Through a doctorís eyes: Partial-birth abortion


CS&T Correspondent

There are certain aspects of the abortion debate that only a doctor can know. Standing on the front line, doctors see and hear things the average person may never know unless one of these doctors chooses to speak up.

Charles J. Moloney, M.D., president of Physicians For Life and a practicing pediatrician, has been involved in trying to outlaw partial-birth abortion since it was first made public by its alleged inventor, W. Martin Haskell, M.D., in 1992. In addition to testifying against the ban before the N.J. State Senate, Moloney has had no qualms about telling the public some of the little-known facts about the procedure, in fact, heís been imparting information about partial-birth abortions to the public for many years.

After reviewing transcripts of recent trials where challenges to the constitutionality of the ban are being heard (in Nebraska, New York and California) Moloney shared his thoughts with The Catholic Standard & Times.

"The attorney for the Department of Justice made three points," Moloney said. "Number one, he said that no maternal or fetal condition makes it necessary. Thatís true. Number two, he said there are no safety advantages to it, and thatís true also. But when he says that partial-birth abortion blurs the line between an abortion and a live birth, this isnít true. Thereís no blurred line here. This is a live birth, by any definition."

Moloney went on to explain what most people are never told ó that after the physician partially delivers the baby and performs the encephalotomy (defined as a "dissection of the brain" by Websterís Unabridged Dictionary), the babyís heart continues to beat for 10 to 15 minutes. Much as a decapitated chicken continues to run around, the encephalotomy does not cause immediate death.

"State law in every state in the Union and every modern or advanced country in the world who is a member of the World Health Organization has the same definition for a live birth. The definition of a live birth is when the baby breathes or has a pulsating heart or pulsating chord, or shows any obvious movement. Ö According to law, the doctor should be writing out a birth and death certificate. The baby is born alive ó with a mortal wound ó but itís born alive."

Because of this, Moloney prefers the more accurate name for a partial-birth abortion: Intact D&X.

"[It is an] Elective Craniotomy and Encephalotomy in the neonate," said Moloney, "which is medical language for making a hole in the skull and taking out the brain of a newborn infant."

Moloney has been involved in the partial-birth abortion debate since its controversial debut at a National Abortion Federation seminar in Dallas in 1992. At the seminar, Haskell made two presentations about procedures for late second-trimester abortions. They were titled "Second Trimester D&X, 20 Weeks and Beyond" and "D&E for Late Second-Trimester Abortion."

"When this thing first blew up, the reason it blew up was because of the seminar in Texas," Moloney said. "They had about nine speakers ó all were men except for one woman. This fellow from Dayton ó Haskell ó was one of the speakers. Somebody got hold of the transcript ó one of the Right-to-Life groups in Minnesota, and they published a description of it. Thatís when the uproar started."

Until then, no one knew that late-term babies were being killed only seconds before they were born. Not long after the seminar, Haskell gave an interview to American Medical News, stating , "Iíll be quite frank: Most of my abortions are elective in that 20 to 24 week range. Ö In my particular case, probably 20 percent are for genetic reasons. And the other 80 percent are purely elective."

Moloney said that the weeks of gestation are actually more advanced than Haskellís description in his interview. "When he says 20 to 24 weeks, thatís not from the last period, so itís really more like 22 to 26 weeks. And when he says 20 percent are for genetic reasons, this could mean something like a hair-lip."

These kinds of details are rarely made public because, as Moloney said, "In the partisan press, they just go along with it and donít ask any questions."

Pro-abortion forces often say the inhuman procedure is done only to spare the life of the mother or because the baby is going to die anyway.

Moloney says such assertions defy logic.

"Why would you go to all that trouble to kill a baby who was already going to die? As to saving the life of the mother, a partial-birth abortion is a three-day process, during which time the cervix is stretched. Some people say this procedure might be done in an emergency, but they donít know what theyíre talking about. If the motherís life was in danger, it would be much simpler to do a C-section."

Moloney explained that the more grisly procedure, where the baby is dismembered (described in recent trial transcripts), is still allowed and is not considered a partial-birth abortion.

"The old D & E where they tear the baby apart can still be done," Moloney said. "People against the ban said, ĎIf we set out with all good intentions to help a woman who is 15 weeks into the pregnancy, and weíre doing one of these operations and the whole baby comes out, that would technically make it a partial-birth abortion and thatís the reason why weíre against the bill.í"

In fact, in a written interview with Haskell published in the Fall 1993 edition of "Cincinnati Medicine," Haskell explains that the reason why he created the D & X procedure was because the bones of late-term babies are more calcified and harder to break. Haskell said the D&E procedure for later abortions was "problematic because of the toughness and development of the fetal tissue," which is why he found the intact D&X procedure "very, very easy."

"What I saw here in my practice Ö was that we had patients who needed terminations at a later date," Haskell told the interviewer, "so we learned the skills. The later we did them, the more we saw patients who needed them later still."

Moloney estimates that one percent of the total 1.5 million annual abortions in this country are done after the 20 to 22 week stage, which amounts to 15,000 a year.

"They say itís rare," Moloney said.

"Haskell does one a day, about 200 a year. And thatís only one guy. Ö A woman from a Bergen County New Jersey newspaper interviewed doctors who were doing partial-birth abortions and they were bragging about it. Two of them said that they do 1,500 a year."

Anyone can do the numbers. These three doctors alone do more partial-birth abortions in a year than the pro-abortion industryís figure of 3,000 annually.

Speaking as a pediatrician who has devoted his life to caring for children, Moloney calls the procedure "murderous."

"When you deliver the baby all except most of the head, and then crush the head," he said, "Any thinking person who isnít emotionally involved in this would say, ĎYeah, this is murder.í"

Contact Susan Brinkmann at or (215) 965-4615

Reprinted with permission of The Catholic Standard & Times. To subscribe, visit