A recently reported commerce in baby body parts is "driving the abortion industry's almost frantic defense of partial-birth abortion," says the head of an activist pro-life organization that revealed the secretive market.
Fetal-tissue marketing "is the father of partial-birth abortion," said Mark Crutcher, president of Life Dynamics Inc., a Texas-based pro-life group. "There is simply no other plausible explanation why a physician would intentionally create a breech delivery, and to contend that it is done for the well-being of the woman is utterly ridiculous. Any way you cut it, the hidden agenda behind partial-birth abortion is the wholesaling of dead babies.
"Of all the late-term abortion procedures, partial-birth is the only one that leaves you with a body that can be dissected and sold for parts," said Crutcher, who is a Southern Baptist.
His charge on a video produced by Life Dynamics resulted, at least partly, from the testimony of a woman who procured fetal tissue at an abortion clinic as an employee of an outside company. After an investigation begun when the woman came clandestinely to LDI in 1997, Crutcher and his staff reported some businesses are operating as agents between abortion clinics and researchers, procuring organs and other body parts from aborted children, then shipping them throughout the country to scientists who have requested them.
In her videotaped testimony for LDI, Kelly, which is not her real name, reported the abortion doctor in the Planned Parenthood clinic in which she conducted business would alter procedures in order to "get us the most complete, intact specimens that he could get us." About thirty or forty babies a week were aborted at thirty weeks' gestation, and only 2 percent of those had abnormalities, she said.
The report has thrown new light on the debate over a particularly gruesome method of abortion. Partial-birth abortion, at it is known, is typically performed in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. It normally involves the delivery of an intact baby feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the baby's skull with surgical scissors, then inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain. The collapse of the skull enables easier removal of the dead child.
Congress twice has approved by large margins a bill prohibiting the method, except when necessary to protect the mother's life, but each time President Clinton has vetoed it. In October, the Senate approved the ban for the third time but again fell short of a two-thirds majority, which is required to override a veto. On both previous occasions, the House has garnered an override vote, but the Senate has failed.
In opposing the ban, abortion advocacy organizations have called the procedure sometimes necessary to protect the mother's health or life. They also have charged such a ban would be the first step in an attempt to prohibit all abortions.
Susan Dudley, deputy director of the National Abortion Federation, called Crutcher's theory an "absurd charge." NAF represents about 350 abortion clinics.
"I can't even imagine where somebody would come up with an idea like that," Dudley told Baptist Press. "There are doctors who feel that that is a method that is safer for some women in some circumstances."
More than 400 physicians, however, including former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, have said the procedure "is never medically necessary to protect a mother's health or her future fertility. On the contrary, this procedure can pose a significant threat to both." The American Medical Association also has endorsed the legislation.
In addition, Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, said in early 1997 he and other abortion advocates had provided misleading information in order to protect the procedure. He acknowledged partial-birth abortion is not as rare as he and others had claimed and is not performed primarily on women whose lives or fertility are threatened or whose unborn babies are damaged.
A former abortion-clinic operator supported Crutcher when he presented his thesis in an interview on LifeTalk, LDI's monthly video newsmagazine.
Eric Harrah called Crutcher "probably one of the very few on the pro-life side who have come to a true realization about why that procedure is so guarded by the pro-abortion side."
Defending partial-birth abortion "has nothing to do with a woman's right to choose or protecting the sanctity of the right of abortion," Harrah said. "It has to do with protecting the sanctity of the fullness of the abortionist's wallet.
"That's why they fight for all abortions, but especially this type, because, you know, this is the only type of abortion procedure that doesn't cost you money to get rid of the dead baby."
Harrah, who lives in State College, Pa., worked in the abortion business for nearly twelve years before he became a Christian and a pro-lifer.