doing the same thing. There are still too many people who don t know
about it, but certainly a great awareness has been generated, and the procedure,
I am confident, will eventually be banned. I spoke to Dr. Haskell more than once
about the procedure. "There does not seem to be any medical reason for the
procedure," he told me. A woman obtains it, he explained, because she wants an
I have on my desk the words of another doctor, Warren M. Hern, in his book
Abortion Practice. It is a medical textbook on how to do abortions, and in
it he describes another procedure which must also be made better known to the
public. The procedure is called Dilatation and Evacuation (D&E), and differs
from "partial birth abortion" in that the child is not partially delivered, but
rather dismembered within the womb. He describes the procedure at various stages
of pregnancy, starting at 13 weeks. I quote here from the section "21 to 24
Weeks Fetal Age":
"The procedure changes significantly at 21 weeks because the fetal tissues
become much more cohesive and difficult to dismember. This problem is
accentuated by the fact that the fetal pelvis may be as much as 5cm in width.
The calvaria [head] is no longer the principal problem; it can be collapsed.
Other structures, such as the pelvis, present more difficulty….A long curved
Mayo scissors may be necessary to decapitate and dismember the fetus…"(p.154).
He speaks of the crushing of the head in these terms: "As the calvaria is
grasped, a sensation that it is collapsing is almost always accompanied by the
extrusion of white cerebral material from the external os" (p.142).
Dr. Hern also admits that a "disadvantage of the D&E procedure is that it
is objectionable to physicians and their assistants." But, he goes on,
"It is of utmost importance to keep in mind the advantages that the procedure
offers for patients…." (p.134)
Some people are tired of the abortion controversy in our nation. Frankly, I
often wonder whether it has even begun. Maybe when it becomes more widely known
that things like what I quoted above are legally occurring every day -- maybe
then the debate can begin.
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