As I See It... Two Inconvenient Truths

November/December 2018

Kentuckians now await Judge Joseph McKinley’s decision on live dismemberment of the unborn. His decision may be a year away.

By Joyce Ostrander, Policy Analyst for The Family Foundation

Testimony in the November 2018 trial of Kentucky’s newest abortion statute revealed two “inconvenient truths”: a contradiction exists within both the medical and legal professions, and longstanding medical ethics are being ignored.

On trial was the April 2018 Human Rights of the Unborn Child Live Dismemberment Ban. Live dismemberment is the ripping apart of an unborn child, causing it to bleed to death. The new law simply requires a physician who intends to abort a preborn child by this gruesome method to first cause its death by another “more humane” means.

The day the statute passed, Governor Bevin signed it, the ACLU filed suit and a federal judge granted an injunction. That injunction effectively put the new law “on hold” until a federal judge could conduct a trial.

During the trial, witnesses for EMW abortion clinic and their ACLU attorneys argued that the law interferes with the “reproductive rights” of women and that no other person or set of rights exist to consider. They recognized the presence of only one patient, the pregnant woman, and said that nothing should be done that would cause greater discomfort, stress, cost or risk for either the lone patient or her doctor.

However, testimony by other medical professionals revealed a glaring contradiction within the medico-legal community. Medical witnesses testifying in support of banning live dismemberment argued a second person is present whose comfort, at the very least, should be humanely considered as their life is ended.

Just what does the actual practice of medicine reveal? During the same age range when a fetus can be dismembered while alive:
1) Fetal surgeons recognize pain and provide anesthesia during in utero surgery for their tiny human patients;
2) Neonatologists provide comfort care for those born prematurely but too early to survive outside the womb;
3) Obstetricians recognize two patients and assess the well-being of each in their monthly visits, avoiding harm to either one;
4) Expectant parents view ultrasounds of their baby including fingers, toes, heartbeat, gender and movement of arms and legs. During this time, parents assign names and have gender reveal parties, and
5) Even laboratory animals are euthanized and disposed of in a more humane way.

What does the practice of law reveal? Kentucky recognizes a preborn child as a person, permitting a double homicide conviction when a perpetrator murders a pregnant woman.

These practices underscore the first “inconvenient truth”—both the medical and legal communities in these circumstances view the fetus as an autonomous person deserving the best medical care and chance for health, survival and comfort.

The exception is with abortion.

Should the basic human rights of humans be completely disregarded simply because, although they have arms, legs, fingers, toes, a heartbeat, their own distinct DNA and the ability to feel pain, they have no voice with which to defend themselves?

There is grave danger in disregarding, dehumanizing or diminishing a voiceless group for the convenience or benefit of those who hold power. Recent history gives us tragic examples, including laws diminishing or subjugating women by restricting their rights to own property or vote, laws dehumanizing African Americans, and laws subjugating and ultimately intending to exterminate European Jews, just to name three.

Trial testimony also included a Duke University medical ethicist who stated that ethical medicine must consider beneficence, non-maleficence, justice and autonomy. Abortion, he asserted, disproportionately considers only the woman’s autonomy.

In defending live dismemberment abortion, physicians and attorneys are considering what will benefit only one patient. Sound ethics would consider the autonomy of both the woman and the preborn child and weigh the beneficence, non-malevolence and justice of care for both patients.

That brings us to the second “inconvenient truth”: abortion can only be considered ethical if long-standing medical ethics are ignored or grossly imbalanced. Without balanced consideration, the monumental injustices of the past are being repeated. And, those injustices are being repeated on the most innocent, helpless humans by the very hands of those entrusted with their care.

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