Mary Spaulding Balch has been fighting against what she calls “dismemberment abortion” since she was 17 years old.
Now, at 60, she’s breathing a sigh of relief.
“It’s been a long time. Too long,” Balch told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “I was naïve enough to think back in the 70s, we would be able to get this under control rather quickly.”
Balch was referring to an abortion procedure that requires doctors to “knowingly dismember” a living unborn child during the second trimester and extract it “one piece at a time” from the mother’s uterus.
On Tuesday, Kansas became the first state in the nation to ban a certain type of dilation and evacuation procedure, where the unborn child is dismembered before being killed.
Similar legislation was introduced in Missouri, South Carolina and Oklahoma.
In Oklahoma, the bill was approved by the Senate on Wednesday afternoon and will now go to the governor’s desk, where she is expected to sign it into law.
Pro-life advocates—including Republican Gov. Sam Brownback—say this type of dilation and evacuation (or “D&X”) is a particularly “horrific” way to end an unborn child’s life.
“This is a horrific procedure and we are pleased to ban it in Kansas and we hope it will be banned nationally,” Brownback said after signing the bill into law.
“This is a horrific procedure and we are pleased to ban it in Kansas and we hope it will be banned nationally,” said @GovSamBrownback.
According to language passed by the Kansas state legislature, the procedure requires “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.”
The bill does not ban dilation and evacuation where the unborn child is killed by suction without the use of forceps or where the unborn child is killed by a lethal injection before dismemberment.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says the method is “safe and effective” for the mother, is often “less emotionally challenging” and usually “faster and may be more cost-effective” than medical abortion.
With a medical abortion, certain drugs are taken to cause an abortion. A medical abortion does not require surgery or anesthesia, but multiple visits to a health care provider are needed.
The pro-life movement has been been waging a war on this type of dilatation and extraction—what they call “dismemberment abortion”—for years.
“We’re talking about a living unborn child, where the body is formed to the point where you can’t simply use a vacuum to remove that child,” Balch, who now serves as the director of state legislation for National Right to Life, told The Daily Signal. “You now have to go in with sharp forceps to grab limbs and disarticulate them from the baby’s body, and the baby dies by bleeding to death.”
“We’re talking about a living unborn child, where the body is formed to the point where you can’t simply use a vacuum to remove [it],” said @NRLC.
Opponents of Kansas’ new law, like Julie A. Burkhart of the pro-choice Trust Women Foundation, call Kansas’ legislation “dangerous” because it “dictates to physicians the scope of their practice and implies that certain medical treatments that physicians may use would lead to criminalization.”
Pro-choice groups also criticize the law for not including exemptions for cases of rape and incest (only to preserve the life or health of the mother) and fear the ban is a first step to outlawing all types of abortions.
“Planned Parenthood is disappointed but not surprised by the signing of Senate Bill 95, which was written not by physicians and medical experts, but by a national interest group bent on banning abortion across the country,” said Laura McQuade, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, in a press release. “We will continue to expose all extreme political measures aimed at denying women access to health care and at undermining their decision-making ability.”
“We will continue to expose all extreme political measures aimed at denying women access to health care and at undermining their decision-making ability,” said @PPact.
Balch, whose organization National Right to Life penned the legislation, says women seeking life-ending procedures still have choices.
“There are other abortion procedures that would be available to a woman who is raped but this particular procedure—there’s no reason to do that to an innocent unborn child,” she said.
Senate Bill 95, which was signed into law during a private ceremony on Tuesday by Brownback, is likely to be challenged in courts.
The bill appears to conflict with decisions handed down both by the Kansas Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, which legalized abortion until a fetus is able to survive outside the womb.
In that case, Balch says, National Right to Life would “welcome” the opportunity to defend the policy in court.
We think the time has come for the American people to understand just what a ‘dismemberment abortion’ is. We think that if they knew what was happening in secret—what is happening within the closed doors of groups like Planned Parenthood where they literally rip a living unborn child from limb to limb until he or she bleeds to death—I think most American people would demand that it stop.
This article was updated to clarify the type of dilation and evacuation abortion procedure Kansas’ bill addresses.