Special Report

Unsilent Scream

The partial-birth abortion ban is proving to be a genuine victory for life.

By 4.8.04

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A large number of vegetarians eat fish, despite the fact that a fish is clearly not a vegetable. Why? It is true that fish are not as cute and fuzzy as sheep, cows, or even goats. But the most important attribute they lack is a voice, or at least a voice audible to the human ear, and as such they are removed from the pantheon of pitiable creatures.

A child in the womb is at the same disadvantage. Mothers, fathers, and relatives fret over a one day old child, rushing the moment it cries, but for years now our society has tolerated the killing of a child only a few weeks younger, condemned by virtue of having not yet been born. The only way the pro-life movement will ever be successful is if it is able to give voice to these voiceless human beings.

I was one of the pro-lifers who feared that the partial-birth abortion ban, signed into law by President Bush last November, would be a hollow victory. I worried that putting so much emphasis on partial-birth abortion would be a tactical error. After all, partial birth abortions account only for approximately 7,000 to 9,000 of the 1.3 million or so abortions a year.

Those lives, without a doubt, are worth fighting for, but once you draw a line in the sand at 20 weeks, it is at least partially an admission that the "life begins at conception" argument is merely a point of negotiation. To put that idea in the mind of the general public was a gamble.

THAT GAMBLE IS NOW paying off with the help of the pro-abortion groups who opposed the ban. The National Abortion Federation, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood, along with a few abortion doctors, are currently waging legal battles in three states to get the law struck down. After watching the last two weeks of the New York case, it looks like their bloodlust and absolutism is finally blowing up in their faces.

One of the abortionists challenging the law was described as "visibly shaken" after coming under bare-knuckle questioning of Judge Richard Casey in the Southern District Court of New York last week. For the first time in years the public debate was not simplified as to the semantics of the word "choice." This time abortionists and their supporters are on the defensive.

Queried as to whether fetuses feel pain during abortions he performs, Dr. Timothy Johnson, answered, "I have no idea." Casey refused to let the point slip away. He asked whether the doctor ever even wondered whether fetuses felt pain during an abortion. "No, not really," he replied. After repeated questioning, Johnson finally admitted, "I am sure that the baby feels it, but I am not sure how the fetus registers it." Somewhere in hell, Descartes was surely smiling at that bit of existentialism.

"When you describe the procedure, do you tell the patient that the baby's brains will be sucked out?" Judge Casey asked Johnson.

"No, I do not describe it in those terms. I think I use other terms like 'cranial collapse,'" Johnson said.

Casey put another doctor, Dr. Carolyn Westhoff, on the hot seat a day later, when she told the judge that she often let women hold the fetus after an abortion to aid in the "grieving process."

"Did you tell them you were sucking the brains out of the same baby they desired to hold?" Casey asked.

"They know the head's empty," the doctor responded. "I don't tell them I'm sucking the brain out."

Further flummoxing pro-abortion forces, Casey allowed Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand, who has concluded that an unborn child can feel pain at 20 weeks, to testify as a government witness over the objections of the ACLU and National Abortion Federation.

Anand's research has found that painful stimulation increases the heart rate, blood flow, and hormone levels of fetuses. "The physiological responses have been very clearly studied," he said on the question of whether a fetus feels pain. "The fetus cannot talk ... so this is the best evidence we can get."

AND SO, BEFORE THE WORLD Monday, Dr. Anand said what people of conscience and non-abortionist doctors have known for a long time: Abortion is a cruel and barbaric practice, used almost exclusively to eliminate a child for reasons of convenience. And it is allowed to continue largely because that child does not have the ability to cry out.

The usual suspects were outraged. "Doctors shouldn't have to choose between providing the best possible care to their patients or going to jail," huffed Vicki Sparta, president of the National Abortion Federation.

That annoyance is borne of desperation. The debate is shifting: When you are talking about a child's physical pain rather than a choice, the protestations in the public square of the pro-abortion crowd sound downright demented. It's looking more and more like the partial birth abortion ban was worth the risk.

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