October 25th, 2021


Certain U.S. abortions tear the fetus apart, ISIS-style

Nat Hentoff

By Nat Hentoff

Published April 15, 2015

An April 8 New York Times front-page story reports that "a bill signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican and longtime abortion opponent, outlaws what it calls 'dismemberment abortion,' defined in part as 'knowingly dismembering a living unborn child' ... (I)t appears to ban or require altercation of the method known as dilation and evacuation, which is used in nearly all abortions after the 12th to 14th week of pregnancy" ("Kansas Limits Abortion Method, Opening a New Line of Attack," Erik Eckholm and Frances Robles, The New York Times, April 8).

And a lead editorial a few days later begins in utterly prejudicial and non-factual language: "During the past four years, the state of Kansas has become ground zero in the war to criminalize all abortions, and in the process to remove a woman's ability to control what happens in her own body" ("Kansas Tries to Stamp Out Abortion," The New York Times, April 10).

By contrast, here are the facts regarding Kansas becoming the first state to outlaw the dismemberment procedure, as reported by the National Right to Life Committee earlier this year: "In his dissent to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2000 Stenberg v. Carhart decision, Justice (Anthony) Kennedy observed that in D&E dismemberment abortions, 'The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn limb from limb. The fetus can be alive at the beginning of the dismemberment process and can survive for a time while its limbs are being torn off'" ("Dismemberment Abortion Ban in Kansas Leads 2015 Pro-Life Legislative Agenda,", Jan. 14).

As I have reported previously, in this digital era it is possible to view the fetus, and I have. So it's pertinent to add that when the dismemberment procedure occurs after the first trimester -- as NRLC's director of state legislation, Mary Spaulding Balch, emphasizes -- and the fetus is torn apart, "the unborn child (already) has a beating heart, brain waves and every organ system in place. Dismemberment abortions occur after the baby has reached these milestones."

That's why the brutal torture of ISIS comes to my mind.

In answering the question, "Is dismemberment too harsh a description?" Justice Kennedy was very specific in his written opinion for Gonzales v. Carhart, a 2007 case in which the Supreme Court upheld a congressional ban on partial-birth abortions (another term for dismemberment abortions). This decision, wrote the Pew Research Center, "prompt(ed) many states to consider passing tougher restrictions on abortion" ("A History of Key Abortion Rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court," Jan. 16, 2013).

Kennedy wrote: "After sufficient dilation, a doctor inserts grasping forceps through the woman's cervix and into the uterus to grab a living fetus. The doctor grips a fetal part with the forceps and pulls it back through the cervix and vagina, continuing to pull even after meeting resistance from the cervix. The friction causes the fetus to tear apart. For example, a leg might be ripped off the fetus as it is pulled through the cervix and out of the woman ...

"The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would" ("Oklahoma House passes Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act by a vote of 84-2," Dave Andrusko,, Feb. 27).

Also worth considering is the testimony of Dr. Anthony Levatino, a Las Cruces, New Mexico, obstetrician and gynecologist, before the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice on May 23, 2013: "Imagine, if you can, that you are a pro-choice obstetrician/gynecologist, like I once was. Your patient today is 24 weeks pregnant. At 24 weeks from (her) last menstrual period, her uterus is two finger-breadths above the umbilicus. If you could see her baby, which is quite easy on an ultrasound, she would be as long as your hand plus a half from the top of her head to the bottom of her rump, not counting the legs.

"Your patient has been feeling her baby kick for the last month or more, but now she is asleep on an operating room table, and you are there to help her with her problem pregnancy ...

"The toughest part of a D&E abortion is extracting the baby's head. The head of a baby that age is about the size of a large plum and is now free-floating inside the uterine cavity. You can be pretty sure you have hold of it if the Sopher clamp is spread about as far as your fingers will allow. ... You can then extract the skull pieces. Many times a little face will come out and stare back at you. ... If you refuse to believe that this procedure inflicts severe pain on that unborn child, please think again."

I congratulate Kansas for being the first state to ban this brutal procedure, while Oklahoma just passed its own dismemberment abortion ban as well. Other states are planning to take similar steps, though they face many obstacles.

Now my customary question: Will any of the 2016 presidential or congressional candidates focus on, or even mention, this horrendous procedure?

If more of our citizenry comes to learn about dismemberment abortion, will there be sufficient sustained protest to protect future generations of the unborn from this appalling fate?

Finally, worth considering: "According to the National Abortion Federation Abortion Training Textbook -- 'D&E remains the most prevalent method of second-trimester pregnancy termination in the USA, accounting for 96 percent of all second-trimester abortions ... roughly 100,000 unborn babies die each year after the first trimester" ("Frequently Asked Questions: Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act,"

If this awful procedure were to continue, how would America come to be defined among all other civilized nations?

Comment by clicking here.

Nat Hentoff is a nationally renowned authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights and author of several books, including his current work, "The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance".