Q. How are abortion clinics protecting themselves against charges under the partial-birth abortion ban?
A. By ensuring unborn babies are
dead by injecting them first with lethal drugs before aborting them.
The practice has been adopted by many abortion providers across the U.S. in the wake of the Supreme Court decision upholding the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, reported the Boston Globe.
The banned abortion procedure is particularly grisly. It requires the abortion doctor to partially deliver a live baby, then kill it by inserting scissors into the base of its head and using a suctioning machine to remove its brain.
Other procedures, employed in earlier-term pregnancies, kill the unborn child in the womb and the doctor removes the body parts afterward. But even with this procedure, live births have occurred.
The federal ban, upheld in August, does not specify the age of the baby and mandates a two-year prison sentence for violations.
In order to avoid any chance of a live birth and prosecution, three major Harvard-affiliated hospitals – Massachusetts General, Brigham and Women's, and Beth Israel Deaconess – have made lethal injections in the womb a standard operating procedure for abortions at 20 weeks gestation or later.
"No physician even wants to be accused of stumbling into accidentally doing one of these procedures," Dr. Michael F. Greene, director of obstetrics at Massachusetts General, told the Globe.
In some facilities, patients are given the choice to use lethal injection. Generally, it is believed the risk to the woman is slight, although critics of the federal ban say they should not have to be inconvenienced. Some case reports suggest a danger to the woman if one of the common drugs used, potassium chloride, is accidentally injected into her.
Prior to the actual abortion, the baby is injected with either potassium chloride – one of the drugs used for lethal injections of criminals – or the heart drug digoxin.
But Dr. Mark Nichols, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University, does not give women a choice if their baby is over 20 weeks' gestation – the injection is required.
"I guess I'm a little bit more concerned about the risk for the faculty and staff here," he said.
So concerned over possible prosecution is Nichols, he will no longer allow medical and nursing students to observe late-term abortions at his clinic, fearing someone might lodge a criminal complaint.
The National Abortion Federation has been impressed with the effectiveness
of the lethal drugs and has developed a protocol for using digoxin for
its members and is providing them with training.
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