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October 23, 2003

The "Partial-Birth" Myth. Here's the

Daniel Radosh

The "Partial-Birth" Myth. Here's the article every newspaper in the country should have -- but did not -- run at least once in the last year. What liberal media, anyone?

I watched the whole Senate debate yesterday. I lost count of how many times pro-life senators used language implying that the procedure they were banning was a birth interrupted by an abortion. The bill's sponsor, Sen. Rick Santorum, opened the debate by saying, "The term 'partial birth' comes from the fact that the baby is partially born, is in the process of being delivered. ... Here is this child who is literally inches away from being born, who would otherwise be born alive." Majority Leader Bill Frist, the Senate's only doctor, concluded the debate by describing the procedure as "destroying the body of a mature unborn child."

President Bush exploits the same illusion. In his State of the Union address this year, he said the bill would "protect infants at the very hour of their birth."

That's just false. This procedure doesn't take place anywhere near the appointed hour of birth. If you paid close attention to the Senate debate, you might have noticed the part where Santorum said the procedure was performed "at least 20 weeks, and in many cases, 21, 22, 23, 24 weeks [into pregnancy], and in rarer cases, beyond that." He didn't clarify how many of these abortions took place past the 20th week. A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks. In 1992, the Supreme Court mentioned that viability could "sometimes" occur at 23 or 24 weeks. Santorum described a 1-pound fetus as "a fully formed baby," noting that while it was only at 20 weeks gestation, it had a complete set of features and extremities. But according to the National Center for Health Statistics, the survival rate for babies born weighing 500 grams or less—that's 1 pound, 1 ounce or less—is 14 percent.

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