Monday, June 22, 2009

Kansas Late Term Abortion Stats - None Performed To Save The Mother's Life

Before wading in, (once again) to the abortion debate I'm donning full body armour. I'm already anticipating a full frontal assault by the extreme element of the Pro-Choice/Pro-Abortion lobby.

For these zealots a woman's right to make reproductive choices is sacrosanct. If a woman decides to abort because the sex of the child isn't what she desires, that's her prerogative. If tests show the fetus will have some non-life threatening abnormality, it doesn't matter...women should always have the option to choose an abortion. If a grandmother in her sixties wants to be artificially inseminated that's fine, the state has no right to impose its will on the reproductive rights of any woman.

Canada is the only country in the industrialized world without any laws with respect to abortion. Abortion is legal at all times, even with pregnancies deep into the 3rd trimester when the fetus is deemed viable, that is to say when the fetus has developed to such and extent that it could survive outside the womb.

The Pro-Choice camp typically asserts that in virtually all cases of late term abortion, that the procedure is performed to save the life of the mother or because of some serious danger to the mother's physical health. Some might allow that there may be very rare instances where this isn't the case, but that any legislation restricting access to abortion procedures after the (approximately) 20 week mark, they would be overkill that could endanger a woman's health.

Its hard to argue the point, especially when there's a dearth of data available.

Abortion statistics are hard to come by, and those provided are typically skimpy when it comes to details. However in the state of Kansas statistics are in fact available. Given that most Canadian women seeking late term abortion are sent to the U.S. the data is of particular interest for those engaged in this debate.

The numbers are very revealing. In 2008 192 late term abortions were performed. "Late term" being identified as 22 weeks gestation and beyond. Of those, zero were to save the mother's life.

The statistics go on to say that in all 192 cases of LTA the procedures were performed because:

"The patient would suffer substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function if she were forced to continue the pregnancy."

Well that sounds reasonable enough doesn't it? I am not one who would want to see any woman forced to continue a pregnancy that might irreparably damage a vital organ.

Here's where things get clouded. According to Kansas' office of the Attorney General:

So how many abortions were performed due to the risk of an irreversible impairment to a physical bodily function, how many due to impairment of women's mental health, and how was this determination made?

In all 192 late term procedures the determination was based on:

"Gestational and diagnostic information provided by the referring physician and other health care professional(s) as well as examination and interview of the patient by attending physician".

The other option for determining 'irreversible impairment' was:

"The patient is suffering a medical emergency. Based on examination and interview of the patient by the attending physician, the physician judges that the abortion is necessary to prevent substantial and permanent damage to a major bodily function".

In zero cases was there a determination of a 'medical emergency'. The obvious question then is how many of the 192 late term procedures were due to mental as opposed to physical impairment, and was that mental impairment sufficient to be deemed permanent. The statistics for this question aren't available. (Full Table Available Here in PDF form).

Obviously much of this data and discussion is coming to light because of the murder of Dr. Tiller in Wichita Kansas. According to BeliefNet blogger Steven Waldman, who spoke with Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, 60 cases of Dr. Tiller's were reviewed, with all 60 having a psychiatric justification.

This certainly throws a wrench in the popular argument of hard line Pro-Choice advocates, those who contend that 'virtually all' late term abortions are to save the life of the mother or are due to some medical emergency.

If there's a psychiatric argument to be made regarding a woman's mental health suffering permanent damage if a pregnancy is allowed to continue, shouldn't that determination be made by a mental health professional? Certainly an 'attending physician' is not sufficient to make such a specialized diagnosis.

Even U.S. president Barack Obama is on record as opposing late term abortion for reasons of mental distress.

"I don't think that 'mental distress' qualifies as the health of the mother. I think it has to be a serious physical issue that arises in pregnancy, where there are real, significant problems to the mother carrying that child to term".

Okay self described "Femme-Nazis" (not a term I'd use, but some Pro-Choice bloggers have embraced it), go ahead and try to tear me a new one. I still consider myself "Pro-Choice" but I'm not an extremist or a zealot. I see nothing wrong with placing reasonable limitations on a woman's right to choose. And in my opinion restricting access to the procedure post fetal viability, except in cases where the mother's physical health and/or life is very reasonable.

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