The Magazine

Blood Brothers

From the October 11, 2004 issue: Why the leading practitioners of late abortion wrote checks to Kerry.

Oct 11, 2004, Vol. 10, No. 05 • By DOUGLAS JOHNSON
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MARTIN HASKELL, George Tiller, and Warren Hern have several things in common. All three are abortionists who specialize in late abortions. Haskell's name is closely linked with the partial-birth abortion method. Tiller and Hern may be the only two abortionists in the United States who openly advertise their willingness to perform third-trimester abortions.

Finally, all three men have opened their checkbooks to support Senator John Kerry's bid to be president of the United States. Their contributions to Kerry's campaign total $7,000.

That is not a vast sum compared with the millions being spent by liberal groups to attack President Bush. (Federal law limits a contributor to maximum total donations of $4,000 to a single presidential candidate, split between two types of campaign accounts.) Nevertheless, these contributions are worth scrutinizing because of what they reveal about John Kerry.

Although Haskell, Tiller, and Hern have been controversial figures for many years in national debates about late abortions (as anybody can ascertain by entering their names into Google), the Kerry campaign apparently readily accepted the contributions--money that might very well have originated in fees charged to perform partial-birth abortions or other late abortions.

But why would such men send their hard-earned dollars to Kerry? After all, Kerry told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, on January 25, 2004, "I'm against partial-birth abortion, as are many people." And Kerry told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald in July, 2004, "I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception."

My bet is that the abortionists know that during his 20 years in the Senate, Kerry has been an absolutely consistent defender of abortion. So why should they be bothered by statements intended only to mislead voters who are strongly opposed to the grisly business that these men are in--voters who are still unfamiliar with Kerry's actual record?

Most likely, these abortionists are quite aware that Kerry has promised to nominate only Supreme Court justices who share his real position on abortion policy--which would guarantee that partial-birth abortions and other late abortions, and of course earlier abortions, would remain almost entirely shielded from scrutiny or restriction by elected lawmakers for the foreseeable future.

DR. MARTIN HASKELL wrote the Kerry for President campaign a check for $2,000, recorded June 30, 2004. Haskell, based in Ohio, owns three abortion clinics, all called Women's Med Center (http://www.womensmedcenter.com). In 1992 Haskell published a paper describing how to perform what he called "dilation and extraction." Circulation of this paper led to introduction of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act by congressman Charles Canady, a Florida Republican, in 1995.

Brenda Pratt Shafer, a nurse who worked briefly at one of Haskell's clinics, witnessed close up the partial-birth abortion of a baby boy who she said was at 26 and a half weeks.

"I stood at the doctor's side and watched him perform a partial-birth abortion on a woman who was six months pregnant," Shafer related. "The baby's heartbeat was clearly visible on the ultrasound screen. The doctor delivered the baby's body and arms, everything but his little head. The baby's body was moving. His little fingers were clasping together. He was kicking his feet.

"The doctor took a pair of scissors and inserted them into the back of the baby's head, and the baby's arms jerked out in a flinch, a startle reaction, like a baby does when he thinks that he might fall. Then the doctor opened the scissors up. Then he stuck the high-powered suction tube into the hole and sucked the baby's brains out. Now the baby was completely limp. I never went back to the clinic. But I am still haunted by the face of that little boy. It was the most perfect, angelic face I have ever seen."

Haskell wrote that he used this method on all of his clients from 20 through 24 weeks, unless they had certain health problems, and on "selected" clients through 26 weeks. He told American Medical News that 80 percent of his late abortions were "purely elective." The head of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers admitted to the New York Times in 1997 that the method is used thousands of times annually, and that "in the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed on a healthy mother with a healthy fetus that is 20 weeks or more along."

It seems that none of that really bothers John Kerry, who has voted for unsuccessful amendments to allow partial-birth abortions without any restriction whatever during the entire period of pregnancy that Haskell acknowledges performing them, and to allow abortions for "health" reasons (the term includes emotional "health") even later than that. After those killer amendments were rejected, Kerry voted every time (six times) against passage of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

Haskell and Kerry both have a knack for compartmentalization. In 1993, Cincinnati Medicine asked Haskell, "Does it bother you that a second trimester fetus so closely resembles a baby?" Haskell replied, "I really don't think about it. . . . Many of our patients have ethical dilemmas about abortion. I don't feel it's my role as a physician to tell her she should not have an abortion because of her ethical feelings. . . . I'm not to tell them what's right or wrong."

Kerry explained in 1972: "On abortion, I myself, by belief and upbringing, am opposed to abortion, but as a legislator, as one who is called on to pass a law, I would find it very difficult to legislate on something God himself has not seen fit to make clear to all the people on this earth."

DR. GEORGE TILLER runs an abortion facility in Wichita, Kansas. He sent the Kerry campaign a contribution of $1,000, recorded March 17, 2004.

A full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks (counted from the end of the last menstrual period). Tiller performs abortions on request through 26 weeks, or near the end of the sixth month. He uses various methods, but often favors killing the fetus by injecting digoxin into his or her chest to stop the heart, followed by induction of labor and/or manual removal of the dead baby.

Tiller's clinic website (www.drtiller.com/mainpg.html) explains, "We are able to perform elective abortions to the time in the pregnancy when the fetus is viable. Viability is not a set point in time."

When most doctors use the term "viability," they mean the point at which a premature infant can survive outside the mother with modern neonatal medical support, which is generally about 23 or 24 weeks, or about 5 and a half months.

But Tiller operates on a different definition, which he calls "survivalhood."

