Ky. abortion law more humane for unborn fetus unable to survive

Joyce Ostrander
Joyce Ostrander

Sharing her personal story in a Nov 13 column, Katie Vandegrift described the pain of learning that her much desired “life within” would not survive. Many women, myself included, have experienced the heartache of an in utero life loved and lost.

Vandegrift then described a new Kentucky law as “essentially outlawing” the safest option for most women in her situation and ended by urging policymakers and courts to leave decisions regarding abortion to doctors and women.

Regardless of how much one thinks the decision to abort a child should be guided by law, all readers should know just what the statute Vandegrift references would and would not do.

This new abortion law simply bans live dismemberment abortion. Live dismemberment abortion is an option when a fetus is too large to be aborted in one piece (second trimester). Therefore, the physician tears the fetus into pieces while it is alive. The new law would instead require that doctors first terminate the life of the fetus in a “more humane” manner (lethal injection) before it is dismembered.

The same day the Live Dismemberment Ban passed last April, Gov. Matt Bevin signed it, the ACLU filed suit and a federal judge granted an injunction. That injunction effectively put the new law on hold until a federal judge could rule.

Just prior to Thanksgiving, testimony concluded in federal district court in Louisville. Now, Kentucky waits for the judge’s decision to learn if the ACLU will be successful and live dismemberment abortion will continue to be lawful in Kentucky.

I sat in the courtroom and listened to hours of testimony to understand why the ACLU defends tearing apart live fetuses. This is what I learned:

ACLU attorneys and their medical witnesses allege the new ban interferes with the “reproductive rights” of women and that there is no other person or set of rights to consider. Those professionals recognize the presence of only one patient, the pregnant woman, and say that nothing should be done that would cause greater discomfort, stress, cost or risk for either the lone patient or her doctor.

But medical witnesses testifying in support of the statute argue the presence of a second person, a fetus (also known as an unborn child), whose comfort, at the very least, should be humanely considered as its life is ended. According to medical testimony, during the same age range when a fetus can be dismembered while alive:

▪ Fetal surgeons recognize pain and provide anesthesia during in utero-surgery for their tiny human patients.

▪ Neonatologists provide comfort care for those born prematurely but too early to survive outside the womb.

▪ Obstetricians recognize two patients and assess the well-being of each in their monthly visits, avoiding harm to either one.

▪ Expectant parents view ultrasounds of their baby including fingers, toes, heartbeat, gender and movement of arms and legs. During this time, parents assign names and have gender reveal parties.

▪ Even laboratory animals are euthanized and disposed of in a more humane way.

Legally Kentucky recognizes a fetus as a person, permitting a double homicide conviction when a perpetrator murders a pregnant woman.

Therefore, with the exception of those advocating for unregulated abortion, the medical and legal communities routinely view the fetus as an autonomous person deserving the best medical care and chance for health, survival and comfort.

The enjoined law simply requires that the tiny human with fingers, toes, arms, legs, a heartbeat and the ability to feel pain is simply given the kindness and comfort of a lethal injection before his life is ended by being torn apart.

As a mother who has experienced loss similar to Vandegrift’s, if there was a medical reason that the little “life within” could not survive, it would have been comforting to know that doctors would ensure the best care and comfort for both my unborn child and me.

Physicians can and should provide that care and comfort for the fetus. That is all the Live Dismemberment Ban requires. Kentucky women and their unborn children deserve nothing less.

Joyce Ostrander is a policy analyst for The Family Foundation.