Planned Parenthood v Ashcroft

Warning: This article contains graphic testimony of abortion procedures; not for the faint—hearted.


This week the Partial Birth Abortion Law test case, Planned Parenthood v Ashcroft, is coming to a close in San Francisco. Simultaneously, two parallel trials in New York and Lincoln, Nebraska also have the U.S. Department of Justice defending the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003.


In the first weeks of the trials, we were treated to gruesome descriptions in nauseating detail of the Partial Birth Abortion procedure (or as its proponents prefer to call it, intact dilation and extraction, or D&X).


A major argument by proponents of Partial Birth Abortion is that sometimes it is safer for the mother. This has led to a line in of questioning comparing the banned Partial Birth Abortion procedure, in which the baby is extracted intact, to the fully legal D&E (dilation and evacuation) procedure in which the baby is dismembered before being removed. The first week of the trials featured physicians who perform partial birth abortions.


The abortion doctors in the trials used the newspeak word 'disarticulate' when they discussed ripping or cutting the baby into pieces. Dr. Maureen Paul described in the San Francisco trial what she did should the baby's head get stuck when she is trying to complete the abortion:


'Does it every come out completely without the head becoming lodged?' the DOJ lawyer asked.


'Rarely it does,' answered Dr. Paul.


'And you had said that sometimes when you apply traction to the fetus it comes out intact up to point where the calvarium (head) lodges; is that correct?'




'In that circumstance, what do you do to complete the procedure?'


'Well, there are two things you can do.  You can disarticulate at the neck, or what I prefer to do is to just reach in with my forceps and collapse the skull and bring the fetus out intact.'


U.S. District Judge Richard C. Casey grilled Dr. Carolyn Westhoff, who estimates she performs or supervises 500 or more abortions annually in Manhattan, during the New York trial:


"Does the baby ever make any noise or cry?" Casey asked



"It does not withdraw or move," Westhoff said.


"Do the hands ever move?" the judge asked.


"The fetus is limp," Westhoff answered.


"Did you tell them you were sucking the brains out of the same baby they desired to hold?" the judge asked.


"They know the head's empty," the doctor responded. "I don't tell them I'm sucking the brain out."


When Westhoff added that she doesn't "think that helps the grieving process," Casey snapped, "I didn't ask that."


The latter days of the trials were given over to those doctors who were witnesses for the Department of Justice. In Lincoln, Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, a University of Arkansas pediatrician and pain expert, stated that the fetus undergoing abortion suffers 'severe, excruciating pain.... I am sorry it is gruesome' he said, 'but yes, it would be extremely painful.'


In both the Lincoln and San Francisco trials, Dr. Elizabeth Shadigian of the University of Michigan Medical School stated that Partial Birth Abortion is never necessary to terminate pregnancies for the health of the mother by a procedure destructive to the fetus.


Furthermore, in her institution, if a very ill mother needs to have her pregnancy ended, it is almost always done by induction of labor rather than the legal alternative that is destructive to the baby, the D&E. Partial Birth Abortions are not done at the University of Michigan hospitals. Dr. Shadigian also stated that there are no studies on Partial Birth Abortion, and that there is nothing that is known about its short— and long—term safety for women.


The Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act became law not only because the procedure is despicable and intrinsically evil, but also because abortion opponents wanted to erect a firewall between abortion and infanticide. There is a deep concern that Partial Birth Abortion, which perverts a breech birth into a killing, as the baby is being delivered, blurs the distinction between abortion and infanticide. Because of the prominence of 'bioethicists' such as Peter Singer,  a tenured Princeton professor who openly supports killing disabled infants, this type of abortion is seen as a possible major step down that slippery slope.


The most chilling aspect of the testimony in these trials is that the thrust of the legal argument hinges on whether or not dismembering a woman's unborn baby inside her uterus is more detrimental to her health than pulling the baby into her vagina and sucking out its brains before it is extracted from her body. Since the Doe v Bolton decision in 1973, any type of abortion, at any stage of pregnancy, is deemed to be justifiable for any health reason, no matter how trivial. The current justices of our Supreme Court, where the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act is surely headed after these trials, have shown no inclination to bend on Doe v Bolton.


The fact that these abortions take place legally, despite the overwhelming opposition of Congress and the American people, brings into sharp relief the theft of our political power by an immoral judiciary, insulated from the public they supposedly serve.