Letter: The facts about late-term abortion and initiative 120

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In their Dec. 6 editorial, the Denver Post asks Coloradans not to sign petitions currently circulating to place a late abortion ban on the 2020 ballot (Initiative 120). In their arguments, they uncritically promote the misleading narratives and myths promulgated by abortion rights extremists. Since the editorial was published, the Post has refused to publish a response from the Coalition for Women and Children (which is sponsoring the initiative). They seem uninterested in providing Coloradans with an alternative view on late abortion. As pro-life Catholics, when the mainstream media refuses to report all the facts, it is our responsibility to get the word out and persuade our neighbors to support this important effort.

The first myth is that late abortion is rare and only performed in tragic circumstances that involve either a horrible fatal fetal anomaly or cases where the health of the expectant mother is in jeopardy. They dismiss as small the percentage of abortions that are performed late. In Colorado, it is true that only 3.6 percent of abortions occur after 21 weeks gestation, but this represents 323 pre-born children based on the latest 2018 report from the Colorado Department of Health and the Environment. The reporting of the Guttmacher Institute – the abortion industry’s research arm – even suggests that that CDPHE’s figures are significantly understated.

In the past, the Post has highlighted the risk of measles deaths as well as an Uber trip ending in homicide. However, only 0.1-0.2 percent of children/adults afflicted with measles dies from their illness, and there have been no fatal cases recently in Colorado. Meanwhile, nationally only 0.0003 percent of Uber trips were complicated by critical safety issues in 2017/2018 with 107 fatalities. The same thing could be said about vaping deaths or school shooting deaths. Why is it then that the Post and abortion rights extremists try to claim that 3.6 percent of abortions is a trivial percentage and imply that hundreds of deaths constitute a “rare” occurrence and should not evoke a response in Colorado?

What about the implication that late abortions are performed for only “tragic” reasons? We know that in Colorado, the Boulder abortion clinic (which specializes in late abortions) advertises on their website for abortions through 26 weeks for any (elective) reason. In published data from their practice, 70% of abortions are performed on normal fetuses. Furthermore, reputable media outlets such as FactCheck.org have debunked the notion that most – or even a majority – of late abortions are related to fetal anomaly. Diane Greene Foster, a prominent UCSF abortion rights activist and authority on abortion science, has stated that abortions for fetal anomaly “make up a small minority of later abortions.”

The notion that abortion is ever necessary to save the health or life of an expectant mother after 22 weeks is also misguided. The reality is that expedited delivery is safer than a multi-day late abortion procedure. Indeed, a late abortion would pose a substantially increased risk of injury or death and constitute malpractice in the case of a medical emergency.

The second myth is that killing a fetus after 22 weeks for a fatal fetal anomaly by abortion is more compassionate and results in less suffering than a natural fetal death. It is now widely accepted by international fetal experts such as Carlo Bellieni that a 20 to 22-week fetus can experience pain. Because pain inhibitory pathways develop later in fetal life, the pain may be more intense than those appreciated by infants or adults.

Late second-trimester abortions may be accomplished by dismembering the fetus and removing her appendage by appendage – referred to as a dilation and evacuation (D&E). Some late abortions are performed using a method called dilation and extraction (D&X) in which her brain is sucked out to collapse the head and facilitate delivery of the dead fetus. Most very late abortions are performed as induction abortions in which the fetus is killed by transecting the umbilical cord or injecting potassium chloride or digoxin. Labor is then induced to deliver the dead fetus.

Compared to a peaceful, loving and life-affirming natural death assisted by perinatal hospice specialists, death by dismemberment is horrific. Potassium chloride death is quicker but causes incredibly intense caustic pain when injected without anesthesia. Digoxin injection can elicit severe nausea and delirium before it results in death over a period of hours. Furthermore, a recent postmortem study of fetuses killed by injection reveals multiple injuries to the heart, lungs and abdomen. None of this is painless. Just because you can’t see the fetus experience pain and suffer as it dies in the uterus doesn’t mean it is not happening.

