"This is an area that we just don't know much about,"..."The information just isn't available." Stanley K. Henshaw, a senior fellow at the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research group that has the best available data.
Since the death of Dr. George Tiller and his relationship with the church, one thing is clear, the church is conflicted over this issue as great as anyone. Why? I suppose it's because of the nature of abortion and especially late term abortion itself, and the seemingly inconsistent way that Dr. Tiller approached his profession over the course of his lifetime.
As recorded in This Doesn't Fulfill The Mission Of Christ, We decry abortion in all of it's forms. We believe that the unborn have a right to life. We also don't believe that Christians or otherwise should take the law in their hands and kill medical professionals who provide such services. However, and this is where it gets sticky, We believe that the already born have a right to life also.
In this article I intend to look at some of the facts that we should know regarding these procedures and the the thoughts of some of the medical professionals who perform such procedures? Are they whimsically recommending procedures based on their own thoughts and libertarian attitudes towards life? Are the women wantonly using late trimester abortions as another means of delayed birth control with the endorsement of the state? Most importantly, is the church, in particularly the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America (ELCA) responsible for Dr. Tiller's death in a vicariously strange manner? It's worth taking a look at and discussing so that those of us who oppose abortion will better understand the processes behind these types of actions and attitudes, and filter out some of the noise regarding the issues.
What We Do Know?
According to a 6/5/09 article by Rob Stein at The Washington Post, more than 88 percent of abortions are done in the first trimester, and most doctors will not perform them beyond 22 or 24 weeks because of moral qualms, social stigma, legal concerns, inadequate training or lack of experience. Barely 1 percent of procedures are done after 21 weeks. At 37 weeks, a baby is generally considered full-term. 2001 data from 15 states and New York City indicate that perhaps as many as 2,400 abortions were performed after 24 weeks in the United States that year, most of them probably in the 25th or 26th week. Late term abortions represent roughly about 1% of all types of abortions performed. It is estimated that 400 procedures per year beyond 24 weeks were performed at Tiller's clinic. Those figures would place Dr. Tiller's clinic at about 7.7 late term abortion procedures per week over the course of a year. The figures at his clinic represent about 16% of all annual late term abortions performed in the country.
Since proper records are not gathered as to the necessity of abortions, abortion rights advocates often contend that the only necessity for late term abortions are when the fetus is maldeveloped, in danger of suffering from a painful death itself or when the life of the mother is in danger or she is at risk from suffering a devastating health condition or problem. Under Kansas law, an abortion can be performed after a fetus is viable only IF the doctor performing the procedure and an independent physician agree that the woman's life is at risk or that continuing the pregnancy would cause "substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."
The procedures of Kansas law settles at least one thing: Dr. Tiller WAS NOT merely performing these procedures at his whims or begging of the mothers or families involved. With each corresponding abortion (aka: possible legal murder) there has been another doctor "an independent physician" who has also signed off and agreed that the procedure is in the best interest of the mother or fetus. The problem is where is the bureaucracy? This could be a "quid pro quo" relationship. This should be a huge ethical, professional standards and even RICO problem. Why isn't proper documentation of this sort of thing mandatory and standard across the board? Why does the federal law not recognize the need to maintain adequate records and keep accurate statistical trends of these type of procedures? Isn't it in the public's best interest to have access to more thorough and complete data so that public problems can be made known and addressed forthrightly?
Was This Dr. Tiller's Mindset?
A Few Cases Out Of 60,000
"As long as you have a terrorist who is willing to walk into a church and kill one person, as long as that element is in society, this is the risk we take. You can't live your life based on fear. You have to live by your principles." ~ MSNBC Abortion Dr. Seeks To Carry On Friends Work
Dr. LeRoy Carhart, who is a vocal abortion rights advocate, for years has been at the epicenter of the debate on late term or partial-birth abortions. Dr. Carhart, who doesn't perform procedures past the 22nd week of pregnancy, first met Tiller more than 20 years ago and began working at the Wichita clinic a decade ago. He said he regularly traveled to Kansas for a few days every third week. He only performs third-term abortions in Kansas at Tiller's clinic at the rate of about 25% of Tiller's business or in hard numbers about 75 to 100 procedures per year. These are the types of procedures he's seen and done at the clinic:
Brainless fetus: "The latest patient was a case where the fetus had no brain at all, would never take a breath on its own. That was probably just a few weeks before delivery," said LeRoy Carhart, a Bellevue, Neb., doctor who worked with Tiller, in an interview this week. "Her doctor knew the problem all along but just never told her."
The rape victim: "There was a woman who tried to commit suicide three times. She was pregnant because she had been raped. She said every time she felt the baby move, it was the rape all over again. She could not live with that," ~ Dr. LeRoy Carhart
Our responses to something like this is that #1, these types of cases are not normative. These sort of extreme cases only seek to appeal emotionally to the issue and are not representative of the actual facts of abortion. I have outlined those facts in Abortion Issues & Myths. #2 In these sort of instances the doctors are playing the part of God by at least helping decide who actually lives and who dies. This is an unacceptable role for medical personnel.
Here's one more interesting statement from an abortion doctor regarding late term abortions:
"If someone calls me up, and she's 32 weeks pregnant and knew she was pregnant for six months and says, 'I want an abortion, because I just broke up with my boyfriend,' I won't do that, But a 13-year-old teenybopper clutching a pink teddy bear who has been raped by her stepfather -- I'll do that." ~ Dr. Warren M. Hern, a Boulder, Colo., doctor who is one of the very few physicians who perform the procedures and are willing to speak publicly.
