Are babies ripped from their mother’s wombs in post viability abortions? That is what I wrote this post to address. I would like to share a quick word before getting to the excerpt from the Supreme Court decision below.
MHM affirms the message of Romans Chapter 3 and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. There is none righteous, not one. All of us rely on the grace of God through the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to overcome that sin and the wages of that sin to be restored to a right relationship with God. We offer resources to equip others to discuss hard issues in an impactful manner. All people, even those who disagree with our position and hate us for advocating it, are the image bearers of God. His grace is available and sufficient for us all. All human beings in all stages of development ought to be treated with dignity and respect.
I have read multiple people take exception to the phrasing of ripping babies from the wombs of their mothers offered by President Trump in his State of the Union speech. In one sense, they argue that the unborn are not babies but merely fetuses. I guess that arguer believes saying fetal offspring are ripped from their mother’s wombs is in some way a moral improvement over using the word babies. The terms used to describe the unborn are of little interest to me, but that there is value in writing consistently. I use offspring because it is inarguably true that an unborn human is the offspring of the mother no matter what stage of development it is currently passing through. I don’t think calling it a fetus does any philosophical work to justify abortion just as I wouldn’t think calling any other human being a newborn, an infant, a toddler, or a child would impact the value of their life. The stage itself is merely a helpful category applied to track growth. The human life is not a fetus substantively. It is a human in the fetal stage of development, and in the case of a mother considering abortion the unborn is her fetal offspring. (I know that fetus means offspring in Latin so it is linguistically a little redundant, but offspring is a more general term than the current English use of fetus)
Clarity is the best antidote to misinformation. Below I have posted an excerpt from Gonzales v. Carhart (2006). The Supreme Court affirmed the right to forbid Intact D & E, partial birth abortion, but the judges also affirmed the legality of another form of D & E as an option to Intact D & E. The description of that procedure is shared below and was given to the Supreme Court by medical doctors who performed abortions in this manner.
A warning, it is awful. Someone may believe the phrasing “ripped from their mother’s womb” is without nuance, but it is telling that the words “tear” and “ripped” are used in this legal description. How do we describe to others what we read in this excerpt? What is the best phrasing to describe how abortion is performed on our offspring when they are too large to use suction curettage? Our language needs to accurately reflect the act in question. I leave it to the reader to make up his or her own minds about the fair way to talk about this.
I take no pleasure in sharing material like this. In fact, I hate it just as I hated reading the decision again this morning. No one in there right minds could enjoy spending time reviewing the means by which we destroy unborn human life. That said, this topic is too important to let squeamishness and fear of offense forbid us from examining a public document produced by the highest representatives of the Judicial branch of our government:
Gonzales v Carhart Opinion of the Court pgs 4 – 5
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.
To review, the Supreme Court says it is legal and ethical to reach through a dilated cervix, grasp the fetus with forceps, deliver a portion of the offspring’s body into the birth canal, and use the cervix as leverage or friction to tear that part from the rest of the body. This process of ripping sections of the body off may take as many as 15 passes. It is only problematic if you delivered the body into the canal past the head or past the naval if breach. It actually states as long as your intention is to remove the fetus in pieces and not deliver it fully for the purpose of killing it you are okay legally.
It also acknowledges that the unborn offspring might accidentally slip all the way out during that procedure, but that is the subject of another blog post.
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