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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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 ( 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."