What is a Partial-Birth Abortion?
* The definition of partial-birth abortion in H.R. 1833 is "an abortion in which the
person performing the abortion partially vaginally delivers a living fetus before killing
the fetus and completing the delivery." A number of physicians were involved in the
drafting of this language to ensure that it is medically accurate and does not encompass
any other form of abortion or legitimate medical procedure.
* Registered nurse Brenda Pratt Shafer witnessed several partial-birth abortions while
working for an Ohio abortionist. She described one of these abortions in a July 9, 1995,
letter to Congressman Tony Hall:
The baby's body was moving. His little fingers were clasping together. He was kicking
his feet. All the while his little head was still stuck inside. Dr. Haskell took a pair of
scissors and inserted them into the back of the baby's head. Then he opened the scissors
up. Then he stuck the high-powered suction tube into the hole and sucked the baby's
How Many Partial-Birth Abortions Are Performed?
* There is no way to know the exact number of partial-birth abortions that are
performed yearly. The National Abortion Federation says that two doctors, McMahon
and Haskell, perform about 450 between them each year. Both of these abortionists
energetically advocate the method. Dr. Haskell presented a "how to" paper to National
Abortion Federation members in 1992, and Dr. McMahon is the director of abortion
training at a major teaching hospital.
* The National Abortion Federation also admits that the partial-birth abortion method
is probably used at times by other practitioners, and the American Medical News
reported in 1993 that "a handful of other doctors" employed the method.
* Defenders of partial-birth abortion often stress that they are "a small percentage" of all
abortions. But for each individual human being who ends up at the pointed end of the
surgical scissors, the procedure is a 100 percent proposition.
What Are the Circumstances?
. * Partial-birth abortion is not a legitimate medical procedure and is not needed for any
particular circumstances. While the American Medical Association has officially taken
no position on H.R. 1833, the AMA's Council on Legislation--made up of 12 doctors--
voted unanimously to recommend that the AMA Board of Trustees endorse H.R. 1833.
A member of the Council said they "felt this was not a recognized medical technique,"
and that the council members agreed that the "procedure is basically repulsive."
(Congress Daily. Oct. 10, 1995) What Are the Circumstances? (Continued)
* Dr. Martin Haskell stated: "And I'll be quite frank: most of my abortions are elective
in that 20-24 week range... in my particular case, probably 20% are for genetic reasons.
And the other 80% are purely elective...." (1993 Interview with AM News)
* Dr. McMahon uses the partial-birth abortion method through the entire 40 weeks of
pregnancy. He claims that most of the abortions he performs are "nonelective," but his
definition of "non-elective" includes reasons such as the mother's youth or depression.
* Dr. McMahon sent the Constitution Subcommittee a graph showing that, even at 26
weeks of gestation, half the babies that Dr. McMahon aborted were perfectly healthy,
and many of the babies he described as "flawed" had conditions that were compatible
with long life, either with or without a disability. For example, Dr. McMahon listed
nine partial-birth abortions performed because the baby had a cleft lip.
* H.R. 1833 does have a provision to allow the use of a partial-birth abortion if it is
needed to save a mother's life. But eminent medical authorities have stated that this
procedure would never be used in such a situation. At the subcommittee hearing ~n
partial-birth abortion, Dr. Pamela Smith, OBGYN, said that in a situation where a
mother's life was in danger, "no doctor would employ the partial-birth method of
abortion, which--as Dr. Haskell carefully describes--takes three days!.
* The National Abortion Federation sent out a June 18, 1993, letter to its members
regarding the partial-birth abortion method (then called dilation and extraction). The
letter counseled, "Don't apologize: this is a loyal abortion procedure." The letter also
stated, "There are many reasons why women have late abortions: life endangerment,
fetal indications, lack of money or health insurance, social-psychological crises, lack of
knowledge about human reproduction, etc."
What Does H.R. 1833 Do?
* H.R. 1833 bans the performance of partial-bird] abortions by making it a crime,
subject to fines and/or a maximum of two years imprisonment, to perform a partial-
* Additionally, the bill creates a civil cause of action for damages against an abortionist
who performs the procedure. The action can be maintained by the father or, if the
mother is under 18, the maternal grandparents.
* H.R. 1833 establishes an affirmative defense for an abortionist who reasonably
believes that the partial-birth abortion procedure is necessary to save the life of a
"The doctor kept the baby's head just inside the uterus. The baby's little fingers were
clasping and unclasping, and his feet were kicking. Then the doctor stuck the scissors
through the back of his 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."
-- Brenda Pratt Shafer, R.N.
I'm Brenda Pratt Shafer, a Registered Nurse with 13 years of experience. One day in
September, 1993, my nursing agency assigned me to work at a Dayton, Ohio, abortion
clinic. I had often expressed strong "pro-choice" views to my two teenage daughters, so
I thought this assignment would be no problem for me.
But I was wrong. I stood at a doctor's side as he performed the partial-birth abortion
procedure-and what I saw is branded forever on my mind.
The mother was six months pregnant. The baby's heartbeat was clearly visible on the
ultrasound screen. The doctor went in with forceps and grabbed the baby's legs and
pulled them down into the birth canal. Then he delivered the baby's body and the
arms-everything but the head. The doctor kept the baby's head just inside the uterus.
The baby's little fingers were clasping and unclasping, and his feet were kicking. Then
the doctor stuck the scissors through the back of his 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.
The doctor opened up the scissors, stuck a high-powered suction tube into the opening
and sucked the baby's brains out. Now the baby was completely limp.
I never went back to that clinic. But I am still haunted by the face of that little boy-- it
was the most perfect, angelic face I have ever seen.
* Partial-birth abortions are usually performed from 41/2 months to 9 months of
pregnancy. In a tape-recorded interview with American Medical News, the doctor who
performed the procedure described above said that in his practice, "80%" of these
procedures "are purely elective."
* On September 23, 1995, the Council on Legislation of the American Medical
Association voted unanimously to endorse H.R. 1833. (Congress Daily, Oct. 10, 1995)
Defend the defenseless.
Support the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.