A young woman, six months pregnant, suddenly begins to hemorrhage. Rushed to a hospital, her doctor performs the only medical procedure that will save her: He amputates her left foot.
You may well wonder: Under what possible circumstances could chopping off a woman’s foot save her from a life-threatening pregnancy complication?
The answer, of course, is: none.
Keep this illustration in mind the next time you hear someone claim we need to carve out a “health of the mother” exception to the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, passed overwhelmingly by the Senate on March 13, and which the House of Representatives will likely take up in May. Abortion advocates claim that a “health” exception is needed because partial-birth abortion is sometimes the safest option for a pregnant woman in crisis. Whenever I hear this, I want to scream — like the wife of Miracle Max in The Princess Bride: “Lie-yuh! Lie-yuh! Lie-yuh!” The truth is, there are no possible circumstances under which crushing the skull of an infant who is mostly dangling outside his mother’s body protects her health, anymore than chopping off her foot would. Dr. Martin Haskell, who perfected this procedure, says he routinely uses it on healthy mothers of healthy fetuses simply because it’s quicker than other methods; claims that partial-birth abortion are performed to preserve maternal health were concocted later by the abortion lobby — which is why the new ban includes 16 pages of findings from prestigious physicians’ groups calling the procedure “bad medicine” and warning that partial-birth abortion is even riskier to the mother’s health than other abortion methods.
The abortion lobby knows all this, of course. But it also knows that abortion politics have turned health into a shape-shifting, silly-putty term that abortionists can fashion to fit any definition they, or their patients, want it to fit — including “emotional distress” over having to endure another day carrying a child a week shy of his due date. A “health” exception would gut the ban; abortionists would continue performing thousands of partial-birth abortions each year, every single one of them for the mother’s “health.”
Federal judges are in on this legal fraud: They’ve shot down nearly 30 state statutes outlawing partial-birth abortion, offering such absurd and contradictory reasons that one can’t help wondering if they’ve had their own brains vacuumed out. Some judges repeated the medical myth that a “health” exception is needed. Others claimed that straightforward language describing the procedure intended to be outlawed is so vague that doctors will unwittingly perform partial-birth abortions — reasoning that implies, says moral philosopher Hadley Arkes, that graduates of America’s top medical and law schools are too dumb to understand the difference between vacuuming out the brains of an intact baby that is 70 percent born, and dismembering one limb by limb while he’s still in the womb (Dilation and Extraction, or D&E abortion.)
When the battle over Nebraska’s partial-birth-abortion law reached the Supreme Court in 2000 (Stenberg v. Carhart), the Supremes also played dumb: A majority claimed that the law did not clearly distinguish between partial-birth abortions and D&E abortions, and that it prevented abortionists from choosing partial-birth abortion if they thought it was the “healthiest” method.
If the Supreme Court — in defiance of medical facts, judicial ethics, and the will of 70 percent of the American people — strikes down the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, our legislators (the real ones) should pass it again and again and again, until the Court either relents or undergoes . . . regime change.
If the Supreme Court upholds the ban, pro-lifers will have reason to cheer: The decision, coming 30 years after Roe, would represent what Princeton legal philosopher Robert P. George calls a “values Grenada.” Remember the Breshnev Doctrine — the belief that where Communism had seized territory, it could never be retrieved? For years, Western leaders reluctantly accepted this Communist canon, attempting only to contain the spread. And then, George says, “President Reagan found a little outpost on the edge of the Communist empire, the weakest, least defensible, most vulnerable outpost of Communism. He undid a Communist government in Grenada, and he put the lie to the Breshnev Doctrine,” proving that Communist territory could indeed be retrieved, and Communism itself unraveled.
“Partial-birth abortion is a values Grenada,” George explains. “It’s the weakest, least defensible, most vulnerable outpost of the abortion power. By striking there, we can begin to unravel the logic of abortion — what could be called the Blackmun Doctrine — that abortion can never be pushed back.”
George is right. Pro-life sentiment is on the rise in America, in large part because the lies and the fearful logic that undergird the abortion regime are finally being exposed. Gruesome (but accurate) pictures and graphic (but truthful) testimony helped win the partial-birth abortion battle. Pro-lifers must build on this victory, urging Americans to begin questioning the morality of other forms of abortions, performed on other innocents, thousands of times every day.
To make that happen, those who value life at all stages must hold the abortion lobby accountable, and insist that its friends on the courts stop pretending they attended Law School for Dummies — trying to defend what is legally and morally indefensible.