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D & X / Partial Birth Abortion procedures


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Topics covered:

bulletStrategies used in the D&X/D&X debates
bulletPublic opinion surveys

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Strategies used by both sides during the D&X debates:

Note: While other essays on D&X procedures are on factual data, (unless indicated) the following is partly the opinion of the author.

The tactics used by both sides appear to be nonsensical and largely counter-productive. The public was (and is) overwhelmingly in favor of a law restricting D&Xs, except when absolutely required to save a woman from death or very serious disability. But, the religious and political forces who fought for a ban were able to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Meanwhile, some of those who wanted a law to permit D&Xs, whenever needed to prevent very serious harm or disability to the woman, appeared either unintelligent, misinformed or unethical. Some examples:

bulletData on numbers of D&Xs performed in the U.S. were hopelessly distorted by both sides.
bulletSome experts testifying about the fetus' ability to feel pain appear to have knowingly lied under oath.
bulletThe reasons why D&Xs are performed were often hopelessly distorted.
bulletThe proposed legislation and amendments were consistently misrepresented:
bulletThe bill was described as not permitting a D&X, even if required to save the life of the woman.
bulletAmendments to the bill were described as allowing D&Xs for any vague, mild health reason.
bulletThe timing and wording of the bills seemed to have less to do with restricting the procedure and everything to do with creating a weapon that could be useful to clobber the other party in election campaigns.
bulletMost of the state laws to restrict D&X abortions are so generally worded that they could be used to ban even first trimester abortions. They are clearly unconstitutional and did not withstand a challenge in court. Pro-choice groups obtained three injunctions to prevent the federal anti-D&X law from being enforced.

Pastor Matt Trewhella supports a complete ban on abortions. He believes that the D&X legislative initiatives were bungled by conservative Christian groups. 1 He asserts:

bulletIt is wasted energy to pursue "...miniscule-measure legislation...D&X abortion is the method used to kill less than 1% of the preborn babies killed by abortion..."
bulletHe cites William Wilberforce's fight against slavery. Wilberforce believed that the adoption of half-measures would give away the moral high ground. "That to introduce half-measures against this 'man-stealing,' would lead the public to no longer view it as raw evil, but rather, just a bad thing which needed to be regulated." Pastor Trewhella believes that the same principle applies to abortion.
bulletMuch of the public now believes that D&Xs are the main abortion procedure used to terminate pregnancies.
bulletThe legislative fights have made it possible for any legislator who voted for the D&X ban to claim to be "pro-life." When the pro-life movement began in the early 70's, being pro-life meant you were 100% opposed to any and all abortion. In the early 80's, that standard was watered down to include those who had rape, incest, and the life of the mother exceptions. Now in the 90's, things have declined so rapidly that someone who is only opposed to partial-birth abortions can sell themselves as pro-life."
bulletPro-choice groups (which Rev. Trewhella calls "Pro-Abortion") now have a great tool to generate fear among their supporters, and raise lots of money.

His proposal is that all "abortions" be outlawed: from those that he believes are caused by the morning-after pill to a D&X performed during a delivery. This would presumably include abortions needed to save the life of the woman. Such a law would obviously require either the passing of a constitutional amendment or an increase in the numbers of pro-life advocates in Supreme Court.

This essay continues below.

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Gallup public opinion surveys:

The Gallup Organization has monitored public opinion on D&X procedures since 1996. Unfortunately, the question that they asked American adults allowed only two options: to keep the practice legal or to criminalize it, unless it is necessary to save the life of the woman. There was no intermediate option: e.g. to criminalize it unless it is necessary to prevent a major health disaster for the woman. The latter situation is the crux of the debate in Congress.

The specific question asked was: "If you could vote on this issue directly, would you vote for or against the following: a law which would make it illegal to perform a specific abortion procedure conducted in the last six months of pregnancy known as a 'partial birth abortion,' except in cases necessary to save the life of the mother?" 

Date Criminalize procedure Keep procedure legal
2000-MAR 66% 29%
1999-MAY 61% 34%
1998-JAN 61% 36%
1997-MAR 55% 40%
1996-APR 57% 39%

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Zogby public opinion surveys:

On 2000-DEC-15 to 17, Zogby International conducted a poll of 1,015 "likely voters."  They found that:

bullet58% favored the president signing a bill to ban D&X abortions. Support appears to have come mainly from Republican voters: 81% of Bush supporters favor the bill, compared to 35% of Gore supporters.
bullet32% favored the president vetoing a bill that criminalizes D&X abortions. 2

The margin of error is approximately 3.2 percentage points.

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  1. Pastor Matt Trewhella, "Coming home to roost: Fruit of the ill-conceived Partial Birth Abortion strategy," at Missionaries to the Preborn. See: http://www.execpc.com/~restore/mtp/mtp
  2. "New Zogby 'American Values' Poll reveals: Voters want estate tax eliminated; Support Presidential ban on partial-birth abortions; Favor phased in $1 minimum wage increase," 2000-DEC-20, at: http://www.zogby.com/news/

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Copyright © 1996 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Last updated: 2005-MAR-18

Author: B.A. Robinson

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