Dear Science,

According to reporting data provided to the Kansas Board of Healing Arts for the year 1998, for example, all of the postviable partial-birth (dilation and extraction) abortion procedures performed in Kansas during that year were performed because "the attending physician believe[d] that continuing the pregnancy [would] constitute a substantial and irreversible impairment of the patient's mental function." The overwhelming reason [Dr. George] Tiller ever gave for late-term abortions were social concerns! Make all the decisions you want. Once you have decided to produce another human "therefrom," however, expect the rest of humanity to have an opinion about how the helpless and innocent are treated. Wanna donate? Then donate to the defense fund of the Dude Who Aborted Tiller the Baby Killer!

Choice Is Followed by Responsibility

Following the murder of Dr. Tiller—one of the very few providers of late-term termination of pregnancies in the United States—I made an offer to my readers: Donate to a family-planning-rights organization, like Planned Parenthood, and I'll send you a personal reply to any scientific question. (This offer still stands.) Above is one of the replies I received from foes of abortion.

Why are late-term terminations of pregnancies, defined as a termination after the 20th week, a medical necessity? Quite a few medical conditions in the pregnant woman, with a significant risk of death, can be undiagnosed until late in pregnancy—such as left-to-right heart shunt or Marfan syndrome. The survival of the woman might be dependent upon ending the pregnancy—even if these conditions are only discovered after the 20th week. Likewise, most treatments for cancer cannot be done when one is pregnant. Horror stories have emerged of women with blood cancers being forced to remain pregnant and untreated—with both the woman and fetus ultimately perishing. Likewise, some severe fetal abnormalities, including those incompatible with life, can only be detected after the 20th week.

And there are pregnancies that can cause "substantial and irreversible impairment of the patient's mental function." In cases of incest or rape of children or the mentally impaired, the victim may be unaware she is pregnant until after 20 weeks—because she is uneducated about periods and pregnancy or lacks the faculties to recognize the potential consequences of the assault. When others realize she is pregnant, it's often quite late into the pregnancy.

There is no such thing as a lightly undertaken late-term abortion. The procedure is so rare, and relatively risky compared to an earlier termination, few providers become proficient at it. The slaughter of Dr. Tiller means women nationwide are at greater risk.



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