The Beginning of the End of Partial-Birth Abortion

By Cathleen A. Cleaver, Esq.

March 14, 2003

On Wednesday morning all our office television sets were tuned in to C-SPAN II as we watched the votes come in. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act passed in the Senate by a margin of 64-33.

For those who have watched the partial-birth abortion drama unfold on the national stage over the last seven years, this vote might seem like just one more in a series of votes that ultimately get us nowhere. It is not.

This vote is different. It is, in fact, historic. Because when the House of Representatives passes it (as it is sure to do), the president will sign it. This vote sets in motion a legislative process which will result in the first federal law limiting abortion since Roe v. Wade. Hallelujah!

The Catholic Church has taken the effort to outlaw partial-birth abortion very seriously. Two highly successful postcard campaigns have flooded congressional offices with millions of messages from Catholics across the country showing their support. Public education efforts have been widespread, creative, and persuasive. Prayers have been unceasing. When the ban on partial-birth abortion is signed into law, it will be a great day of celebration indeed.

One of the champions in this effort is Senator Rick Santorum, who has led the fight against this procedure in the Senate with wisdom, grace, and strength. In this last round, Santorum was challenged by Senator Hillary Clinton, who accused him of deceiving the public by using visual aids depicting a baby with no obvious physical defects being killed in a partial-birth abortion. Santorum first reminded Clinton that the vast majority of these abortions are done on healthy mothers with healthy babies, as has been admitted by the executive director of the National Coalition for Abortion Providers.

Then he turned the question back on Clinton, asking her why she would suggest that children with disabilities be appropriate candidates for this procedure. Do their disabilities make them less human? Why should they be excluded from protection against intentional death during birth?

For pro-lifers, the matter is very clear. But for others, it is less so. When a mother learns that her pregnancy has gone tragically wrong, that her child is diagnosed with a severe or lethal abnormality, isn't abortion an unfortunate but necessary solution?

First, advances in perinatal medicine have removed any threat to a woman's life or health posed by hydrocephaly, anencephaly, polyhydramnios, trisomy, or other fetal abnormalities. In all of these cases, the pregnancy can be brought to term and the child delivered with no long-term adverse health effects to the mother.

As for the question of mental anguish, preliminary studies show that psychological stress related to fetal anomalies is significantly greater for women who abort than for those who wait and deliver their babies, even if death soon follows. This comports with everything we know about abortion and grieving. Increasingly, parents can find help through perinatal hospice programs, which support both parents and baby through a difficult pregnancy.

When the partial-birth abortion bill becomes law, pro-abortion groups will challenge it in court. This will be no surprise -- they've had their best success using judges as policymakers for their agenda. But even if the law is tied up in court, the contest will be clear as never before: On the one side will be some judges and the pro-abortion lobby; on the other, the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the overwhelming majority of the American people. Not to mention God and his angels.