An ethical revolution has begun in our country.
For two decades, Americans have accepted abortion as a way of shutting down unwanted pregnancies and sparing unloved children the cruel fate of having to fend for themselves. Judges declared that a woman’s right to self-esteem - or self-determination - outweighed an unborn child’s right to life.
Our national certainty has vanished with the advent of a procedure known as partial-birth abortion, or “dilation and extraction.” In the operation, doctors dilate a pregnant woman’s cervix for a day or so, then induce labor. As the baby begins moving toward the birth canal, the physician reaches in, turns the child and delivers it feet-first. Just before the head appears, the surgeon makes an incision in the base of the skull, inserts a tube, sucks out the brains and, finally, delivers a corpse.
Pro-abortion activists say the ghoulish procedure is used only to save women whose reproductive organs might be shredded by delivering huge and grossly deformed babies.
The problem with this argument, which the president cited last year when he vetoed a ban on partial-birth abortion, is that it is utterly false. Ronald Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, admitted recently that clinics perform thousands of dilation and extractions a year, not dozens, and that patients seldom face any prospect of physical harm.
Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop goes further. He says the procedure “is never medically necessary to protect a mother’s health or future fertility” and that it poses “a significant threat to both her immediate health and future fertility.”
Dilation and extraction makes little sense as an emergency treatment because it takes too long to complete. If a physician needs to save a woman, a Caesarian section usually will do the trick, sparing the mother without murdering the baby.
So why perform this procedure? The people who pioneered the operation boast of its tidiness. Unlike “standard” dilation and curettage, the physician doesn’t have to chop up body parts before delivering the dead fetus.
These claims persuaded Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York that partial-birth abortion is infanticide - baby murder - and no medical condition demands its use.
This revelation has thrown pro-choice activists into hysterics because it establishes a precedent: If a pro-choice senator like Moynihan can agree that this type of abortion is murder, then what about other kinds? Is abortion homicide at five months’ gestation if doctors can save the baby outside the womb? What about four months?
Abortion advocates know their position has a remorseless, unstoppable logic. If the right to life takes a back seat to considerations of convenience and utility, then society eventually will begin looking skeptically at anybody who operates at less than peak capacity. Indeed, several federal courts have cited abortion law as justification for assisted suicide.
The Dutch know where these arguments lead. Doctors in the Netherlands, the one nation that condones physician-assisted suicide, have sent old people packing for more than two decades. Medical professionals over time have shed their inhibitions about sending senior citizens over the River Styx. Literally thousands of Dutch senior citizens are put to death each year without consent. All you need is an ungrateful kid drooling over the inheritance and bingo! Physicians will arrange a trip to the Hereafter.
These trends have not gone unnoticed. Australia briefly passed an assisted-suicide law last year - and repealed it this week. Rep. Thomas Bliley has prepared legislation that would prohibit the use of federal funds for “mercy killing” in the United States. State legislatures have begun preparing bills to ban euthanasia and partial-birth abortion.
There is a simple reason for this trend: The logic of life has begun to overwhelm the logic of death. The moment you strip life of its sacredness, you put everybody between the cross hairs: If some authority decides we have outlived our usefulness, we die.
It is no accident that politicians have begun entertaining second thoughts about these issues just as baby boomers have started getting membership offers from the American Association of Retired Persons. The people who invented free love don’t want to become the first candidates of free death. Call it self-indulgence. Call it wisdom. Whatever it is, the desire for immortality has forced many abortion proponents to realize the arguments that set them free as kids could seal their doom as adults.