A young woman from New York died tragically last week after a 33-week abortion at the Maryland clinic of Dr. LeRoy Carhart. In her new book, “Recall Abortion,” (Saint Benedict Press) longtime pro-life activist Janet Morana delves into late-term abortions, why women choose them and the alternatives.
Q. Why do women and couples turn to doctors like LeRoy Carhart to terminate pregnancies of nearly at-term babies?
A. There are many reasons. Couples may be told their baby has a life-limiting illness or will be born with a serious disability. They are afraid to face a lifetime of hospital visits and medical procedures for their child. I know from my research for “Recall Abortion” that many doctors advise their patients to abort, even late in pregnancy, because the doctor is worried about wrongful birth or wrongful life lawsuits. This kind of medical advice leaves couples with no hope and no useful information about alternatives. Sometimes a mother’s life may be at risk, although at 33 weeks, an ob-gyn would likely deliver the baby and then treat the mother. But even earlier in the pregnancy, a caring physician will treat both patients, mother and child. Despite these ill-fated forecasts babies sometimes beat all the odds. Even if a baby will only live for a few minutes or hours, isn’t it better to let nature take its course?
Q. If a baby is going to die shortly after birth, is there a better alternative to abortion?
A. Any alternative is better than abortion but thanks to pioneers like Dr. Byron Calhoun, there is a really good alternative. It’s called perinatal hospice, and it ensures that babies, no matter how sick or frail, will have a chance to meet their parents and feel love, even if briefly. Doctors have to do a much better job of letting their patients know such a thing exists. Dr. Calhoun says 75 percent of couples who are offered a hospice program will choose it over abortion. The parents won’t escape their grief because they will still lose their baby boy or girl, but they won’t have directly participated in that child’s death. Abortion only compounds grief.
Q. Why are such late-term abortions legal?
Most Americans don’t realize that abortion is legal through all nine months of pregnancy and for any reason. The Supreme Court decisions of 1973, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, said abortions up until the due date are legal if the mother’s physical or psychological health is imperiled. The psychological loophole opens the doors for all sorts of abortion abuse. Some states say that two doctors have to concur that a woman’s mental health is at risk without an abortion, but what we know is that these late-term abortionists work together to keep a steady stream of customers coming in for their services. A third-trimester abortion is a very expensive procedure for the patient, and often payment can only be made in cash. What kind of medical care is that? A lot of people also might think that since partial-birth abortion is no longer legal, that late-term abortions are not taking place anymore. As we saw at Carhart’s clinic, that is not the case. Abortionists just use other techniques to kill at-term babies, and they are every bit as brutal as partial-birth.
Q. How do Americans feel about late-term abortion?
Just about every opinion poll that asks a non-ambiguous question about late-term abortion finds respondents overwhelmingly against this brutal procedure. Pollsters who want their numbers to come out in favor of abortion ask questions like, “should Roe v. Wade be overturned,” and then we see that the country is divided. But when they bother to ask, should abortion in the second or third trimesters be legal, people know they can’t fall back on the “blob of tissue” defense. These are fully formed babies, with heartbeats and eyelashes, who wave their hands and kick their feet and suck their thumbs. People recognize this and have the courage to tell a pollster they oppose it. But then most of them go back to ignoring the abortion issue.
Q. What advice would you give to women or couples considering a third-trimester abortion?
I would urge them, first of all, to seek a second opinion. In our work at Priests for Life, all of us have met women who say they received terrible pre-natal diagnoses and their babies were fine. So a second opinion is vital. If they are sure their baby has a life-limiting illness, I would suggest they look into perinatal hospice at perinatalhospice.org. A loving birth and a dignified death are always preferable to a brutal, soul-scarring abortion. If the parents are worried about not being able to care for a disabled, or multiply disabled child, I would suggest they go to BeNotAfraid.net to find resources and support. And I would ask them to consider the risks to the mother. Women die from these procedures. That’s a truth no one can refute.