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Caesar, The Church and Partial Birth Abortion

Category Articles
Date November 24, 2004

Dr. Bill Frist is an evangelical Presbyterian, the Senate Majority leader in Washington, an elder in a gospel church and an internationally acclaimed surgeon. He made the following speech in the United States Senate debate on the issue of banning partial-birth abortion. The speech was so powerful that the Senate voted 64 votes to 43 on May 13, 2003, to ban partial-birth abortions. The ban was signed into law by George W. Bush soon after the U.S. House of Representatives voted 292-139 on June 4, 2003 to ban the procedure.

Meanwhile the 214th General Assembly of the modernist dominated Presbyterian Church USA actually sanctioned partial-birth abortion by a massive majority of 394 – 112; the 215th General Assembly by an even larger vote of 405 -108; and the 216th General Assembly by a smaller vote of 286-185. Caesar is wiser and more compassionate than the professing church.

This is the speech of Bill Frist:

From a medical standpoint I took an oath to treat every human life with respect, with dignity and with compassion. Abortion takes life away, and partial-birth abortion, this particular procedure, does so in a manner that is brutal, barbaric and morally offensive to the medical community.

I will not concentrate on the politics of partial-birth abortion, but talk a little bit about the disturbing facts of partial-birth abortion as a surgical procedure, a procedure that clearly should and must be banned.


The fact is that partial-birth abortion is a repulsive procedure. It begins, as described by its greatest advocate, by, inside the uterus, manipulating the fetus and turning the fetus around so it can be delivered feet first, delivering the feet through the uterus and through the cervical canal and then taking scissors which are about 8 inches long, called Metzenbaum scissors, and thrusting them into the back of the base of the skull.

Then, because that opening is not sufficient to drain the brains from the fetus itself, it requires a forcible opening of the scissors. If you were to take a regular pair of scissors -although the Metzenbaum scissors are longer – forcibly opening those scissors so the end of the scissors will split the skull wider so the brain can be evacuated and other contents within the skull.

Once the skull is allowed to collapse because of the evacuation of the brain and the intracranial contents, the skull itself collapses . . .The thrusting of the scissors into the base of the skull and the cranium itself takes this living fetus and kills the fetus itself. One of the problems is, at this late stage in development, the neurological system is fully developed . . . to the point that with cervical blocks, which is the type of anesthesia typically used, or as is described by the father to this procedure, the fetus itself will feel that pain of thrusting the scissors in the back of the head.


This particular procedure is most commonly performed between 20 and 27 weeks. . . If you look at the early side of that, between 20 and 23 weeks; if that fetus was not killed but was just delivered at that point in time, overall survival today is about 30 to 50 percent. If you go to the period of 24 to 25 weeks -remember, this procedure is performed between 20 and 27 weeks – overall survival if the fetus had not been killed by using the scissors, the survival rate would be around 60 to 90 percent.

So these are premature infants. That is why people such as Senator Moynihan, who used to be in this body, call it the equivalent of infanticide . . .

The reason I describe … the procedure in detail is not to shock. It really is to inform. It is critical that we debate this in terms of that framework of reality, no matter how disturbing the reality is.


There are a number of arguments by people who say, no, we should allow this procedure, as morally offensive and repulsive as it is, to continue. I would like to take some of those myths. I will present them as myths because that is what they are.

First, some say that partial-birth abortion may be necessary to preserve the health of the mother. That is not true. Never has partial-birth abortion, the specific procedure that is described in the bill itself, been the only procedure or the best procedure available in the case of a medical emergency.

The only advantage I can see of partial-birth abortion – which is a disturbing advantage; therefore, I wouldn’t call it an advantage or a benefit – is the guarantee, by the thrusting of the scissors into the brain and evacuation of the brain, of a dead infant.

I have not been able to talk to anybody today who has said partial-birth abortion would be required to save the life of a mother because, remember, it takes three days. When you have procedures that are within ethical bounds, accepted by the medical profession and taught in medical schools, you have alternative procedures. But in the remote chance – again I argue hypothetical – the ban would not apply if it were to save the life of the mother.


Second, some would say that partial-birth abortion is the best option to preserve the health of the mother. I argue, no, it is a dangerous option. Let me paraphrase an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, published on August 26, 1998. There are “no credible studies” on partial-birth abortion that “evaluate or attest to its safety” for the mother. Partial-birth abortion, as described in the bill, is more dangerous to the health of the mother than the alternative procedures.

The alternative procedures today – again, I am not supporting third trimester abortions and, to me, they are all repulsive. But it is important for people to know the alternative procedures don’t involve the Metzenbaum scissors. It is done with an injection into the heart itself directly, or guided by ultrasound, very carefully controlled. It is not this blind procedure.

Comparing the various procedures is important because we keep hearing from certain people that this is the safest, or will be the safest or best alternative. It is simply not true. It is more dangerous. There is the danger of infection because of the increased manipulation that is required in this procedure itself, secondary to the performance of this procedure.


The third myth is the medical community. Most people in life don’t like government intruding into their lives. And that doctor-patient relationship being as special as it is, you don’t want government coming in and saying yes, no, come in with that procedure. I feel the same way, generally. But . . . there are certain ethical bounds and, yes, as a profession, we take certain oaths. One of them is the Hippocratic oath of doing no harm. But there is a certain ethical boundary and framework that, no matter who or what you are, you never go outside. But we have people going outside those ethical bounds. . . Thus, we must put a stop to that. And because it is performed every day, and it is outside of the ethical bounds, we are obligated to redefine those bounds in this particular case.

Thus, I argue that this procedure, performed as it is across this country today, is offensive, is repulsive to this whole concept of the doctor-patient relationship, which is built on trust and moral behavior. This procedure is not moral.

People have made comments, “Where is the AMA?” There have been statements that the AMA does not oppose partial-birth abortion, or does. Let me just say the American Medical Association has supported this ban in the past. They oppose this specific procedure in this bill.

In 1996, the research arm of Planned Parenthood asked doctors for the first time a question on partial-birth abortion. The question produced an estimate at that point in time, 1996, that 650 such abortions were performed using this technique annually in the United States.

The same survey found that in the year 2000, over 2,200 partial-birth abortions were performed in the United States – 2,200 deaths purposely caused by this technique, by this rogue procedure.

An interesting side piece of data is that Kansas, the only state that requires separate reporting for partial-birth abortions, in 1999 said 182 procedures of partial-birth abortion were performed on viable fetuses.

Of interest to all, 182 of those procedures were performed for mental health reasons, but not for physical health reasons – not for physical health reasons.

Partial-birth abortion is a morally offensive procedure . . . We as a society respect human life far too much to let it be ravaged in such an inhumane way: a living infant partially delivered, stabbed with 8-inch scissors, emptied of the contents of its skull, and then pulled from its mother dead.

In closing, I ask my colleagues, as we debate this bill, that we do so with the barbaric reality, with the brutal reality of this heinous procedure in mind, and not be side-tracked by the myths of partial-birth abortion, especially that would in any way imply that this is an accepted mainstream medical procedure. It simply is not.

 [The full text is published on pages S3457-S3450 of the March 21, 2003 Congressional Record.]

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