The Death of Conscience
The following editorial first appeared in the National Right to Life News,
February 23, 1993.
Used with permission.
Legend: *italicized* ^underlined^ #boldface#
by David Andrusko, NRL News Editor#
"The problem is fetal-cervical disproportion."#
*Dr. James McMahon, who specializes in late second- and third-trimester
abortions.* Every once in a while, it is necessary to remind ourselves
just how hideous abortion really is, lest it become nothing more than a
mere abstraction to us. This edition of #NRL News# is just such an
occasion, and I advise those of you who are squeamish to buckle your seat
Many people told me they were shocked speechless by the Abu Hayat case. As
you may remember, in 1991 Hayat aborted 20-year-old Rosa Rodriguez.
Miraculously, her 32-34-week-old baby survived the assault. However, the
baby's right arm was sheared off. Yesterday, the "Butcher of Avenue A" was
found guilty of four counts of assault and of performing an illegal
abortion. The natural temptationis to ask, how could things possibly get
worse? Read on.
Richard Glasow's story on page four outlines the ghastly essentials of a
paper delivered last September at the National Abortion Federation (NAF)
Risk Management Seminar held in Dallas. Titled "Second Trimester Abortion:
From Every Angle," the author was Dr. Martin Haskell, an Ohio abortionist
who plies his trade in Cincinnati and suburban Dayton. According to Jenny
Westberg, writing in the February issue of *LIFE ADVOCATE*, Haskell
included a 10-minute video of a relatively new late-term abortion
technique which Haskell has dubbed "D & X" (dilation and extraction). Some
background is in order.
As they kill more and more babies later and later in pregnancy,
abortionists are running into real problems. These little blobs are so
well-developed that abortionists speak, almost admiringly, of the
"toughness of fetal tissues." In addition, traditional methods of aborting
these huge babies - - installation methods such as saline and
prostaglandin - - occasionally do not kill the baby. (This can occur even
though the saline scalds the baby's body and the prostaglandin induces
violent contractions and premature delivery.) Understandably, this two-or
three-day ordeal is a nightmare for the mother, whose baby thrashes about
helplessly, and for the support staff.
But not to worry. Ever on the cutting edge of medical technology,
abortionists are discovering techniques that guarantee #both# a dead baby
#and# one easier to "evacuate." The modern abortionist, loaded down with
high-tech options, can choose between injecting lethal chemical solutions
into the amniotic fluid, into the umbilical cord, or - if he's REALLY
"skillful" - - directly into the baby's heart.
Some of these "conscientious practitioners" (as the AMA likes to call
them) still use a prostaglandin to extract the baby. However, because on
occasion this can result in what the *Philadelphia Inquirer* once called
the "dreaded complication" (a live birth), more and more specialists have
switched to "D & E" - - dilation and evacuation. The good doctor simply
grabs ahold of the baby and tears her apart. Nooo chance of a live baby,
But, doggone it, wouldn't you know it, as you advance into the second and
third trimesters, the bones and muscles of these inconsiderate
accumulations of protoplasm (in Westberg's apt description) "are so
well-formed that the abortionist cannot easily pull the child apart with
forceps." Enter specialists such as Haskell and McMahon.
Most people, even the most ardent proponents of "choice," might pause
here. Not our dedicated physicians to whom the only problem, of course, is
technical - - "fetal-cervical disproportion," i.e., the baby's head is so
large it won't make it through the cervix. In the D & E method, the
abortionist uses forceps to crush the kid's head and tear the body limb
from limb. Haskell and McMahon's contribution is ingenious. Basically,
rather than dismember the baby in the uterus, they remove the child intact
- - all but the head, that is - and then . . . well, I better back up bit.
To "evacuate" a baby that is upwards of a foot in length, the abortionist
has to dilate and dilate and dilate the woman's cervix. As Haskell
described it at the NAF convention, that takes a couple of days. On the
third day, he ruptures the membrane, if it hasn't already done so, and
drains the amniotic fluid. The assistant "places an ultrasound probe on
the patient's abdomen and scans the fetus, locating the lower
extremities." The abortionist then uses either of two "large grasping
forceps" such as a Bierer or Hern (named after the justly famous Colorado
abortionist Warren Hern) to catch ahold of the baby's leg. If the kid's
head is facing out, the abortionist yanks him around. The baby's leg is
then pulled out into the birth canal. What follows, Westberg describes as
a delivery "in a manner similar to vaginal breech birth."
Using his hands, the abortionist grasps the baby's other leg, then "the
torso, the shoulders and the upper extremities." The skull "usually" gets
stuck at the internal cervical os, Haskell said. Understand: the helpless
victim is #still alive#, her little legs no doubt frantically waving not
far from the abortionist's face. The abortionist, dedicated craftsman that
he is, plows ahead. He takes a pair of blunt-tipped scissors and jams them
into the kid's head at the base of the skull. In Haskell's words, "Having
safely entered the skull, he [the abortionist] spreads the scissors to
enlarge the opening." Then, out with the scissors, in with a suction
catheter, and, faster than you can say
the kid's brains are sucked out. As McMahon said in a 1990 interview with
the *New York Times*, "The head gets very small ." Referring to himself,
Haskell told his NAF audience, "The author has performed over 700 of these
procedures with a low rate of complications." (It is important to
appreciate the connection to fetal tissue experimentation. See "Are There
Any Limits?," page two.)
