- The Washington Times - Monday, May 1, 2000

When the Supreme Court heard arguments last week in defense of a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortions, there was a glimmer of hope that this barbaric procedure would be left to states to outlaw. That optimism has faded, according to news reports citing the reaction of a majority of justices against the Nebraska law. Although it's not dispositive, the justices' line of questioning certainly suggested sympathy for the arguments of those who oppose a ban. Such a stance is hard to understand, especially since the justices learned just how little there is to distinguish partial-birth abortion from infanticide.
The term "partial-birth abortion" refers to an abortion procedure called ''dilation and extraction'' or D and X. D and X is quite problematic to say the least as a legal means of abortion because it effectively delivers and then kills the child. Doctors remove all of the fetus except the head from the womb. The fetus' skull is then destroyed by a suction device.
In medical terms, D and X sounds gruesome enough. In testimony included in Nebraska's brief to the high court, Brenda Pratt Shafer, a registered nurse who joined the National Pro-Life Council after viewing a D and X operation, described the procedure in chilling language: "Dr. [Martin] Haskell went in with the forceps and grabbed the baby's legs and pulled them down into the birth canal. Then he delivered the baby's body and the arms everything but the head. The doctor kept the head right inside the uterus …
"The baby's little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his little feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors in the back of the head, and the baby's arms jerked out, like a startled reaction, like a flinch, like a baby does when he thinks he is going to fall.
"The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening, and sucked the baby's brains out. Now the baby went completely limp. Next, Dr. Haskell delivered the baby's head. He cut the umbilical cord and delivered the placenta. He threw the baby in a pan, along with the placenta and the instruments he had just used. I saw the baby move in the pan. I asked another nurse, and she said it was just reflexes."
For all its faults, Roe v. Wade still protects those who are born. The D and X fetus, which may or may not be "viable,"still must leave the womb and thus be born for the procedure to work. Over the course of questioning, Justice Antonin Scalia provided the most compelling rhetoric for laws banning these infanticide abortions: ''To witness the destruction of a live creature outside the womb is there no state interest in that at all?"
Currently the D and X method is usually used near the period right before viability, and rarely then at that. And while some doctors speaking out for partial-birth abortions say that they perform the operations to protect the health of the mother, the American Medical Association still has argued that D and X is, in every case, not the only appropriate method of abortion.
While the medical community still debates the viability of D and X, clearer heads in the justice system must realize that abortion is not a privacy issue once the fetus leaves the womb. Certainly our Supreme Court justices should see that. And if not, perhaps our next president can find one or two who do.

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