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If you haven’t heard of the term “dismemberment abortion,” you will soon.

Last week, Kansas became the first state in the nation to protect children from dismemberment abortions. The Oklahoma legislature passed the measure, too. In so doing, these states have accelerated a movement to tell the truth – person by person, state by state – about what exactly abortion involves. And it will be a movement that will be difficult for the abortion industry to stop.

After all, how do you defend literally ripping a baby apart, limb by limb, body part by body part?

Dismemberment abortions are not new – they’ve been performed for decades under the name “dilation and evacuation” or “D&E.”  But these procedures have long been shrouded in a carefully woven veil of vagueness – even their name has been designed to convey as little as possible about them.

That veil has been fraying and wearing thin for a while now.

Since Congress passed a ban on partial-birth abortions in 2003, Priests for Life and I have been conducting an education campaign on dilation and evacuation abortions (www.StopDandE.com).  Why? Because like partial-birth procedures, they so clearly demonstrate the brutality of abortion.

Seven years ago, I posted a YouTube video using instruments and models to show what D&E abortions entail. That video has since had almost 450,000 viewings. Now, with the Kansas and Oklahoma measures, the gruesome truth about dismemberment abortion is being revealed to even more Americans.

So, what do we mean when we say “dismemberment abortion?” To quote from the Kansas legislation:

Dismemberment abortion” means, with the purpose of causing the death of an unborn child, knowingly dismembering a living unborn child and extracting such unborn child one piece at a time from the uterus through the use of clamps, grasping forceps, tongs, scissors or similar instruments that, through the convergence of two rigid levers, slice, crush or grasp a portion of the unborn child’s body in order to cut or rip it off.

Even that definition, though, doesn’t fully describe the dismemberment or “D&E” procedure.

Testifying under oath, abortion practitioner Martin Haskell describes this procedure, which he performs, in the following way:

Let’s just say for instance we took a different view, a different tact and we left the leg in the uterus just to dismember it. Well, we’d probably have to dismember it at several different levels because we don’t have firm control over it, so we would attack the lower part of the lower extremity first, remove, you know, possibly a foot, then the lower leg at the knee and then finally we get to the hip.

And typically when the abortion procedure is started we typically know that the fetus is still alive because either we can feel it move as we’re making our initial grasps or if we’re using some ultrasound visualization when we actually see a heartbeat as we’re starting the procedure. It’s not unusual at the start of D&E procedures that a limb is acquired first and that that limb is brought through the cervix.

When you’re doing a dismemberment D&E, usually the last part to be removed is the skull itself and it’s floating free inside the uterine cavity… typically the skull is brought out in fragments rather than as a unified piece…

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, May 27, 1999, Case No. 98-C-0305-S

Shocking? I’ve read that testimony more times than I can count, yet it still horrifies me. But in America right now, what Dr. Haskell so vividly describes is simply routine.

So, how does the abortion industry attempt to counter legislation to restrict dismemberment abortion? Does it dispute what dismemberment abortion does to the unborn baby? It can’t.

No, the abortion lobby objects to these bills because they use “inflammatory language” that provokes “emotional responses.” The simple fact, however, is that the bills would do no such thing if the actions they seek to stop were not so inflammatory and provocative of emotion.

Strangely, the last thing many abortion supporters want to discuss is abortion. But when it’s explained that an arm and then a leg and then a face are removed from a mother’s womb, a face has been placed on the “product of conception.” Abortionists can’t tolerate that because they know we will have an “emotional response” to what they do. We will respond to the humanity of the child being dismembered.

What has happened in Kansas and Oklahoma will happen in states across the country. A light is shining on a dark and inhumane practice and what Americans are discovering cannot be tolerated by a civil society. I’ve long said that America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion. Bills against dismemberment abortion help that to happen.

Fr. Frank Pavone is National Director of Priests for Life


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