Last updated on: 9/10/2008 | Author:

Should “Partial-Birth” (Third Trimester) Abortion Be Banned?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report for Congress on Jan. 12, 2004 titled “Partial-Birth Abortion: Recent Developments in the Law,” explained that:

“In October 2003, Congress approved S. 3, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. The measure was signed by the President on November 5, 2003… The term ‘partial-birth abortion’ refers to a method of abortion commonly called ‘dilation and extraction’ or ‘D & X’ by the medical community. D & X involves the ‘extraction, from the uterus and into the vagina, of all of the body of a fetus except the head, following which the fetus is killed by extracting the contents of the skull.’ Once the skull is emptied, the intact fetus is removed from the woman’s body. D & X is one of several methods of performing abortions. The principal methods of abortion are suction curettage, induction, and dilation and evacuation (D & E).

The decision to perform one abortion method over another usually depends on the gestational age of the fetus… D & E is the most common method of abortion in the second trimester… [it] involves the dilation of the cervix and the dismemberment of the fetus inside the uterus. Fetal parts are later removed from the uterus either with forceps or by suction. D & X is typically performed late in the second trimester between the twentieth and twenty-fourth weeks of pregnancy. Although the medical advantages of D & X have been asserted, the nature of the procedure has prompted pro-life advocates to characterize D & X as something akin to infanticide.

The procedural similarities between the D & E and D & X procedures have contributed to the concern that the language of partial-birth abortion bans may prohibit both methods of abortion.”

Jan. 12, 2004

PRO (yes)


George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States, made the following statement on Nov. 5, 2003 before signing the Partial-Birth Abortion Act:

“In passing this legislation, members of the House and Senate made a studied decision based upon compelling evidence… In the course of the congressional debate, the facts became clear. Each year, thousands of partial birth abortions are committed. As Doctor C. Everett Koop, the pediatrician and former Surgeon General has pointed out, the majority of partial birth abortions are not required by medical emergency. As Congress has found, the practice is widely regarded within the medical profession as unnecessary, not only cruel to the child, but harmful to the mother, and a violation of medical ethics. (Applause.)”

Nov. 5, 2003


National Right to Life Committee’s Legislative Director Douglas Johnson wrote a Nov. 5, 2003 paper titled “The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act – Misconceptions and Realities”:

“When President Bush signed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act… pro-lifers saw the culmination of an eight-year struggle led by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) and congressional pro-life leaders…

The bill would allow the method if it was ever necessary to save a mother’s life… Beyond that, many of the claims of medical ‘necessity’ for partial-birth abortion, on closer examination, turn out to involve not any bona fide risk to a mother’s physical health, but rather, a diagnosis that the baby has Down syndrome or some other disorder that cannot be cured. The word ‘health,’ in most of these cases, is really a euphemism for pre-natal euthanasia.”

Nov. 5, 2003


Nat Hentoff, syndicated columnist, wrote in a Sep. 21, 2004 article titled “Kerry’s Judicial ‘Independence’ Has Litmus Tests” in the Jewish World Review that:

“The exception for a woman’s health, as very broadly ruled by the Supreme Court in the Doe decision (which struck down a Georgia law essentially requiring three physicians to approve of an abortion), covers ‘all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age.’

According to this highly permissive wide-ranging standard, allowing the ‘brutal, barbaric and uncivilized’ procedure of partial-ban abortion characterizes how this nation, under our rule of law, describes itself as civilized.”

Sep. 9, 2004

CON (no)


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), stated in its June 18, 2003 “Interested Persons Memo: Ban on Safe Abortion Procedures: The So-Called ‘Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003′” that:

“The ACLU opposes the so-called ‘Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003’… because it outlaws safe abortion procedures and thus threatens women’s health and reproductive rights. Proponents of this bill claim that it will prohibit only a single, ‘late-term’ abortion procedure. But the bill prohibits more than a single procedure; it bans safe and common abortion methods used in the second trimester of pregnancy, well before fetal viability. It also lacks an exception to protect women’s health — a requirement that is constitutionally compelled, as the Supreme Court made clear in its recent ruling in Stenberg v. Carhart.”

June 18, 2003


Wendy Chavkin, MD, Professor of Clinical Public Health at Columbia University, wrote in a June 30, 2003 article “Chipping Away at Roe,” in The Nation magazine that:

“Since 1995 thirty-one states have enacted bans on ‘partial-birth abortion.’ Because the broad language criminalizes commonly used safe procedures and thus interferes with a woman’s right to choose, and because of the lack of a health exception, the bans were overturned in twenty-one states and struck down by the Supreme Court in Carhart. The current bill repeats these errors in open disregard for that decision…

The media have played along with the right on this issue, adopting the propagandistic term ‘partial-birth abortion’ and contributing to the misapprehension that the bill would ban only a single procedure…

[T]he Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 so violates the doctor-patient relationship, respect for science and the value of women’s lives and health that organized medicine should fight hard against this threat.”

June 30, 2003


Phyllis J. Hamilton, JD, US District Court Northern District of California Judge, in her June 1, 2004 ruling in Planned Parenthood v. Ashcroft, stated:

“[T]he Act is unconstitutional because it (1) poses an undue burden on a woman’s ability to choose a second trimester abortion; (2) is unconstitutionally vague; and (3) requires a health exception as set forth by the Supreme Court in Stenberg. Permanent injunctive relief is appropriate given that plaintiffs have demonstrated that the Act violates their constitutional rights on the above three bases.”

June 1, 2004