Janet A. Morana is the executive director of Priests for Life and co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign, the world’s largest mobilization of women who have had abortions. A native New Yorker, she was a public school teacher before becoming involved in pro-life work. She co-hosts the Defending Life and Catholic View for Women series on EWTN, and is a frequent guest on other TV and radio programs. She is the recipient of Legatus’ Cardinal John O’Connor Pro-life Hall of Fame Award. Her first book, Recall Abortion, was published by Saint Benedict Press.
At Priests for Life, Rachel’s Vineyard and Silent No More, we are always concerned with the health and welfare of women, which is why we would like to see abortion pulled off the market. It is a harmful product for women.
But in discussing dismemberment abortion, it’s the babies we have to be most concerned with.
This is how the U.S. Supreme Court described dismemberment abortion in its Gonzalez vs. Carhart decision of 2007:
“A doctor must first dilate the cervix at least to the extent needed to insert surgical instruments into the uterus and to maneuver them to evacuate the fetus. …
“After sufficient dilation the surgical operation can commence. The woman is placed under general anesthesia or conscious sedation. The doctor, often guided by ultrasound, inserts grasping forceps through the woman’s cervix and into the uterus to grab the fetus. The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman. The process of evacuating the fetus piece by piece continues until it has been completely removed. A doctor may make 10 to 15 passes with the forceps to evacuate the fetus in its entirety, though sometimes removal is completed with fewer passes. Once the fetus has been evacuated, the placenta and any remaining fetal material are suctioned or scraped out of the uterus. The doctor examines the different parts to ensure the entire fetal body has been removed.
“‘The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn limb from limb. The fetus can be alive at the beginning of the dismemberment process and can survive for a time while its limbs are being torn off.”
Let’s also hear what Priests for Life medical advisor Dr. Anthony Levatino has to say about the procedure that he performed dozens of times before he swore off abortion and became pro-life:
“A second trimester D&E abortion is a blind procedure. The baby can be in any orientation or position inside the uterus. Picture yourself reaching in with the Sopher clamp and grasping anything you can. At twenty weeks gestation, the uterus is thin and soft so be careful not to perforate or puncture the walls. Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard – really hard. You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about 4 to 5 inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.
“The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby’s head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a plum and is now free floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. You will know you have it right when you crush down on the clamp and see a pure white gelatinous material issue from the cervix. That was the baby’s brains. You can then extract the skull pieces. If you have a really bad day like I often did, a little face may come out and stare back at you.”
A little face may come out and stare back at you.
This is what we mean when we talk about dismemberment abortion.
What might this barbaric procedure look like to someone watching? In my book Recall Abortion, I included a story from a pro-life nurse who was forced, despite having a conscience objection on file, to take part in a third-trimester dismemberment abortion. Years later, an image is still seared into her memory: The doctor, his foot on the operating room table to get better leverage, tearing a full-term baby apart piece by piece with his forceps. “It comes back to haunt me,” she said. “I can still see the baby’s rib cage, and the doctor with his foot on the bottom of the table, pulling out parts.”
The baby had been in his mother’s womb for more than eight months when a doctor told his young parents that his heart problems might prove fatal. So they chose a procedure that was guaranteed to be fatal.
Abortion advocates claim dismemberment abortion is safer than other methods of later abortion, but there are significant risks to the mother, including injury to the uterine lining or cervix, uterine perforation or rupture, hemorrhage, and infection caused by bacteria entering the uterus or from fetal tissue left behind.
If you think dismemberment abortion is only fatal to the baby, think again. Two young mothers, Tonya Reaves in Chicago and Lakisha Wilson in Cleveland, both died in second-trimester abortions in the last few years. Those are just the abortion deaths we know about; without a doubt there are more.
Even if a woman lives through the procedure and has no complications, she will have to deal with the emotional fallout of killing a child whom she had already begun to feel moving around in her womb. For many women, this pain is the greatest of all.
I hope every state follows the lead of Kansas and Oklahoma to ban barbaric dismemberment abortion. It is always bad for the baby, and always bad for the mother.