When the pro-choice group RH Reality Check hosted a conference call today on abortionist Kermit Gosnell, the speakers focussed entirely on the substandard care Gosnell provided the mothers. But violating sanitation regulations is not really why Gosnell is on trial. He’s been charged with killing people — mostly babies.
So I asked the call participants, “What is the distinction between what he did, and what a late-term abortionist like, say, LeRoy Carhart does?”
Tracy Weitz, associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, explained: “When a procedure that usually involves the collapsing of the skull is done, it’s usually done when the fetus is still in the uterus, not when the fetus has been delivered.”
Dr. Weitz added that third-trimester abortions involve “euthanizing” the baby with a chemical injection, and then basically going through labor and delivery.
Here’s the full transcript of Weitz’s response:
I think it’s important to recognize that this particular procedure is nowhere in the medical literature. When a procedure that usually involves the collapsing of the skull is done, it’s usually done when the fetus is still in the uterus, not when the fetus has been delivered.
So this technique that he does is nowhere in the lexicon of practice in abortion care. So, in terms of thinking about the difference between the way abortion providers who do later abortions in the United States practice, and this particular practice, they are completely worlds apart.
Traditionally, when that procedure is done which involves the collapsing of the skull, it’s done at the junction between the later second trimester and the beginning of the third trimester — that’s around 24 weeks. It is not done at this significantly later period.
When inductions for delivery — that is, in the third trimester, when procedures are performed, when abortions are performed, they are usually done as inductions. That is, they look much more like a labor and delivery. And the fetus is traditionally euthanized before that procedure is initiated. Two drugs, either potassium chloride or digoxin, are used to make sure that the fetus is not living before the procedure is initiated.
So the take-home message is that later abortion is a very, sort of, complicated, and I think emotionally highly charged discussion point. But the way in which this practice has done has nothing to do with the way in which the standard of care and later abortion procedures are performed in the United States.