A spokeswoman for Tiller explained, "Our philosophy basically is that, prior to 26 weeks, without massive neonatal intensive care, you do not have survivalhood." Tiller himself has said, "Through the end of the second trimester, when natural survival-hood does not exist, women have the right to continue a pregnancy or end that pregnancy" (italics added).

So, although with proper neonatal care over two-thirds of babies born prematurely at 26 weeks now survive long-term, they are still eligible for purely elective abortion under Tiller's "survivalhood" doctrine.

What about abortions after 26 weeks? In a 1995 speech, Tiller spoke of performing abortions as late as 36weeks.

It is not entirely clear what Tiller's criteria are for abortions after the 26th week. In 1992, the New York Times ran an article about Tiller, Hern, and the late James McMahon. (McMahon, who died in 1995, developed the partial-birth abortion method.) The paper reported: "All three say they are uncomfortable doing late abortions unless the fetus is abnormal or the woman's physical or mental health is endangered. But they make their decisions case by case and come down firmly on the side of the woman's right to decide whether she wants to continue her pregnancy. They say they do not have specific guidelines on what circumstances justify an abortion or when it is too late to perform one. The woman, not the fetus, is their patient, they say."

Tiller's website is less explicit. It says, "Kansas law allows for post-viability abortion procedures when continuing the pregnancy is detrimental to the pregnant woman's health. Each person's circumstances are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Please call so that we can discuss admission criteria with you."

A lot of callers apparently meet the criteria, as the website asserts that Tiller's clinic has "more experience in late abortion services over 24 weeks than anyone else currently practicing in the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Australia." Tiller himself wrote in 2003, "I am the outpatient abortion provider of the last resort in the United States, the Western Hemisphere and Australia."

Does Kerry wish to protect what Tiller does? Not if you believe what he told Peter Jennings of ABC in an interview broadcast July 22: "What the Supreme Court has established is a test of viability as to whether or not you're permitted to terminate a pregnancy, and I support that. That is my test."

In reality, however, Kerry has voted for unsuccessful measures to require that abortion be available even in the final three months of pregnancy for "health" reasons, which include emotional "health." Beyond that, it seems that Kerry would leave the definition of viability entirely in the hands of each abortionist. He cosponsored the Freedom of Choice Act in the early 1990s. This bill would have forbidden states to place restrictions on abortion until after "viability," with "viability" defined by the abortionist.

In short, Kerry has consistently supported enactment of federal statutes that would protect everything that Tiller does. But Tiller won't need the shield of such statutes if Kerry gets to pick Supreme Court justices.

WARREN HERN, between September 15, 2003, and June 25, 2004, made three contributions totaling $4,000 to two Kerry accounts, the maximum permitted by law.

Hern is the owner and director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic. Hern has developed refinements of various abortion methods, including the dismemberment procedures called "dilation and evacuation." In an early paper on such D&Es, he wrote, "There is no possibility of denial of an act of destruction by the operator. It is before one's eyes. The sensations of dismemberment flow through the forceps like an electric current."

According to the clinic's website (www.drhern.com), it offers "outpatient elective abortion through 26 weeks." (Again, more than two-thirds of infants born at 26 weeks now survive long-term.)

Hern also offers abortions "up to 36 weeks"--that is, the end of the eighth month--when "medically indicated." Such very late abortions are often performed because of "fetal anomalies," but in a 1992 letter, Hern listed rape, incest, and "extreme youth" of the mother as examples of reasons for performing abortions "up to 34 menstrual weeks' gestation."

How compatible are John Kerry's views with those of Warren Hern? Kerry told ABC in July, "Let me tell you very clearly that being pro-choice is not pro-abortion . . . and I think we need to adhere to the standard that Bill Clinton, in fact, so adeptly framed, that abortion should be rare, but legal and safe."

Well, the term "pro-abortion" can surely be aptly applied to Hern, who wrote that pregnancy should be regarded not as a normal state but as an illness which "may be treated by evacuation of the uterus." Elsewhere he wrote that pregnancy is most appropriately compared to infestation by a parasite. He is a strong proponent of population control, who has written that population growth has made the human race itself an "ecotumor" or "planetary malignancy."

It wouldn't make much sense to say that an effective anti-parasite or anti-cancer treatment should be used only "rarely," so it might seem that Kerry and Hern have divergent views on this point.

But here too, Kerry's record says otherwise. Despite Kerry's adoption of Clinton's "adeptly framed" verbal formula that abortion should be "rare," Kerry has consistently voted in favor of making abortion an integral part of U.S.-funded population control programs. Indeed, Kerry has pledged that if elected president, he would use his very first executive order to overturn President Bush's policy of not funding private organizations that promote abortion in foreign nations.

"Abortions need to be moved out of the fringes of medicine and into the mainstream of medical practice," Kerry explained in 1994.

Early this year, Kate Michelman, the longtime president of the National Abortion Rights Action League, told the New York Times, "Even on the most difficult issues, we've never had to worry about John Kerry's position."

Like Kate Michelman, Doctors Haskell, Tiller, and Hern know their man.

Douglas Johnson is legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (legfederal@aol.com). Mary Kay Culp, executive director of Kansans for Life, contributed essential research and documentation regarding Dr. George Tiller.

Correction appended, 10/5/04: "Blood Brothers" quoted Sen. John Kerry as telling Peter Jennings of ABC News in July, "I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception." Kerry actually made that statement weeks earlier to the Dubuque Telegraph Herald. Jennings asked Kerry to explain the statement.