Partial Birth Abortion

This essay has a total of 2941 words and 14 pages.

Partial Birth Abortion



The Medical, Legal, Social, and
Ethical Issues involved in Florida’s
“partial-birth” abortion law



Damien Dominicis

Anthropology 2301

Partial-birth abortion also known, as D & E for dilation and extraction was first used and developed by Dr. James McMahon, who performed the procedure well into the last trimester of pregnancy. These women discovered late in their pregnancies that they were carrying babies that could not survive outside their wombs. They decided to do what was best in their particular medical situation. The procedure (D & E) consists of the surgeon aiming for a breech delivery of the fetus, pulling it down by its extremities through the vagina until its head just lodges at the cervical, the surgeon then proceeds to take a pair of blunt curved Metzenbaum scissors and places the scissors along the spinal cord and forces the scissors into the base of the skull, spreads the scissors to enlarge the opening, and finally a suction catheter is inserted and evacuates the skulls contents. Finally the dead baby is removed. (Bonavoglia 1997:57)
In Florida according to bill FL HB 1205 (1997), requires a woman, if married, to notify her husband before obtaining an abortion, to delete a waiting period from the proposed title of the legislation, to modify the penalties, to delete from the medical emergency provision an exception to prevent “substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function” to a woman, and to require a physician, in a medical emergency, to obtain a second physician’s opinion indicating that the abortion is necessary to preserve a woman’s life. This bill became law without the governor’s signature on June 5, 1997, to become effective July 1, 1997. (NARAL 1998:26)
The Abortion Act is what is used to determine whether an abortion is justified; it was passed in 1967 and then amended in 1990. Currently it states that: An abortion may be performed legally if two or more doctors certify that firstly, the mental and physical health of the woman, or her existing children, will suffer if the pregnancy continues, or secondly the child, if born, would be seriously physically or mentally handicapped. In the 1990 act it states that, except that the time limit for when an abortion can be carried out was reduced to 24 weeks. This Act means a pregnant woman has the right to an abortion if upon keeping the pregnancy, and therefore having the child, the mother and/or any children she already has would be harming their physical or mental well-being or secondly the fetus has been shown to have either a physical or mental disability and therefore would be born handicapped. If two doctors both agree that the woman suffers from either of the points, then abortion is a legal option, as long as the pregnancy has not gone more than 24 weeks after conception.
A 15 yr. old girl is pregnant and has requested and abortion without her parents knowing and with no intention to do so. The girl would be allowed an abortion even though she is too young (under 16) to give consent for the medical procedure to take place. The grounds the girl would be allowed the abortion under would be under the first section of the 1967 Act, the pregnancy if continued, would pose a risk to the mother’s own mental health.
An amniocentesis test shows that the baby has a serious deformity. There is no doubt that an abortion would be legal in this circumstance, it falls exactly under the second section of the 1967 Act, because the baby, if born, would be either seriously physically or mentally handicapped. If the pregnancy were a result of rape then an abortion would be permitted to the mother, because keeping the pregnancy would cause the mother’s mental health to suffer, part of the first section of the 1967 Act. The Abortion Act allows for most abortions to go ahead, as it is open to various interpretations (especially in the first section).
In Florida as for public funding, a woman eligible for state medical assistance for general health care, including care related to pregnancy, may not obtain public funds to pay for an abortion unless the procedure is necessary to preserve her life or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. Laws concerning D & E abortion are as follows: “No abortion may be performed in the third trimester of pregnancy unless two physicians certify in writing that the abortion is necessary to preserve a woman’s life or health. The physicians must “use the degree of professional skill, care and diligence” most likely to preserve the life and health of the fetus except that the woman’s life and health shall constitute an overriding and superior consideration to the concern for the life and health of the fetus when such concerns are in conflict.” (NARAL 1998:26-27)
A question that toggles many is, does the right to privacy include abortion? R.C. Sproul argues that the right to privacy does not exist in the U.S. Constitution, and even if such a right were mentioned, it would not outweigh the right to life. The current debate is not over whether or not a woman in the United States has the legal right to own her own body with respect to abortion, but should she have the right? The closest the constitution comes to affirming a woman’s right to her own body is an implied “right to privacy”. Among abortion adherents there is a strong sentiment that abortion legislation improperly intrudes into the privacy rights of persons and families. In simpler language, they plead that it is none of the state’s business whether a woman terminates her pregnancy or chooses to carry it to term. The relevant portions of the United States Constitution are as follows:
Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment XIV

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, and property, without due process of law; nor deny to any persons within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws.


What is immediately evident from even a glimpse of this section of the Constitution is the obvious absence of a single explicit word about privacy rights. The right to privacy concept, on which legalized abortion is based, is not mentioned explicitly anywhere in the Constitution. The issue was decided in the case between Roe v. Wade by this simple assertion:

This right of privacy, whether it be found in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

The Supreme Court should not be faulted for being jealous to protect the privacy rights of citizens from the unwarranted invasion or intrusion of the state. Few of us have a desire to live with big brother monitoring our every action and eavesdropping on our every word. In spite of all this one major question remains, is there any ethical or moral justification for including the right to have an abortion under the broader category of the right to privacy? (Sproul 1990:33-35)
According to the Orthodox Church, common sense states that there is no such thing as being partially born. You can’t have both an abortion and a birth at the same time obviously. The mass of confusion occurs when D & E is performed (dilation and extraction) and when you actually think about it only inches separate the legitimacy of an actual abortion or a homicide. Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) But, then again, Christ has been separated from the governing process and relegated to irrelevancy in vital issues affecting the public debate. (Artemas 1996:1-2)
Along with the legal debates are ongoing arguments between pro-life and pro-choice groups regarding the ethics of abortion. Central to the pro-life position is that the fertilized egg must be valued as a human being from the moment of conception, and that abortion at any time is equivalent to murder. This groups holds that any woman who has sexual intercourse knows that pregnancy is a possibility, and should she willingly have intercourse and get pregnant, she is morally obligated to carry the pregnancy through. Pro-life followers encourage adoption for women who feel they are unable to raise the child. On the other sid

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