The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will consider the constitutionality of banning a type of late-term abortion, teeing up a contentious issue for a newly-constituted court already in a state of flux over privacy rights…That’s a convenient thing to maintain, even if it’s not true. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Nurses Association, and the American Medical Women's Association, also approve the practice when it is medically necessary, which is about 2,000 times a year in America.
The outcome will likely rest with the two men that President Bush has recently installed on the court. Justices had been split 5-4 in 2000 in striking down a state law, barring what critics call partial birth abortion because it lacked an exception to protect the health of the mother.
But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who was the tie-breaking vote, retired late last month and was replaced by Samuel Alito…
The federal law in the current case has no health exception, but defenders maintain that the procedure is never medically necessary to protect a woman's health.
The big question, of course, is what is the point of ramming through this legislation without a provision that allows it in cases where the mother’s life it as risk? And the obvious answer is that anti-choicers don’t trust women and their doctors to make that decision honestly—a position which pulls back the curtain on their “pro-life” Emerald City and reveals the contempt for life they actually have, in spite of their claims to the contrary. Only a person who has no respect whatsoever for human life could assume that women would invoke this rationale to terminate a pregnancy for no good reason, that expectant mothers who carry a pregnancy nearly to term would suddenly and randomly change their minds, with as much forethought as one might give to rearranging the living room furniture.
Gee, I don’t want this baby after all. I’ll just go off to the doctor, who will surely back up my imaginary claim that my life is in danger and rip this thing out of me. Done and dusted.
That’s how anti-choicers believe women (and their doctors) think. What informs that assumption? It certainly isn’t what one would call typical of human experience. The reality is that these lovers of life—who care not for an unwanted child after it’s born, or the quality of a woman’s life after being forced to carry an unwanted child to term—are projecting their own contempt for life onto women. If they actually bothered to listen to women who have faced the stark reality of dilations and extractions, this is what they would hear:
If the ban were in place in 1995, Tammy Watts would likely be dead, she says.Decidedly inconvenient. But why let a little truth stand in our way? The Supreme Court will take up this case, and, if Alito’s past is any indication, he will serve as the swing vote to criminalize the procedure.
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."
…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."
And 2,000 American women’s lives will be put at risk without a second thought by those who are willing to risk them to win a political battle.