Sebastian's Point

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The Need for Maryland to Pass a Dismemberment Abortion Ban

Therese Hessler  |  05 March 2020

While human rights, specifically, women’s rights, have been a focal point in the media and legislatively, the rights of the unborn, certain types of abortion, and the direct effects on maternal mortality rates have been sorely overlooked in Maryland.

For the past several years, legislation has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly that would place regulations on dismemberment abortions, a brutal and inhumane process that tears an unborn human apart limb by limb to terminate the pregnancy.  Instruments such as tongs, scissors, or similar tools are used to extract the baby from the womb, one piece at a time ending his or her life. Dismemberment abortion is usually committed in the second trimester, between three to five months gestational age.[1]

Maryland’s current law mandates, “The State may not interfere with a woman’s decision to end a pregnancy before the fetus is viable, or at any time during a woman’s pregnancy, if the procedure is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman, or if the fetus is affected by a genetic defect or serious deformity or abnormality.”[2] This is consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973).  What many fail to understand is that this wording makes abortion in Maryland permissive through all nine months of a woman’s pregnancy.

While the topic of abortion is regarded as highly controversial and divides many elected officials as well as State residents, we should all be able to agree that dismemberment abortions are cruel and unnecessary, causing a painful death for the unborn child and posing numerous health risks to the woman undergoing the procedure. However, that has not been the case each time this bill has been introduced in the Maryland General Assembly as these bills have not even been allowed to be voted on by the committees that hear them; as mandated by the committee chairs. One should wonder why opponents are adamant about letting legislation banning dismemberment abortions not be considered for even a committee vote.

Opponents of banning dismemberment abortions claim if such legislation were passed, this would place an undue burden on women seeking abortions and would violate their constitutional rights by banning Dilation and Evacuation (D & E), which they claim is included in the bill language.[3] However, this is a false claim.  The legislation, as drafted in this year's legislation under House Bill 793 states, "Dismemberment abortion does not include an abortion that only uses suction to dismember the body of an unborn child by sucking fetal parts in their entirety into a collection container.”[4]

According to the National Abortion Federation’s abortion training textbook, dismemberment abortions are a preferred method of abortion, in part because they are cheaper than other available methods.[5] Studies show second-trimester abortions are associated with high rates of complications compared to first-trimester abortions. Dismemberment abortion is particularly dangerous to women. The use of sharp instruments in the uterus and the baby's sharp bone fragments can damage or perforate the uterus, cervix, and neighboring organs. Additional risks include infection from leftover baby body parts, excessive bleeding, preterm birth or miscarriage in a subsequent pregnancy, and maternal death.[6]  It’s also important to note that “abortion-related mortality increases with each week of gestation, with a rate of 0.1 per 100,000 procedures at 8 weeks of gestation or less, and 8.9 per 100,000 procedures at 21 weeks of gestation or greater.”[7] 

“Maryland is one of the most supportive states in the nation when it comes to access to abortion at all stages of pregnancy," according to Diana Phillip, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland.[8] As Maryland continues to see an increasingly high number of pregnancy-related deaths, it raises further questions as to why our state has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.  While legislation has been introduced in Maryland’s General Assembly in 2019 and in 2020 to study what may be driving these statistics, the legislation fails to include a full scope of causes, including reporting on a woman’s medical history and the number of abortions she has had.[9]

In a time where women’s rights are being touted daily, we should truly take a stand on behalf of all women by banning the cruel and inhumane practice of dismemberment abortions and by passing legislation that would look into the full scope of causes behind Maryland's increasing maternal mortality rate.

 

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[1] Abortion Procedures: What You Need to Know – How is a D&E abortion performed?" Live Action, accessed June 12, 2018, https://www.abortionprocedures.com/#1466802055946-992e6a14-9b1d

[2] Maryland Annotated Code, Health & Gen. §§20-207 to 214; 20-103

[3] https://www.aclu-md.org/en/legislation/hb-1355-sb-1067-unborn-child-protection-dismemberment-abortion-act-2018

[4] http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2020RS/bills/hb/hb0793F.pdf

[5] Maureen Paul, et al., Management of Unintended and Abnormal Pregnancy: Comprehensive Abortion Care (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 157-159.

[6] Educational Letter regarding Dismemberment Abortion Bans,” American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG), February 8, 2016, accessed June 12, 2018, https://aaplog.org/educational-letter-regarding-dismemberment-abortion-bans/

[7] (Linda A. Bartlett, et al., “Risk Factors for Legal Induced Abortion–Related Mortality in the United States,” Obstetrics and Gynecology 103 (2004):729-37, accessed June 12, 2018, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/8648767_Risk_Factors_for_Legal_Induced_Abortion-Related_Mortality_in_the_United_States.)

[8] https://theintercept.com/2017/10/30/late-stage-abortion-provider-wont-succumb-to-protesters-who-forced-him-out-of-his-last-maryland-clinic/

[9] http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2020rs/bills_noln/hb/fhb0837.pdf

 

Therese Hessler, President & CEO Ashlar Government Relations and Consulting and 2020 Society of St. Sebastian Fellow