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The Truth about Mercy Abortions
A health care worker discusses abortion after 24 weeks, the kind performed by Dr. George Tiller.
The following was posted at the Daily Kos website, a discussion site for Democrats. The writer has worked in the health care field and explains what she calls "mercy abortions," past 24 weeks. She wrote this a year ago but reprinted it on the death of Dr. George Tiller. She also says: "Fewer than 2200/year or 0.2% of the 1.3 million abortions performed yearly are past 24 weeks. But, the anti-abortion propagandists have successfully maligned procedures at this stage of pregnancy by calling them "Partial Birth Abortions" (not a medical term, but a political one)." No one should participate in the abortion debate unless they are taking into consideration facts such as those discussed below. To claim all abortions after 24 weeks are "killing a baby" is wild lying and should no longer be tolerated by anyone who has any sense for truth and morality.
For 14 years, I worked at Midtown Hospital in Atlanta, a woman's hospital specializing in late abortion. The hospital opened in 1977 because at that time, Georgia law mandated that an abortion past 12 weeks had to be performed in a hospital. Abortion had just been made legal in 1973 and it became the first procedure to be widely performed on an outpatient basis.
Let me repeat that: Early abortion was the first medical procedure to be widely performed on an outpatient basis. That means that medical professionals performing abortions invented outpatient health care in this country.
But, abortions past 12 weeks were still rare and very few hospitals would allow them to be performed.
At that time, there were two types of procedures for abortions: 1) Vacuum aspiration performed from about 7 weeks until 12 weeks. 2) Saline induction abortions performed from about 16 weeks to 24 weeks.
So, you can see that there was a gap where women couldn't get abortions from 12 weeks until 16 weeks. That meant that a woman who was 13 weeks pregnant had to wait 3 weeks before she could get an abortion. Then she had to undergo what is essentially a medically induced miscarriage.
As abortion medical professionals matured and were able to openly discuss options and medical procedures and medicines and investigate problems, procedures became more refined. Now, induction type abortions have been pretty much eliminated, and more sophisticated procedures involving instrumentation and general anesthesia and abortifacent drugs have made abortion even more safe and accessible and comfortable for women throughout all stages of pregnancy...early to late.
And, let me add a few more things about the evolution of abortion in this country.
Who are the women who delay into the second and third trimester? There are several characteristics:
That's why I call them Mercy Abortions.
One of the largest providers of late abortions, Dr. George Tiller in Wichita KS, has been the object of harassing investigations by Kansas authorities, culminating in an unprecedented Grand Jury trial prompted by anti-abortionists. He was just recently vindicated and the Grand Jury refused to bring charges. But, his detractors won't stop, and more harassment is anticipated.
Another major provider of late abortions is Dr. Warren Hern in Boulder CO.
Both of these doctors are extremely compassionate and committed medical professionals. I've been to both clinics and have known them personally and can attest to their credibility as both doctors and humane individuals.
Without a doubt, the number one reason for abortions past 24 weeks is the late discovery of a fetal anomaly incompatible with life. I've talked with many women who find themselves in this situation and it is always an extremely difficult and heart wrenching situation. Many women even underwent infertility treatments to become pregnant. But, when the pregnancy goes horribly awry, a Mercy Abortion is the best solution in a no-win situation. These are women who need abortion more than many others. Therefore, it's ironic that they are the ones being punished by focusing on the procedures that are life saving for them.
One of the reasons for this is that many of these anomalies aren't apparent in pregnancy until the later stages. Also, most women get a sonogram paid for by insurance in the early weeks of pregnancy, but don't get another one until well after 20-22 weeks.
Imagine if you can that you are happily carrying a baby that you've wanted all your life. You've had the baby showers and decorated the room already. Then comes the devastating news that the baby is anencephalic. That means that the baby has no brain and will die a horrible death shortly after birth.
There is no cure or standard treatment for anencephaly and the prognosis for affected individuals is poor. Most anencephalic babies do not survive birth, accounting for 55% of non-aborted cases. If the infant is not stillborn, then he or she will usually die within a few hours or days after birth from cardiorespiratory arrest.You're 28 weeks along and the OB/GYN that's been caring for you can't help you out. You see, the hospital where he practices will gladly take your money and let you give birth there, but they won't let your OB/GYN perform a Mercy Abortion on you so that you can maintain your fertility for future pregnancies and lessen the devastation on you and your family by ending the pregnancy now.
Oh no. The powers that be want you to carry that anencephalic baby for 10 more weeks, then give birth, then slowly watch it die right in front of your eyes. Now, if that's how you want to handle the situation, fine. But, if you'd like a more merciful ending to this tragic situation, a trip to Dr. Tiller or Dr. Hern might be in order. For now, that is.
You say. "This is just an isolated instance." Oh no... this scenario is played out every day. And many of the families that this happens to are anti-abortion. But, at that moment where they are told that the pregnancy is flawed, many choose the Mercy Abortion to alleviate their suffering and the suffering of their child.
Mercy Abortions are also extremely necessary in maintaining the woman's fertility so that a successful pregnancy can be possible in the future.
So, as Democrats committed to pro-choice values, let's not jump into the Rovian trap that the anti-abortion framing has given us on late abortions. They demonized a procedure that mercifully saves women and promotes healthy families. It may be you or someone in your family that needs a Mercy Abortion in the future.
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