Abortion Debate Tainted by 'Half-Truths, Lies.' (Partial-Birth Abortion)

By O'Brien, Nancy Frazier | National Catholic Reporter, March 14, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Abortion Debate Tainted by 'Half-Truths, Lies.' (Partial-Birth Abortion)


O'Brien, Nancy Frazier, National Catholic Reporter


WASHINGTON -- The executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers has admitted that he and other supporters of keeping abortion legal lied about the partial-birth abortion procedure during debate over legislation to ban it.

Ron Fitzsimmons, whose organization represents more than 200 independently owned abortion clinics, said in an interview in the March 3 issue of American Medical News that abortion supporters used "spins" and "half-truths" in the debate that ultimately led Congress to fail to override President Clinton's veto of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.

Fitzsimmons said he personally lied when he said in a November 1995 interview on "Nightline" that women have partial-birth abortions only in cases of danger to the mothers life or severe fetal abnormalities.

"It was not a shining moment for me personally," said Fitzsimmons, who said he stayed out of the partial-birth debate after that. The legislation vetoed by Clinton would have banned a procedure used in late-term abortions in which the unborn child is partially delivered, feet first, before surgical scissors are stabbed into the base of the infant's head. The child's brain is then removed by suction, allowing for easier delivery of the collapsed head.

Fitzsimmons told the American News, published by the American Medical Association, that the vast majority of partial-birth abortions are performed in the second trimester on healthy fetuses and healthy mothers.

"The abortion rights folks know it, the antiabortion folks know it, and so., probably, does everyone else," he said. When the debate began over the partial-birth abortion procedure, Fitzsimmons said, "I learned right away that this was being done for the most part in cases that did not involve those extreme circumstances" cited by opponents of the ban.

He also said he thought a ban on partial-birth abortions "wasn't worth going to the mat on" because it would have little effect on physicians or patients. "The real world impact on doctors and patients is virtually nil," he said, adding that physicians would just use another abortion method.

The biggest problem arising from the debate over partial-birth abortion has been a loss of credibility for those who want to keep abortion legal, Fitzsimmons said. "The pro-choice movement has lost a lot of credibility during this debate, not just with the general public, but with our pro-choice friends in Congress," he said. "Even the White House is now questioning the accuracy of some of the information given to it on this issue."

"We're fighting a bill that has the support of, what, 78 percent of the public?" Fitzsimmons added. "That tells me that we have a PR problem."

He said the abortion supporters themselves "did serious harm" to those who perform partial-birth abortions by lying that they were only performed in extreme circumstances.

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