Cutting Through the Partial-Birth Abortion Rhetoric

  • Aubrey Wursten
  • 06/17/2019

Like most people familiar with the pro-life crusade, I have watched with perpetually rolling eyes as I’ve read the recent debate about late-term abortion. I have watched with frustration as physicians have tap-danced their way to justifying it, and I have squirmed as truly tragic examples have been used to defend overreaching and barbaric laws allowing the procedure. I know the truth, I’m tired of debating, and I want a break.


Cue the return of the debate about partial-birth abortion (and be prepared for a graphic description in the linked article). I’m not getting a break.


Before I proceed, I want to note that I did not previously put the phrase “late-term abortion” in quotation marks; nor will I put the term “partial-birth abortion” in quotation marks going forward. Because the first misconception we need to clear up is that these procedures don’t really exist. Pro-choice advocates are using semantics to deny reality, and I’m not having it. If I have to quibble over semantics to defend an action, I know that action probably does not deserve to be defended.


As in the case of many of the other abortion legislation being debated, misinformation about partial-birth abortion is rampant, and we need to address the nonsense before it reaches even more absurd levels than it already has. Let’s examine just three of the many talking points, then throw them in the waste bin where they belong:


“It’s so rare, it’s not worth a discussion.”

It is indeed rare, partly because it’s illegal at the federal level. However, states (including Illinois, the state currently at the center of the firestorm) have their own laws that will take effect if federal law changes. In the year 2000, before they were banned, partial-birth abortions accounted for 2,200 of the abortions provided between week 20 and week 24 of gestation. Hardly a small number. And considering that pro-choice advocates have largely dropped the “rare” from their former supposed “safe, legal, and rare” abortion goal, it hardly seems probable that partial-birth abortion will be all that rare if legalized again.


Having stated that, the argument about frequency is largely irrelevant. When the issue is a procedure that crushes the skulls of living human beings, one instance is too many. If asked, few people would probably advocate the legalization of serial killing because it’s doubtful that many people would go to the trouble to engage in it. The fact that it would likely remain rare is clearly no reason to legalize any action, particularly one that is gruesomely violent.


“It’s necessary to save lives.”

Not only has the Supreme Court found that partial-birth abortion has been inadequately studied, it has found that the evidence available shows that it is in fact dangerous to the mother and carries significant risk of future complications. Medical experts (including a former Surgeon General) have repeatedly declared that no form of direct abortion is ever necessary to save the mother’s life, yet even  Guttmacher Institute (an organization supported by Planned Parenthood) admits that the law prohibiting partial-birth abortion still provides an exception for the life of the mother. In other words, the law is so pro-woman that it plainly states the mother’s life is to be protected even in a situation that could never occur.


“The decision should be between a woman and her doctor.”

As we have already established that illegal partial-birth abortion is never a life-saving procedure for the mother, and we know that the other human involved will die if said procedure is successful, we would have difficulty defending it as “healthcare.” An ethical discussion between a woman and her doctor can only take place when the common goal is to honor human life.


In no other instance would we allow a doctor to kill a human being on the table because the other human being on the table requested it. The discussion about partial-birth abortion should have ended before it began, and the sooner we can relegate this barbaric act to the annals of history, the better.




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