So few . . .




So important . . .

No abortion procedure is more likely to arouse widespread opposition than is a late-term one pioneered by Dr. Martin Haskell. The procedure is called in medicine "intact dilation and extraction" but opponents in politics often refer to it as "partial birth abortion." Efforts to outlaw the procedure were popular in Congress and with the public in early 1996. Over three-quarters of the public favored a ban on it and margins in Congress on a bill to outlaw it fell short of a veto-proof majority only in the Senate. However, President Clinton vetoed the bill in April of 1996, citing the importance of this procedure for a few hundred women annually whose fetuses developed tragic abnormalities in the early to middle stages of pregnancy. This justification became the standard one, having been offered again and again in debate by members of Congress from both houses and by leading advocates of abortion rights.






 That many!

In medical practice, however, the facts were quite different. From the very beginning in 1991-92, as Dr. Haskell reported to the AMA, the procedure was used later, more frequently, and much more for purely "elective" reasons [AMNews, March 3, 1997] than the standard political account indicates. Since the procedure is not taught in any American medical school, those who do it are few and are generally in close contact with one another. The New York Times surveyed them in March 1997 and found that annual frequency was in the thousands. A single New Jersey clinic reported doing over 1200 in 1996 [Weekly Standard, March 17, 1997, p. 9] while a Nebraska clinic performed over 5,000 during the same period. According to Dr. Haskell, over 80% were elective abortions on healthy fetuses that were at or beyond the mid-point of pregnancy. [AMNews, March 3, 1997]







 "I lied . . . ."

The glaring discrepancy between political accounts by advocates and medical accounts by surgeons was publicized by Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, in an interview with ABCís Ted Koppel and again on NBCís "Meet the Press." [New York Times, March 3, 1997] Fitzsimmons told American Medical News staff writers that "I had lied through my teeth" when reciting the standard account given by abortion rights advocates in 1996. Fitzsimmons urged these advocates to make a fresh start in the 1997 replay of same fight in Congress. "The pro-choice movement has lost a lot of credibility during this debate, not just with the general public, but with our pro-choice friends in CongressÖ. Even the White House is now questioning the accuracy of some of the information given it on this issue." [AMNews, March 3, 1997] 


 To Admit a lie or not? Abortion rights advocates were unmoved by Fitzsimmonsís appeal. Leaders from the largest advocacy groups stood in solid opposition to any admission or apology. As reported by the New York Times "Kate Michaelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League said: `If he thinks he lied, thatís his problem. We have not.í Vicki Sporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation, said: `The statements we have been making have been truthful." [February 27, 1997] If you were put in the same position as these advocates, what would you do and why?