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At least 90% of abortions are performed in the first trimester, when other procedures are more appropriate. In partial-birth abortion (PBA), also known as Dilation and Extraction (D&X), the woman's cervix is dilated, and the foetus is partially removed from the womb, feet first. The surgeon inserts a sharp object into the back of the foetus' head, removes it, and inserts a vacuum tube through which the brain is extracted. The head of the foetus contracts at this point and allows the foetus to be more easily removed from the womb. The main justifications for the use of D&X are: that the foetus is dead; that continued pregnancy will endanger the life of the mother; that continued pregnancy will adversely affect the mother’s health; that the foetus is so malformed that it will never gain consciousness after birth. More controversial is the use of the technique for healthy foetuses when the mother’s life is not at risk. This is banned by several state Medical Associations in the US, but many physicians have reported performing them, mainly for women who are suicidally depressed, but also for rape victims and for very young pregnant women. It is estimated that about 3,000 partial-birth abortions are performed in the United States every year. Bill Clinton vetoed bills banning partial-birth abortions in 1995, 1997 and 1999. George W. Bush has indicated that he is in favour of introducing a federal law banning partial-birth abortion except where the foetus is dead or severely malformed, or where the mother’s life (not the mother’s health or welfare) is at risk. Although this is not necessarily a US-specific debate, the issue is on the political, and indeed legislative, agenda in the USA to an extent which is not matched elsewhere, and some of the arguments here reflect this.NB In addition to the arguments below, this debate may well employ arguments from debates about abortion in general -
Nobody would choose to have a partial-birth abortion over a much simpler abortion in the first trimester. Partial-birth abortions are either medically or psychologically necessary. If a young mother either does not find out she is pregnant or is too scared to tell anyone, if a woman is raped and decides at any stage that she does not want the baby, if a woman is threatening suicide if she is forced to carry a baby to term, we should not make her suffer further by forbidding her from ending the pregnancy. For all sorts of reasons, many women do not seek any kind of medical help until late in their pregnancy - this should not mean they forfeit their right to an abortion. In any case, if abortion is allowed at all, and given that the foetus is not recognised in law as a human being, it should be nobody’s business but the mother’s whether and at what stage she chooses to have an abortion.
Partial-birth abortion is disgusting. Like all abortions, it involves the killing of an unborn child, but unlike first trimester abortions there is no doubt that the foetus can feel pain. The procedure involves sticking a pair of scissors into a baby’s brain, enlarging the hole, sucking the brain out with a catheter and then crushing the skull. It is entirely unacceptable to do this to a living human being. Psychological damage to the mother as a result of rape or teenage pregnancy or depression is in the end less significant than the physical damage - death - caused to the child.
Although many people who are against partial-birth abortion are against abortion in general, there is no necessary link, as partial-birth abortion is a particularly horrifying form of abortion. This is for the reasons already explained: it involves a deliberate, murderous physical assault on a half-born baby, whom we know for certain will feel pain and suffer as a result. We accept that there is some legitimate medical debate about whether embryos and earlier foetuses feel pain; there is no such debate in this case, and this is why partial-birth abortion is uniquely horrific, and uniquely unjustifiable.
Opposition to partial-birth abortion is part of a strategy by anti-abortionists to ban abortion in general - partialbirth abortions form a tiny proportion of all abortions, but from a medical and psychological point of view they ought to be the least controversial. The reason for this focus is that late-term abortions are the most obviously distasteful, because late-term foetuses look more like babies than embryos or foetuses at an earlier developmental stage. Late-term abortions therefore make for the best pro-life campaigning material. By attempting to focus the debate here, campaigners are aiming to conflate all abortions with late-term abortions, and to increase opposition to all abortion on
notably adoption. If anything. and implies a view of pregnant women as being nothing more than babycarrying machines whose independence and autonomy should be restricted and whose motivations should be questioned at every turn. but about whether or not it is wanted. being forced to carry an unwanted child against your will is enormously traumatic. This is misleading . and then crush the skulls of.this is different from early abortion in which birth is induced and the foetus dies naturally.rightly . It makes sense to try to keep a wanted baby alive. even on the pro-choice understanding of personhood. respect for foetal rights in the United States. perfectly healthy foetuses. because the pregnancy is nearer to its natural end and there is less time for the mother to have to put up with it. Allowing partial-birth abortion is utterly inconsistent with the growing.that’s why our society allows both abortions and antenatal classes. If this has implications for the abortion debate. that’s fine. and can cause permanent psychological harm. the foetus is not fully born when it is killed: the purpose of collapsing the skull is to allow the foetus’ head to pass more easily through the birth canal. The distinction is not absurd at all. There is a vast amount of support in the United States for a ban on partial-birth abortion. the case for adoption is more compelling in the third trimester. as the term suggests. It does not make sense to force someone to continue to carry an unwanted foetus. then we should not be allowed to induce birth and then deliberately kill a foetus during that process . It is absurd that we . If a man can sue the mother of his child for taking drugs during pregnancy which discolour their child’s teeth. if pregnant women can be banned from the smoking sections of restaurants. and legally recognised. Pregnancy can be stressful at the best of times. the mother of a wanted baby has entirely different responsibilities toward the unborn foetus from the mother of an unwanted baby .the guilt feelings associated with feeling that one is responsible for murdering a child can be unbearable. Healthy third-trimester foetuses can. then those implications are profoundly damaging to women in general. particularly at a late stage of pregnancy when the mother can see that the dead foetus is recognisably a baby . what sense does it make to allow exactly the same foetuses to have their skulls deliberately crushed? The culture of foetal rights reflects a dangerous litigious trend in American society. but nobody should force her to do so. with good medical care. survive outside the womb. but in many cases so is abortion. Unwanted pregnancy and adoption may be psychologically harmful. The issue is not about the stage of development of the foetus/baby. Tragically. At no point in the process is a live foetus entirely outside the womb. some babies are unwanted.in partial-birth abortion. Partial-birth abortion is murder. and yet actively intervene to induce the premature birth of. There are plenty of other options.that basis.spend great resources trying to keep premature babies alive. as they force respondents to choose between an outright ban or no . Arguing that adoption is a good option shows a fundamental lack of awareness of what is involved in carrying an unwanted foetus to term. In any case. but this does not mean that we should kill them. Opinion polls have These opinion polls are misleading. If a mother chooses to carry a foetus to term and then give it up for adoption. If birth is the crucial dividing-line we use to decide when legal personhood begins. as can the knowledge that your own unwanted child is growing up elsewhere and may one day return to find you. so legal personhood is never an issue.
Furthermore.shown a consistent increase in support for a ban: as high as 66% in favour to 29% against in May 2000. in 1997 the House of Representatives voted 295-136. We should leave decisions up to the people who are directly affected by them . Nobody who would prefer not to have a partial-birth abortion will be made to have one. More importantly. For President Clinton to veto it was undemocratic. in favour of a ban. Most people who want it banned will never face a situation where it directly affects them in any case.not to outsiders. This is a campaign promise George Bush should not keep. . this should not be the business of the general public or of legislators. control at all – it is impossible for them to register support for partial-birth abortion in cases where the mother’s physical or psychological health is in danger. A majority of Americans are still in favour of the right to abortion. for President Bush not to pass it would be to break a campaign promise. who are free to express their opinion but not to impose it on everyone else. and the Senate 64-36.
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