Partial Birth Abortion

lilpbaIn September, 1993, Brenda Pratt Shafer, a registered nurse with thirteen years or experience, was assigned by her nursing agency to an abortion clinic. Since Nurse Shafer considered herself “very pro-choice,” she didn’t think this assignment would be a problem. She was wrong. This is what Nurse Shafer saw:

” I stood at the doctor’s side and watched him perform a partial-birth abortion on a woman who was six months pregnant. The baby’s heartbeat was clearly visible on the ultrasound screen. The doctor delivered the baby’s body and arms, everything but his little head. The baby’s body was moving. His little fingers were clasping together. He was kicking his feet. The doctor took a pair of scissors and inserted them into the back of the baby’s head, and the baby’s arms jerked out in a flinch, a startle reaction, like a baby does when he thinks that he might fall. Then the doctor opened the scissors up. Then he stuck the high-powered suction tube into the hole and sucked the baby’s brains out. Now the baby was completely limp. I never went back to the clinic. But I am still haunted by the face of that little boy. It was the most perfect, angelic face I have ever seen.”

The Facts

lilpba2Partial Birth Abortion, a late-term and highly controversial abortion procedure, is currently legal in almost the entire United States. The baby is killed when it is only a few inches from being given full U.S. citizenship and the legal right to life. The baby is alive when the Partial Birth Abortion procedure is performed.

A few states have outlawed some or all forms of Partial Birth Abortion. The national Congress has passed a Partial Birth Abortion ban, however President Clinton has vetoed this bill. The American Medical Association Legislative Council voted unanimously to recommend endorsement of the bill, however the Senate has still been unable to override Clinton’s veto.

Partial Birth Abortion remains legal primarily because of common misconceptions about the topic. Many people believe that partial birth abortions are rare, and are only performed to save the mother. However, in the United States alone, thousands of partial birth abortions are performed every year, almost exclusively for elective and not health-based reasons. These babies are killed: were they to be fully and not partially delivered their lives could be saved. Many people argue that the anesthetics used in the process kill the baby, so death to the child painless. However the American Society of Anesthesiologists testified to Congress that this is simply not true2.

lilpba3The main issue protecting partial birth abortions is fear that women may need this procedure to preserve their health. However America’s leading authority on late-term abortion stated that partial birth abortion is “never necessary to preserve a woman’s health.”3 Partial birth abortion is an unneccessary procedure that sacrifices thousands of children.


1. U.S. Senate Hearing Report 104-260, p.23.
2. U.S. Senate Hearing Report 104-260, p.108.
3. Dr. Warren Hern, in American Medical News, Nov 20, 1995.
Diagrams and interview courtesy of National Right to Life