Legislation banning the “dismemberment” of a fetus is being pitched as a game changer because it could outlaw an entire type of abortion procedure, pro-life activists said.
“Dismemberment” abortions refer to procedures in which doctors use surgical instruments, such as sharp-toothed forceps, to twist and tear away the limbs of a living fetus to cause its death.
These abortions “are as brutal as the partial-birth abortion method, which is now illegal in the United States,” said the National Right to Life Committee, which developed the model legislation in the hopes that the grisliness of the procedure can fuel a national opposition campaign as happened with partial-birth abortion in the 1990s.
Kansas state Sen. Garrett Love said he will introduce the nation’s first such legislation, the Unborn Child Protection From Dismemberment Abortion Act, by the end of January. He and other pro-life activists held a news conference last week to trumpet the strategy and its rollout in Kansas.
This is a “very gruesome type of abortion,” in which abortionists use a scissorlike tool to “rip the arms and legs” off an unborn child’s body and let it bleed to death, Mr. Love, a Republican, told The Washington Times.
“There are many people who want to see this stopped, and that’s why I am bringing this bill,” said Mr. Love.
SEE ALSO: Planned Parenthood performed 327K abortions in fiscal 2014
He said an estimated 578, or 8 percent of Kansas abortions, are performed in this manner every year.
A pro-choice official said allies will oppose the bill, which The Wichita Eagle reported would prohibit the use of forceps, clamps, tongs, scissors and similar instruments to abort a living fetus.
“Planned Parenthood will expose this legislation for what it is: an intrusive, insulting measure that does nothing to improve the quality of women’s lives or health care,” said Laura McQuade, president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri.
Kansas women “don’t need more legislation intended to judge, coerce and restrict their decisions,” she said.
According to medical websites, a common form of abortion during the 12th to 22nd week of pregnancy is called dilation and evacuation, or D&E. Partial-birth abortion was known almost exclusively as intact dilation and extraction, or D&X, in medical journals before the 1990s.
The procedure requires a pregnant woman to receive drugs to dilate her cervix for about 36 hours. The abortionist then may use vacuum aspiration, tongs, clamps and specially designed instruments, such as serrated-jaw forceps, to firmly grasp and remove the contents of the uterus.
Some 51,000 abortions were performed to end pregnancies at 13 weeks or later using curettage, which includes D&E, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its most recent Abortion Surveillance report.
This is equivalent to about 9 percent of the 730,322 abortions reported in 2011 to the agency — which doesn’t include data from California, Maryland or New Hampshire, the CDC said.
Kansans for Life noted that the Guttmacher Institute, which surveys abortion providers in all states, estimates that more than 1 million abortions were performed in 2011.
If almost 9 percent of abortions were performed after the first trimester, it means that close to 100,000 unborn children could have been subjected to dismemberment abortion, said Kansans for Life.
National Right to Life officials said its model legislation could “transform the landscape of abortion policy” because it should pass muster at the Supreme Court.
The high court has held that “protecting unborn children from the brutal inhumanity of partial-birth abortion did not impose an unconstitutional ‘undue burden’ on abortion because other methods could be used,” Mary Spaulding Balch, director of the state legislation department of National Right to Life, said in a memo.
Moreover, since the Supreme Court upheld a ban on abortions of “partially born,” intact fetuses, it is “highly likely” to uphold laws against abortions in which a sharp instrument is used to slice up a living unborn child, she wrote.
“We’re hoping to shock the nation” that dismemberment abortion is still going on, National Right to Life attorney Jennifer Popik told The Washington Times.
“I would say it’s a game changer,” she said, “because this really focuses on the humanity of the unborn child.”