And You Thought Partial Birth Abortion Was Bad

Fr. Frank Pavone
National Director of Priests for Life
October 12, 1998

I will never forget the day when I came across Dr. Martin Haskell's medical paper "Dilation and Extraction for Late Second Trimester Abortion," presented at the National Abortion Federation Risk Management Seminar, September 13, 1992. It describes what has come to be known as "partial-birth abortion." "[T]he surgeon then forces the scissors into the base of the skull or into the foramen magnum. Having safely entered the skull, he spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening. The surgeon removes the scissors and introduces a suction catheter into this hole and evacuates the skull contents."

Prior to the days when partial-birth abortion was in the news or debated in the halls of Congress, I began taking this paper to parishes across the country and speaking and preaching about it. Others had likewise discovered the paper and were doing the same thing. There are still too many people who don't know about it, but certainly a great awareness has been generated, and the procedure, I am confident, will eventually be banned. I spoke to Dr. Haskell more than once about the procedure. "There does not seem to be any medical reason for the procedure," he told me. A woman obtains it, he explained, because she wants an abortion.

I have on my desk the words of another doctor, Warren M. Hern, in his book Abortion Practice. It is a medical textbook on how to do abortions, and in it he describes another procedure which must also be made better known to the public. The procedure is called Dilatation and Evacuation (D&E), and differs from "partial birth abortion" in that the child is not partially delivered, but rather dismembered within the womb. He describes the procedure at various stages of pregnancy, starting at 13 weeks. I quote here from the section "21 to 24 Weeks Fetal Age":

"The procedure changes significantly at 21 weeks because the fetal tissues become much more cohesive and difficult to dismember. This problem is accentuated by the fact that the fetal pelvis may be as much as 5cm in width. The calvaria [head] is no longer the principal problem; it can be collapsed. Other structures, such as the pelvis, present more difficulty….A long curved Mayo scissors may be necessary to decapitate and dismember the fetus…"(p.154).

He speaks of the crushing of the head in these terms: "As the calvaria is grasped, a sensation that it is collapsing is almost always accompanied by the extrusion of white cerebral material from the external os" (p.142).

Dr. Hern also admits that a "disadvantage of the D&E procedure is that it is objectionable to physicians and their assistants." But, he goes on, "It is of utmost importance to keep in mind the advantages that the procedure offers for patients…." (p.134)

Some people are tired of the abortion controversy in our nation. Frankly, I often wonder whether it has even begun. Maybe when it becomes more widely known that things like what I quoted above are legally occurring every day -- maybe then the debate can begin.

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