What about the mothers? In the tragic case of a fatal fetal anomaly, isn’t abortion a better choice for the mother’s mental health than normal delivery? Again, perinatal hospice provides loving support at the time of fetal death and bereavement services to the whole family for months. This does not happen with a late abortion procedure. In fact, a recent study suggested that abortion of a wanted pregnancy may result in worse mental health outcomes than delivery – particularly depression and suicide ideation.

Ultimately, Coloradans need to ask themselves if it makes sense that a 22-week fetus that is born enjoys all the protections of state and federal law while that same fetus in the uterus can be arbitrarily killed and forced to suffer a painful death. It is past time that Coloradans end this gross inequity and sign the petition to place a late abortion ban on the ballot in 2020. Please spread the word and don’t let abortion rights extremists dictate the terms of the debate.

Thomas J. Perille MD
Coalition for Women and Children
Catholic Medical Association

COMING UP: Coloradans have chance to rescue the unborn

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Some people in our pews today can remember the time when abortion was not legal. But the rest of you who are filling the seats in our churches, working various jobs across northern Colorado and living next door are survivors. You may not realize it, but more than 50 million people who should be alive today are not because they were aborted.

Each of us is blessed that our mothers and fathers chose life for us, even when that meant life being very difficult for them. The recent revelations that the abortion provider Ulrich Klopfer kept the remains of 2,246 aborted children in his home, or the gruesome scenes brought to light by the trial of Kermit Gosnell lay bare the reality of what happens in abortion into clear focus.  Abortion is the violent taking of innocent, defenseless life, and the fact that this is legal in the United States is abhorrent.

Many people ask me what they can do to respond to this grave injustice. We must first and foremost pray for mothers and fathers who believe that they have no other choice than abortion. We must pray that their hearts are opened to God’s mercy and experience his forgiveness, no matter what they have done. At the same time, we should be ready to materially assist those women who find themselves considering abortion. That is why we have been working to expand our Marisol Health Clinics in recent years. We must be using every resource we have — medical care, food, shelter, counseling and friendship — to love Jesus as he comes to us via those in need.

Yes, we should be moved by the tragedy of how many innocent lives are being snuffed out by abortion, but we should not allow this injustice to let us overlook the suffering of the mothers and fathers who are often driven by fear to consider abortion. Similarly, we must not lose sight of the fact that those who work at abortion clinics believe that they are doing good, that they are helping people in need. Are we praying for these clinic workers? Are we treating them with kindness, even if they do not accept it?

In addition to physical, emotional, and prayerful assistance, we can limit the number of unborn children threatened by abortion in the legal realm. Several states have made progress in passing laws that seek to protect women and unborn children. Just this week, for example, we have learned that the United States Supreme Court will hear the case challenging Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

In Colorado, we have some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country. Currently, there is no point up until birth at which a baby cannot be aborted. Thankfully, Colorado voters will have the chance in the coming months to help children whose lives are at risk by signing a petition to qualify Proposition 120 for the November 2020 ballot. This proposition will restrict abortion to a maximum age of 22 weeks gestation, the point at which it is possible for a child to live on its own outside its mother’s womb.

I urge all Catholics to get involved in this effort! The bishops of Colorado and I have given permission to every pastor to allow trained signature gatherers to ask for signatures at every Catholic church in the state. It is important that those asking for signatures be trained so that we obtain the maximum number of certifiable signatures possible.

The fight against the culture of death is a long-term battle. In some ways known only to God, it will not be won until the second coming of Jesus Christ. However, we must not let up in our efforts to ensure that the goodness of every human life is respected in our laws, our churches and our families. It is my fervent prayer that in future generations, none of us will have to say that we are a survivor of abortion and that this great travesty is replaced by a culture of life.

If people in your parish are interested in being involved in this effort and would like to receive the training to collect signatures, please have them send an email to: [email protected].