From the Daily Beast:
Before [partial-birth abortion] procedures were made illegal, they were rare, accounting for about 0.2 percent of abortions performed in the year 2000, according to the Guttmacher Institute. But social conservatives latched onto the graphic details of the procedure until it became the epicenter of the abortion debate. Questions of its medical efficacy (many of the women who spoke to President Clinton ahead of his veto had the procedure because their lives were in danger) were largely obscured by detailed descriptions of suction and skull crushing.
The link provided does not actually back up the assertion that Clinton spoke to many women who had partial-birth abortions because their lives were in danger, but it does quote him following the abortion-lobby line of the day: “[T]his is a rarely used procedure, justifiable as a last resort when doctors judge it necessary to save a woman’s life or to avert serious health consequences to her.” A line that, apparently, survives to this day.
But it’s a line that has long been discredited, as I wrote about a decade ago.
In September 1996 — after Congress had passed a bill banning partial-birth abortion and Bill Clinton had vetoed it — Ruth Padawer, a reporter for the Bergen County, New Jersey, Record, disclosed that a local clinic performed 1,500 partial-birth abortions per year. That was more than the abortion lobby and much of the media had claimed took place nationwide. Within days, David Brown and Barbara Vobejda reported in the Washington Post that it was “possible – and maybe even likely – that the majority of these abortions are performed on normal fetuses.” Their finding tracked with Haskell’s remark that 80 percent of the partial-birth abortions he performed were “purely elective.”
Five months later, a bigger bombshell: Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, told American Medical News and the New York Times that he had “lied through [his] teeth” about partial-birth abortion. When Nightline interviewed him in November 1995, he had followed the party line: Partial-birth abortions were rare and performed only in extreme cases. In truth, he said, the vast majority were performed on healthy mothers with healthy babies. “The abortion rights folks know it, the anti-abortion folks know it, and so, probably, does everyone else.”