Partial Birth Abortion

In the continuing debates on the legality and morality of abortion, “partial birth” abortions have become a hot topic. What exactly is a partial birth abortion? Nebraska state legislation defines it as “an abortion procedure in which the person performing the abortion partially delivers a living unborn child before killing the unborn child and completing delivery” (1). While this definition may be fine for legal purposes, it still does not address the actual procedures; we still do not know what an actual partial birth abortion procedure entails.

The most common procedure is called Intact Dilation and Evacuation, or D&E. D&E involves dismembering the fetus inside the uterine cavity and then pulling it out through the already dilated cervix (1) . Another less common, but more controversial method is the dilation and extraction method, or D&X. This procedure requires a woman to take medication several days in advance to dilate the cervix. Once the cervix has dilated, she returns to complete the procedure. When she returns, the physician turns the fetus around in the uterus so that it is positioned feet first, and then delivers the fetus until only the head remains inside the mother’s body. At this point, the physician punctures the base if the skull and suctions out the contents of the fetus’ head, causing the skull to collapse. The dead fetus is then removed from the woman’s body (2). In each case the head (or more) is left inside the woman’s body because in order for a birth to have occurred under common law the head of the fetus must leave the mother’s body. Under the current interpretation of the United States Constitution, a person must be born in order to be protected by the government, so by leaving the head in the mother’s body the procedure is considered to be legally viable (1).

Proponents of a ban on partial birth abortions cite what they see as the extreme cruelty of the procedures as violating the constitutional rights of the fetus. They believe that birth should be defined as occurring as soon as any part of the fetus’ torso above the navel is visible, or when any of the fetus’ body has left the mother (1). Many argue that since the fetus in undoubtedly alive during the procedure, the issue of whether or not an actual birth has occurred should be of little consequence (3). Since partial birth abortions are performed late-term, many of the fetuses could in fact be self-sustaining outside of the mother’s body.

Those who oppose the ban argue that it jeopardizes the health and safety of the mother. Since all partial birth abortion bans presented in Congress and state legislatures have been vague as to which procedures they prohibit, the overall threat to women’s health is too great and would place an “undue burden” on the women in question (1). Late term abortion procedures that are not partial birth involve dismembering the fetus inside the uterus without cervical dilation, which can leave behind fetal tissue, or require the head to come out of the mother’s body uncollapsed, which can result in a live birth (1). In either of these procedures, there is a higher risk of puncturing the uterus or damaging the cervix than there is with partial birth methods (2). Banning partial birth abortions would leave these procedures as the only option for late term abortion. Additionally, none of the partial birth bans have included clauses allowing such procedures if they are necessary to the mother’s health and well-being. This means that if a woman had to have a late term abortion to save her own life, she would be forced to choose a riskier procedure. Since few women choose to terminate after seven to eight months of pregnancy for non-health related reasoning, it follows that most women seeking a late term abortion would be put in a difficult position. This is what the anti-ban groups mean when they refer to an undue burden on the mother’s health (4).

When I began my investigation, I was sure of my position on abortion rights, and convinced that little could change my mind, regardless of what the procedures actually involved. However, when reading the case made by the pro-ban side of the argument, I could not help but agree with certain things they said. Does birth really define life? I’m not so sure that I agree that it does. Does this mean that I completely disapprove of partial birth abortion? No – I still feel that a woman should be able to choose the safest method available, and in the case of late term abortions, partial birth procedures have obvious benefits. The information I gathered has, however, caused me to question my unconditional support of the procedures – should elective abortions really be allowed if the procedures are as, well, unpleasant as partial birth methods are? What I once thought were clear cut lines between the legal, the biological and the sentimental aspects of the issue have blurred.


Abortion gives the mother an option not to have a baby if she doesn’t chooses not to have one. In some cases, abortions can save the life of the mother. Poor families greatly benefit from abortions. For those still in school, abortions give teenagers a normal life, and would help them succeed in school. These are reasons why abortions are good for the American Society. Abortions can save the life of the woman because a baby could cause a great health risk to the mother. This risk involves death, or permanent damage to the female. An abortion should be performed at this point because the death of a fetus is better than the death of the mother. A woman is a full person, while the fetus is not. Once the fetus has been removed, and there’s no more risk to the mother. Then, she can try an have another baby if she wishes. Poor women are more likely to have more abortions than that of the middle, or upper class. Poor women don’t have the financial means to take care of the child, therefore abortions would help them. Also, a lot of the poor women already have children to take of, and adding one more would greatly burden the already financially troubled parent. Again, allowing them to have an abortion would help them. Once the fetus has been aborted, then the parents can concentrate on their other children.

Teenagers are more affected by having a baby these days than it would have been 100 years ago. There are more responsibilities for the average teenager, they have to study, work, and go to school for an entire day. This leaves almost no time to take care of a child. Also, the teenager would have to most likely support the child by herself. This alone is a greater responsibility than anything in her life. All her time would be put into taking care of the child, that she would have almost no time to study. The consequence of this is the teen dropping out of school, and not even getting a high school diploma or finishing her year in college. Without a high school diploma, the likeliness of the teen finding a job that offers other than minimum wage is slim. This could mean that she is almost living in poverty, and barely making it on her own. Let’s now consider that the father of the child is helping with the duties that come along with a baby. He would most likely be working minimum wage just trying to make ends meet. If he still attended school, than he would probably be getting poor grades. Then he would stuck in the same situation as the mother. Teenagers just don’t have the time or financial resources to care for a child. Even if they receive welfare, that’s really not enough to pay for the child

Since teens are going to have sex anyways, then they should be taught about it. Most schools do offer sex education programs to the students. Sex education is good because it teaches teens about sex, along with how to be safe. The class can also teach the teenagers about the consequences of having sex, or unsafe sex. Teaching students about sex can reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancy’s and reduce the chances of acquiring a sexually transmitted disease. In these programs, using a condom is taught, and alternatives to it are discussed. But, the best way not to get pregnant, is to not have sex at all. If the mother was in grave danger from the unborn child, than I don’t think there’s anyway that the baby can be saved. Leaving the fetus in the mother could complicate the health of the mother. Her reproductive system could get damaged, and she could even die. If the baby were to get aborted, then she could try to have another one if she is ready.
Even though poor women are more likely to get abortions, they don’t necessarily need to have them done. There are other alternatives for the pregnant woman to turn to. They can give the baby up for adoption, or they can have the baby and go on welfare until they find a job. But, since the parents are poor, then it might be hard for them to even pay for the medical bills. Teenagers have many options that they could turn to. If the parents were willing, then they could take care of the child while their teen attended school. The mother of the could opt to give the baby up for adoption. This is a good alternative because it doesn’t leave any responsibilities to the teen. Plus the baby would be given to a couple that really wants to be parents.

In conclusion, abortion is good because poor women probably can’t afford a child. So, an abortion would be good for them. An abortion can help save the mother from harm, and possible death. It could allow a teenager to carry on with her normal life, without dealing with the hardships of taking care of a baby.