I was surprised to read, according to the Globe, (“Shots Assist in Aborting Fetuses – Lethal Injections Offer Legal Shield“, August 10, 2007) that some physicians at three Harvard-affiliated hospitals are lethally injecting unborn children prior to completing abortions. This injection, which according to some doctors cited in the article creates some risk to women, was being done solely to avoid violating the federal Partial-Birth Abortion ban. One doctor was quoted as saying, “No physician even wants to be accused of stumbling into accidentally doing one of these procedures.”
This claim is uninformed. The procedure banned by a bi-partisan Congress and recently upheld by the United States Supreme Court creates no such situation that a physician might “accidentally” break the law.
Under the Partial Birth Abortion Act, a physician is subject to criminal liability only if he “knowingly performs a partial birth abortion” which involves “deliberately and intentionally” vaginally delivering a living fetus. The vaginal delivery is further defined in a specific way depending on the child’s presentation (e.g., breech). When the Supreme Court upheld the ban, it noted the scienter requirements and the “anatomical landmarks” prevented arbitrary enforcement of the ban because it is so clear what conduct the ban prohibits.
The doctor’s statement is misinformed and misleading.
Americans United for Life, Chicago