We should not think that Haskell and McMahon are alone in this grisly
practice, although it's sure easy to focus on them, particularly McMahon
who actually uses a similar technique for babies up to 32-weeks. "That's
my speciality," is how the Los Angeles *Times's* Karen Tumulty quotes him
in a 1990 article, referring to abortion. "That's my expertise. That's my
passion." A self-described "classical liberal," McMahon says, "I frankly
think the soul or personage comes in when the fetus is accepted by the
Tumulty reported that about one third of the 1200 abortions McMahon does
annually are "later abortions." McMahon charges $8,000 for the most
complicated abortions, $500 for earlier abortions, "which is more than
double the rate asked at most clinics," Tumulty wrote. Haskell "drives a
Jaguar, lives about a mile down the road from former baseball superstar
Pete Rose in Cincinnati's Indian Hills suburb, and enjoys an affluent
lifestyle from his two abortion clinics," reported Dave Daley in a 1989
article that appeared in the *Dayton Daily News*. "Haskell, 43, wouldn't
say how much he earns from his two clinics, but said he employs up to 40
people and has a separate accounting office."
But the ability to perform acts that boggle the mind goes with the
territory. An abortionist in Colorado filed an affidavit with the Colorado
Department of Health in June 1992. He had had a falling out with the owner
of an abortion clinic he was trying to buy, but for our purposes, what
matters is how he alleged the abortionist disposed of the remains of
babies killed in the second trimester.
He said he had visited the abortion clinic in 1989. He saw several white
plastic buckets "each containing fetuses from about 15 to 22 weeks size."
The owner reached up and brought down several pieces of metal which he
assembled and which the second abortionist said "resembled the same meat
grinder that my mother used years ago to grind up meat into hamburger
According to the affidavit, the owner emptied the buckets into the hopper,
pressed the tissue down with one hand as he turned the handle with the
other hand, grinding the bodies. "As he did this the tissue oozed out of
the end of the grinder like multiple tubes of pink toothpaste." Although
no stranger to abortion's blood and guts, the prospective buyer vomited
into an adjacent sink while the owner allegedly said he'd better get used
to it because no one else on staff would do it.
But in some ways, it can get even worse. As mentioned, some abortionists
still use a prostaglandin technique in the second and third trimesters,
which prematurely expels the (usually) dead baby after violent
contractions. According to the July/August 1991 issue of *Journal of
Obstetric-Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing*, there is a definite role for
nurses in this "physically and emotionally painful event." Although the
emphasis in the subhead is on "fetal abnormalities," the story itself
makes clear that the women seeking these second-trimester abortions
include those who want "elective procedures based on personal reasons such
When the baby survives, the abortionist's best efforts to the contrary
notwithstanding, this can freak out families, as you might well imagine.
But, as usual, the trade is up to the challenge. Adapting recommendations
from a "Perinatal Bereavement Program" used in Chicago, the author tells
us there are "interventions" to make when a "live fetus or a fetus with
gross abnormalities" happens on the scene. For example, after the baby is
delivered, he/she should be cleaned up and wrapped in a blanket.
"Encourage the mother and family to view, touch and hold the fetus," she
advises. A picture would be nice, along with a "pink or blue name card
with the name of the fetus and the date and time of birth and death."
Don't forget the name band and be sure to ink the baby's (make that
fetus's) feet and hands to make prints. And, "A birth certificate, if
appropriate, and in accordance with the parents' wishes" would be in
There is no way I can think of to explain how anyone could be a party to
any of this. Who knows, perhaps part of it may be contained in Tumulty's
observation that McMahon was "fascinated by the technical aspects of the
procedure." As I read these accounts, which almost defy imagination, it
brought to mind what William E. Seidelman calls "medspeak" - - the
medical culture's "informal colloquial language and euphemisms."
Describing the Nazi program of medicalized murder, Seidelman wrote that
"this program of mass murder began when physicians decided that human life
was of differential value; when race became a metaphor for disease." He
concluded, "The penultimate expression of the medicalization of human
destruction is exemplified by the 'medspeak' of Auschwitz, where
physicians described the gas chamber/crematorium as the 'Great Hospital'
where the 'patients' received the 'Great Therapy of Auschwitz,' death in
the gas chamber."
Even as I wrote these remarks, I had the nauseating, but increasingly
common, experience of reading horrific accounts of everyday cruelty and
brutality, behavior so callous it nearly reduces you to tears: babies
abandoned or killed by their parents, children, left alone at home, dying
in fires, and in England, the incredible story of the indictment of two
ten year olds accused of luring away a two-year-old, beating him, killing
him, and then throwing the infant in front of an onrushing train. The *New
York Times* reports said the murder "has stirred shock and revulsion in
England more than any crime in recent memory." It has "inspired
soul-searching editorials about the loss of innocence and the dangerous
drift of British society." Indeed.
Can't they see that the ground was carefully prepared for these hideous
attacks on helpless children by cultures which have defined out of
existence defenseless unborn children? Why should it surprise us that
throughout Western Europe and the United States we read of the "death of
conscience"? We murdered it. Every time we rip apart tiny legs and arms,
we bludgeon our souls. Every time we crush a little torso, we smother our
capacity to feel shame. Every time we plunge scissors in the skulls of
living near-term babies, we not only deny their humanity but also destroy
But, then again, we need never fear being accused of crimes that parallel
the worst Nazi atrocities. The Rev. Richard John Neuhaus spoke at the same
1989 conference as did Dr. Seidelman. With respect to abortion and
euthanasia, there was tremendous resistance to the idea that there are any
comparisons, any parallels, any linkages, any lessons to be learned from
the medical mass murder of the '30s and '40s. Neuhaus drily observed in an
address titled "The Way They Were, The Way We Are" that "We need never
fear the charge of crimes against humanity so long as we hold the power to
define who does and who does not belong to 'humanity.'"
National Right to Life News is the official publication of the National
Right to Life Committee, Inc.
Subscription information, including bulk rates for schools and libraries
may be obtained from NRL News, Suite 500,419 - 7th Street, N.W.,
Washington, D.C. 20004.Phone: (202)626-8800.