Utah Hospital Won’t Do Abortions on Handicapped Children
by Maria Gallagher
LifeNews.com Staff Writer
April 22, 2004
Salt Lake CIty, UT (LifeNews.com) — University Hospital in Salt Lake City will no longer perform abortions in cases involving handicapped children.
The move is prompted by a new pro-life law which cuts off state funding to agencies that perform abortions in cases of rape, incest, or "permanent, irreparable and grave damage to a major bodily function of the pregnant woman."
The new law is seen as a victory for both children with disabilities and their mothers, who are often pressured by doctors to abort handicapped children. Other hospitals are expected to follow University Hospital’s lead in refusing to perform abortions except in very limited circumstances.
However, the hospital will be offering abortion referrals to abortion facilities or out of state hospitals.
"It puts us in the position of wanting to provide care for patients in an extremely difficult situation and, at the same time, obey the law," Kim Wirthlin, an associate vice president for health sciences with the University of Utah, told the Associated Press.
Attempting to perform abortions on handicapped children could easily jeopardize state funding for the university’s medical, nursing, and pharmacy schools, as well as reimbursement for low-income Medicaid patients.
"We are a state institution. It puts the hospital at risk. It probably would put the whole university at risk," Neil Kochenour, University Hospital’s medical director, told the AP.
The abortion-related legislation goes into effect May 3.
An estimated 70 women a year undergo abortions in Utah because of what are described as "fatal fetal deformities."
However, doctors have been known to be wrong about predictions that a baby will be born with handicaps. Because of advancements in medical science, a number of children are now able to overcome disabilities that were once considered to be a death sentence.
For instance, physicians have been known to urge women to obtain abortions when their unborn children have been diagnosed with hydrocephaly, or head enlargement.
However, doctors now commonly deal with the situation by withdrawing excess fluid to reduce the size of the baby’s head so that normal delivery can take place.
Pro-abortion forces have used the medical challenges posed by hydrocephaly to try to justify partial-birth abortion, in which a child is partly delivered, then killed.
However, one abortionist testified before Congress that only 4 percent of the partial-birth abortions he performed related to cases involving hydrocephaly.
The sponsor of the Utah legislation, Sen. Curt Bramble (R-Provo), has said that doctors embark on a "slippery slope" when they try to define fetal deformities.
"What is the definition of what’s ‘incompatible with life’? How long is it inconsistent with life? A breath? A minute? A month? I have an inherent discomfort with trying to decide which child should live…." Bramble said in comments to the AP.
According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research arm of Planned Parenthood, some 3510 abortions occurred in Utah in the year 2000. That means there were 6.6 abortions for every 1000 women there.
Since 1996, the total abortion rate in Utah has dropped 12 percent.
Utah has a number of pro-life laws on the books, including parental notification and 24-hour waiting periods.
However, Bramble concedes the Utah legislature is limited in what it can do to stop abortions.
"We can’t overturn Roe v. Wade. But if we can put a serious dent in abortions being performed, that is consistent with the legislative intent," Bramble told the AP.
Related web sites:
Utah State Legislature – https://www.le.state.ut.us