If the ban were in place in 1995, Tammy Watts would likely be dead, she says.
In March of that year, Watts was in the eighth month of a much-wanted pregnancy and was eagerly anticipating the birth of her first child. During a routine ultrasound (the only way to detect abnormalities that require late-term abortion), she discovered her baby had Trisomy 13, a chromosomal abnormality that causes severe deformities and carries no hope of survival.
Because her baby was already dying and because this put her own life at stake, Watts had an intact dilation and extraction (D and X), the procedure that Bush condemns as "brutal."
"Losing my baby at the end of my pregnancy was agonizing," says Watts. "But the way the right deals with this issue makes it even worse. When I heard Bush mention 'partial birth abortion' during the debates, I thought 'How dare you stand there and tell flat-out lies?' There is no such thing as this procedure! Why won't the politicians listen to us?"
When Congress first considered the ban in 1995, Watts testified on Capitol Hill. So did Viki Wilson of Fresno, Calif., who had a late-term abortion because the brain of the fetus she was carrying had developed outside the skull. So did Vikki Stella of Naperville, Ill., whose fetus had dwarfism, no brain tissue and seven other major abnormalities.
All three women told legislators they owed their health to late-term abortions and that a continuation of their doomed pregnancies posed grave health risks such as stroke, paralysis, infertility or even death.
As they campaign to save access to these procedures, Watts, Stella and Wilson point out that in virtually all cases, late-term abortions are the only way to respond to unanticipated complications: the death of the fetus inside the womb, problems that mean the fetus can't live outside the womb, or serious threats to the mother's health.
"No women has these procedures for frivolous reasons," says Stella. "They have them because it's their only choice."
Watts, Stella and Wilson note that late-term abortions are sanctioned by many medical professional groups. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Washington, D.C., calls intact D and X--a commonly used late-term procedure--"the most appropriate and safest" option in some cases. The American Nurses Association, Silver Spring, Md., and the American Medical Women's Association, Alexandria, Va., also approve the practice.
Pro-choice advocates also note that despite all the political hoopla, intact D and X procedures are very rare, accounting for only 2,200 of the 1 million U.S. abortions performed each year.
Sorry to quote such a huge portion, but after reading about this case now up before the Supreme Court, I'm really interested in how the term "partial birth abortion" has been invented (it's not a medical term). Shakespeare's Sister had a write up of this, too. I just don't see why politicians feel the need to get involved in a rare procedure, that women are obviously choosing in extreme circumstances. Why is anyone trying to protect the "life" of a fetus that won't survive outside the womb? Or that's already dying/dead in the womb?