Pro-Life Attorney Takes on USA Today on Promoting Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 22, 2011   |   12:12PM   |   Washington, DC

A leading pro-life attorney who works with state legislation to protect women and unborn children from abortions is dueling with the liberal newspaper USA Today, which issued an editorial opposing abortion limits.

USA Today complains about a South Dakota bill that requires women to wait 72 hours before an abortion so they can get supportive counseling and pregnancy support from a pregnancy centers that will offer them better alternatives. Not content with the notion of showing women options other than abortion, USA Today writes, “Non-emergency abortions in South Dakota are available only at a single Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls, which performs abortions one day each week when a doctor flies in from Minnesota. If a woman lives in Rapid City, that’s a 700-mile round trip. Under the legislation, she’d have to make the trek twice, or find a place to stay in Sioux Falls during the waiting period.”

The newspaper also complains about other states, which are moving to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy based on the scientific data showing unborn children possess the capacity to feel pain. And USA Today doesn’t like laws protecting taxpayers from having to pay for abortions in the new state taxpayer-funded health insurance exchanges the Obamacare law created.

Mary Spaulding Balch, an attorney for the National Right to Life Committee, responds in her own opinion column the newspaper published.

Should public policy seek to increase or decrease the number of abortions? No matter what you think about abortion and when it should be legal, the answer is obvious.

Every abortion stops a heart that begins beating 22 days after fertilization. Brain waves are detectable in the sixth week, and in the seventh week an unborn child has been observed kicking and swimming. Every organ is in place by the eighth week, when the child begins to respond to touch. By 20 weeks, an unborn child reacts to being pierced by a needle with vigorous body and breathing movements, moving away and showing an increase in stress hormones.

USA TODAY’s editorial on laws limiting abortions curiously fails to focus on Nebraska’s ground-breaking 2010 statute, versions of which are being considered in several states this year. Asserting “a compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which substantial medical evidence indicates that they are capable of feeling pain,” the law prevents abortions from 20 weeks. In a 2000 Supreme Court dissent, Justice Anthony Kennedy described the “D&E” abortion procedure used at this stage: “The fetus, in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: It bleeds to death as it is torn limb from limb.”

We believe that when women are informed about unborn development and abortion alternatives, rather than just whatever they may be told by abortion providers, they’re more likely to choose life. Currently, 23 states with informed consent/women’s right-to-know laws protect a mother’s right to receive this kind of information prior to undergoing an abortion.

The abortion-rights advocacy group NARAL has acknowledged that “Medicaid-eligible women in states that exclude abortion coverage have abortion rates of about half of those women in states that fund abortion care.” Limiting insurance coverage of abortions to separate policies can similarly help save lives. That we may not equally protect the unborn children of those who can afford to evade these laws does not diminish the value of saving those who can be saved. Abortion is a tragedy that public policy should discourage, not promote.