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Pros & Cons of Partial Birth Abortion



There are two categories of arguments in support of partial-birth abortions: medical and logistical/personal reasons.

Medical Reasons For Partial-Birth Abortions

Medical conditions and indications may develop after the first trimester (12 weeks) of pregnancy that could threaten the mother's life and/or health. Late-occurring medical conditions can include:

-- Heart failure
-- Severe or uncontrollable diabetes
-- Serious renal disease
-- Uncontrollable hypertension (high blood pressure)
-- Severe depression

Medical conditions of the fetus may become known or could develop after the first trimester of pregnancy, such as severe deformities and genetic disorders, which may cause the woman to seek an abortion.

Common Logistical and Personal Reasons for Partial Birth Abortions

-- Lack or lack of recognition of pregnancy symptoms, particularly by adolescents
-- Inability to afford a first trimester abortion
-- Inability to locate medical assistance during first trimester (due to lack of local medical professionals)
-- Lack of financial resources, emotional support, and/or partner


Supporters of a ban on partial-birth abortion argue that it's not merely a medical procedure, but is infanticide. Their logic is as follows: if a partial, breech delivery is used in the procedure, a birth occurs for constitutional purposes, as well as a newly-born person with the usual constitutional rights.

Missouri law, for instance, states that partial-birth abortion is infanticide, which it defines as "causing the death of a living infant with the purpose to cause said death by an overt act performed when the infant is partially born or born." In Missouri, infanticide is a Class A Felony crime.

Religious leaders are near unanimous in their condemnation of partial-birth abortion as immoral and wrong. Most religious faiths, though, believe that exceptions must be made to save the life and usually the health of the mother.

"Jewish law states that a fetus becomes a person after its head has emerged. Most partial-birth abortions occur only after the baby's navel has appeared. Rabbis believe...that a mother may not make a decision to have an abortion based on convenience, nor may she may look at the half-born child and decide the baby is not what she wanted. However, there remains debate over whether or not a partial-birth abortion is permissible if the procedure saves the mother," writes Maya Berezovsky of college outreach of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops takes a clear stance, "...it makes no sense to say one must kill a child who is more than half born to advance the mother's health instead of simply completing a live delivery.

The American Medical Association has said that partial-birth abortion is never medically necessary. To claim it as a constitutional right makes a mockery of the U.S. Constitution. There is no place in a civilized society for this cruel and dangerous practice, and we look forward to today's decision being overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court."

Where It Stands

Legal and ideological battle lines are being drawn and reinforced in anticipation of the US Supreme Court's relook at partial-birth abortion in Fall 2006 when it hears new arguments. Politically, the timing of these Court hearings, and the tenor of emotional controversy surrounding them, could have an important impact on the Fall 2006 Congressional elections.

Staunch pro-choice groups fear that conservatives are using the partial-birth abortion issue as a first step in redefining and restricting abortion rights secured in the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling by the Supreme Court.

Given the recent additions of conservative justices John Roberts,Jr. and Samuel Alito, Jr. to the US Supreme Court, chances are strong that the Court may take a more ideologically-conservative stance on partial-birth abortion than it has in its past rulings on the issue.

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