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Abortion advocate says he lied about partial-birth procedure

WASHINGTON (BP)–The head of a national abortion advocacy organization has startled both sides in the debate over America’s most divisive moral issue by confessing he lied about partial-birth abortion and declaring his allies are wrong to spread misinformation in order to protect the procedure.

Ron Fitzsimmons, executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, told the American Medical News and other publications what opponents of partial-birth abortion have been saying for some time: The grisly procedure done in the second half of pregnancy is not rare and is not performed primarily on women whose lives or fertility are threatened or whose unborn babies are damaged.

Instead, Fitzsimmons admitted, the procedure is more commonly performed than abortion advocates have said and mostly on healthy women with healthy children.

“The pro-choice movement has lost a lot of credibility during this debate, not just with the general public, but with our pro-choice friends in Congress,” Fitzsimmons said in the March 3 issue of American Medical News. “Even the White House is now questioning the accuracy of some of the information given to it on this issue.”

The potential repercussions are significant. Some major news media outlets, including the television networks, have parroted the abortion advocates’ lines about the procedure. President Clinton and members of Congress have as well. Partially as a result, the president vetoed last year a bill to ban the procedure except when the mother’s life is endangered, and the Senate failed to override the veto.

Abortion rights leaders should stop the “half-truths” and let legislation take its course, Fitzsimmons told American Medical News.

“I think we should tell them the truth, let them vote and move on,” he said, according to the report.

The chief sponsor of the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act plans to move forward with another vote. Rep. Charles Canady, R.-Fla., announced Feb. 26 he would reintroduce the bill in a week.

Clinton vetoed the bill in April, citing a need for an exception when the mother’s health is endangered. For the veto ceremony, he gathered five women who said they had undergone the procedure for health reasons and/or because their children would not have survived. Bill supporters, however, said the president’s health exception would gut the ban, because the Supreme Court in 1973 defined health for abortion purposes to include “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.”

In September, the House of Representatives achieved the two-thirds majority necessary for an override with a 285-137 vote. The Senate fell short at 57-41.

The procedure banned by the bill involves the delivery of an intact baby feet first until only the head is left in the birth canal. The doctor pierces the base of the baby’s skull with surgical scissors, then inserts a catheter into the opening and suctions out the brain. The collapse of the skull enables easier removal of the dead child. The method is used in the second half of pregnancy, usually by the 26th week.

Fitzsimmons told The New York Times he lied “through my teeth” when he appeared on the ABC television program “Nightline” in November 1995 and said the procedure was rare and used only on women whose lives were endangered or whose babies were damaged.

“It made me physically ill,” he told the Times. “I told my wife the next day, ‘I can’t do this again.'”

After that interview, he stayed out of the debate, Fitzsimmons said.

After the debate over partial-birth abortion began, Fitzsimmons said he called doctors who did them. “I learned right away that this was being done for the most part in cases that did not involve those extreme circumstances,” he told American Medical News.

He said the abortion rights side should never have taken up the battle. Their strategy has harmed the image of abortion doctors.

“When you’re a doctor who does these abortions and the leaders of your movement appear before Congress and go on network news and say these procedures are done in only the most tragic of circumstances, how do you think it makes you feel? You know they’re primarily done on healthy women and healthy fetuses, and it makes you feel like a dirty little abortionist with a dirty little secret,” Fitzsimmons told American Medical News.

It is unknown how many such abortions are performed each year, but it certainly is far more than the 500 constantly referred to by abortion rights organizations. A Sept. 15 article in The Record, a New Jersey daily paper, reported a clinic in Englewood, N.J., performs at least 1,500 partial-birth abortions a year.

In a continuation of his confessional mode, Fitzsimmons also admitted to the Times that abortion “is a form of killing. You’re ending a life.” While he said that bothered him, he still supports the partial-birth procedure and abortion rights, the newspaper reported.

“The significance of this confession really cannot be overemphasized,” said Will Dodson, the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission’s director of government relations. “The admission from a leading advocate of the abortion industry that abortion really is a ‘form of killing’ and that he and his allies would lie to protect this practice should send chills down the spine of every American.

“We must hope and pray that Mr. Fitzsimmons and others in the killing industry would turn from their sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness and to receive him as their Savior and Lord. Finally, I hope that President Clinton and members of Congress, realizing the way in which they have been deceived, will now see fit to enact and sign into law the bill banning partial-birth abortions.”

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