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Partial-birth abortion: women and babies deserve better than this torture

By Melinda Tankard Reist - posted Thursday, 4 March 2004

Abortion rights activists like Erica Jong ("How women are losing the hard-won right to choose" Sydney Morning Herald 22/1/04, "Women: don't assume your rights are safe" The Age 23/1/04 ) have probably never heard of an abortion they haven't liked - even when it's more infanticide than abortion.

Ms Jong, American author of "erotic" novels and inventor of the "zipperless f-" a concept glorifying no-strings-attached sexual encounters with men, has now become an advocate for the obscene partial-birth abortion method.

Jong claims the US partial-birth abortion ban "strips away" a woman's right to "health and life". She conveniently fails to tell readers what partial-birth abortion is. She ignores the opinions of reputable experts who refute the necessity of this method to preserve a woman's health.


Partial-birth abortion involves pulling the baby down the birth canal feet first with forceps. The head is delivered. Scissors are inserted through the baby's skull to allow for the entry of a high-powered suction tube that suctions the infant's brain allowing the skull to be crushed and "delivery" completed.

The difference between abortion and homicide is about ten centimetres. This is abortion ideology gone mad. Jong is a big fan of late-term abortion to weed out people with disabilities. One can almost picture her cheering on when an eight-month pre-born baby with suspected dwarfism was aborted three years ago at the Royal Women's Hospital in Melbourne.

So enamoured are the Jongs of this world by abortion, nothing can stand in their way-even if the baby is a mere breath away from birth.

Dr Pamela Smith, of Mt Sinai Hospital, testified before a US Senate Judiciary Committee: "…the practitioner must take great care to ensure that the baby does not move those additional few inches that would transform its status from one of an abortus to that of a living human child."

Despite claims that the method is rare and used only in extreme medical cases, there are an estimated 3000 to 5000 partial-birth abortions a year in the US according to Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers. Fitzsimmons believes that partial-birth abortions are "in the vast majority of cases" carried out on "a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along".

Washington Post medical writer David Brown, after interviewing many abortionists, wrote "in most cases, the physical health of the woman whose pregnancy is being terminated is not in jeopardy". Even so, the new ban allows an exception for saving the mother's life.


The American Medical Association says partial-birth abortion is "not good medicine" and "medically unjustified". Its expert panel couldn't find "any identified situation" in which it was "the only appropriate procedure to induce abortion".

A group of senior obstetricians, writing in the Wall Street Journal, stated "there is no obstetrical situation that requires the wilful destruction of a partially delivered baby to protect the life, health or future fertility of a woman".

They described partial-birth abortion as "a two-and-a-half day, potentially dangerous procedure unsupported by any safety data in the medical literature". The doctors listed as risks: cervical incompetence due to forced dilation of the cervix (the leading cause of premature deliveries), infection (a major cause of infertility) and risks of tears to the uterus due to a deliberate (and normally avoided) breech birth. Inserting scissors through the base of the baby's skull can also lacerate the cervix.

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About the Author

Melinda Tankard Reist is a Canberra author, speaker, commentator and advocate with a special interest in issues affecting women and girls. Melinda is author of Giving Sorrow Words: Women's Stories of Grief after Abortion (Duffy & Snellgrove, 2000), Defiant Birth: Women Who Resist Medical Eugenics (Spinifex Press, 2006) and editor of Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls (Spinifex Press, 2009). Melinda is a founder of Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation ( Melinda blogs at

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