Here the doctor decides to address the ungodly and horrible situation that has happened to the parent (mother) by punishing the child for the rapist's crime and criminal act. I agree that carrying the baby would be difficult, but I'd also agree that the child along with the mother are the innocent victims and to victimize the child further by denying him/her the opportunity to make something good out of his/her life would be as great of a sin and crime as the initial act of rape.
The More Normative Reason That There Is An Option Called Late Term Abortion:
According to B.A. Robinson at Religious Tolerance.org there are 3 primary reasons that late term abortions are available as options. Those reasons are as follows:
To save the life or health of a women experiencing a deteriorating health problem. This problem can rapidly grow worse with every day in late pregnancy, and can only be reversed by terminating the pregnancy. It is most often caused by diabetes or heart disease.
A midwifery web site quotes Dr. William F. Harrison, a diplomate of the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. He wrote that "approximately 1 in 2000 fetuses develop hydrocephalus while in the womb." About 5,000 fetuses develop hydrocephalus each year in the U.S. This is not usually discovered until late in the second trimester. A fetus with severe hydrocephalus is alive, but cannot live for long; it will never achieve consciousness.
In rare cases, the delivery of the fetus can go terribly wrong, threatening the life of the woman.
What Are The Procedural Options For Late Term Abortions?
There are generally 2 options for late term abortion procedures. 1- "D&X" (dilation and extraction) and 2- A hysterotomy, which is similar to a Cesarean section.
1- D&X Procedure (aka: Partial Birth Abortion) ~ The woman's cervix is dilated. If necessary, the fetus is rotated until it is facing feet downwards. The surgeon reaches into the uterus and pulls the fetus' body, with the exception of its head, out of the woman's body. Surgical scissors are inserted into the base of the fetal skull, and withdrawn. A suction tube is inserted and the fetus' brains are removed through aspiration. This partially collapses the fetal skull. The fetus is then fully removed from the woman's body.
2- Hysterotomy ~ The woman is given a local anesthetic. A cut is made into her abdomen which extends into the uterus. The fetus is removed. The placenta is then removed. Finally, the incision is stitched.
This is probably another of the most interesting pieces to this potpourri. In it's Social Statement On Abortion, The churches position almost mirrors the doctor's actions and practices regarding this issue. Look at the considerations for pregnancy termination under IV Guidence in Making Decisions Regarding Unintended Pregnancies sub-Section B. Ending a Pregnancy
"In reflecting ethically on what should be done in the case of an unintended pregnancy, consideration should be given to the status and condition of the life in the womb. We also need to consider the conditions under which the pregnancy occurred and the implications of the pregnancy for the woman's life."
This statement deals with unintended pregnancy and gives the right of consideration to not only a woman's health or the health of the fetus but also to the conditions under which the pregnancy occured and the implications of that pregnancy to the woman's life. In other words, this statement makes abortion in as a matter of convenience. I do not find this in accord with scripture regarding the issue. Here's an additional statement:
"A woman should not be morally obligated to carry the resulting pregnancy to term if the pregnancy occurs when both parties do not participate willingly in sexual intercourse. This is especially true in cases of rape and incest."
Once again, the ELCA places the sanctity of life lower than the conditions under which that life is conceived. Dr. Tiller's actions were in accord with his church's teachings on the issue. If there is judgement upon Dr. Tiller, there will also be judgement upon this church and its leadership. Is this church considered an enemy in the abortion debate?
Summary & Conclusion:
The percentage of types of procedures normally performed at Tiller's former clinic are undetermined. Once again, inadequate records are kept and unless the clinic produces those records we may never know exactly what type of procedure that Dr. Tiller favored.
Procedures to remove dead children from the womb are yet considered abortions. There is no record or way of distinguishing what percentage of Dr. Tiller's procedures were on either children who had already died or on children who suffered hydrocephalus who would never live. In these cases procedures would be preferred to allowing a mother to go through a delivery or maintain carry which could possibly kill he mother in the process.
Neither Dr. Tiller or his associates could independently perform such procedures. They would have had to at least network with an independent physician who would also comply and agree with his recommendation to terminate pregnancy at such a late stage under Kansas law.
George Tiller rationalized his actions and thought he was doing God and the world a favor by taking the life of the unborn due to situations of rape and incest. he acted according to his church's prevailing teachings.
It would seem that the practice of first and second trimester abortions are more contraceptive in nature, where the practice of late or third term abortions is more of a health conscious decisions based on condition of the fetus or the endangerment of the mother's life.
It also seems that there is not adequate pastoral council at ground level, in these situations. At least there is no record of such. This is disconcerting, as the religious community seems to approach this subject from a one size fits all vantage point at times.
It would also seem that Dr. Tiller actions were in full compliance to the views and statements of his church regarding these issues. This leads me to believe that the basis for his apparent clear conscience was the fundamental teachings of his church regarding this issue. Is the ELCA responsible for the actions and judgement against Dr. Tiller? Is there a consideration that Dr. Tiller's blood is on the ELCA's hands?
This is very shocking to say the least. There is a strong potential that a person is in HELL because of the direct teachings of his church which the Dr. followed and defended to a Tee. I said in the previous post that the church had a responsibility and I see that conclusion was right ONLY that the church did not seem to have its responsibility biblically centered. Is the church responsible for Dr. Tiller's death? On a personal note, will someone spend eternity in HELL because of you?