The Common Good
November-December 1996

Second Opinions

by Mike Gude | November-December 1996

ONE MIGHT THINK from the "Letters" section of the September-October issue that there was overwhelming opposition to Julie Polter's commentary on partial birth abortions. 

ONE MIGHT THINK from the "Letters" section of the September-October issue that there was overwhelming opposition to Julie Polter's commentary ("Outrage Over the Abortion Veto," July-August 1996) on partial birth abortions. I am writing, in part, to show that at least one reader appreciated her stance against Clinton's veto of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act.

I am also writing to disagree with some assertions made by the letter writers who supported Clinton's veto. One writer said he was glad Clinton listened to medical experts instead of clergy on this issue. However, not every medical expert would have given Clinton the same opinion. Former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, for example, has stated that partial birth abortions "are not medically necessary." Dr. Pamela Smith, Director of Medical Education at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago, has stated that "there are absolutely no obstetrical situations in this country which require a partially delivered fetus to be destroyed to preserve the health of the mother." The American Medical Association's Legislative Council, for its part, felt that "this was not a recognized medical technique."

Another letter writer expressed the need to focus on preventing abortions through non-legislative means. I agree with many of his solutions to help make abortions rare (including increased efforts to promote adoption, job creation, and child abuse prevention), and I agree that passing legislation is not always the most effective response to a problem. But I don't think you help make abortion rare by expanding the number of ways in which it can be performed. Restricting partial birth abortions would be an admittedly small measure toward making abortions less frequent, but it is, I believe, a necessary one.


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