Rival groups’ support for new procedure may be premature

By Heather McGraw

Resurrection Medical Center, the leading Catholic health care system in Chicago, started a new program to stop second-trimester abortions in mid-process. While the program is being commended from anti-abortion groups and abortion rights advocates, there are some serious flaws.

There are two clinics in Illinois that perform abortions in the second trimester, with one located in Chicago. The other clinic offering second-trimester abortions is Hope Clinic in Granite City, Ill.

Although many people are against abortions in the second trimester, it is legal in Illinois, and only two clinic options aren’t enough to give a woman her due choice.

When a fetus is in the second-trimester, it starts growing at a rapid rate, which makes it a lengthier process than a first-trimester abortion and also presents a higher risk.

This opportunity to stop the abortion process in the second trimester exists because it takes two to three days to complete. It starts with the insertion of a laminaria, a natural cervix dilator usually made of dried seaweed bundles. On the second day, the woman returns to the doctor to either have the fetus removed or have another dilator inserted.

The hospital can stop the abortion after the first step by removing the laminaria. The woman’s cervix is then supposed to return to normal, allowing her to finish the term as usual.

This summer, anti-abortion protesters standing outside of the Chicago clinic started talking to a woman who decided she wanted her laminaria removed. The group brought her to Resurrection because the clinic is near the hospital.

After seeing the woman, Resurrection created a process to ensure the option to halt abortions existed.

Resurrection requires a counseling session for any woman coming in to stop her abortion. This is an attempt to make sure the women coming in for the process are there based on their decision and not because of pressure from protesters outside of the clinics they come from.

This is something to be applauded on the abortion rights side. But, it is a little disheartening to think that of the four women who have gone to the hospital for the procedure, only one woman was turned away because she was influenced.

After the woman had a private conversation with counselors, Resurrection felt she had been pressured by the sidewalk protesters, according to an article in the Chicago Tribune on Feb. 8.

Some doctors and abortion providers say halting a second-trimester abortion is a risky procedure. In fact, a New York University study published in 2009 showed in two out of four cases, where a woman halted a second-trimester abortion, the child was born premature and did not survive.

While the Catholic church and anti-abortion advocates will likely never support abortions, it is surprising they stand behind such a risky process, one in which only half the children might survive and those that do face the complications of premature birth.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, only 12 percent of American women seek a second-trimester abortion. If anti-abortion activists were somehow able to convince each one of these women to halt their abortions, they are still countenancing a 50 percent mortality rate. This seems a little un-Catholic to me.

It is a momentous occasion for the groups to find common ground. However, this program does not begin to address how protests can escalate to harassment and sometimes even violence.

Dr. George Tiller, a physician who performed late term abortions in Kansas, was frequently harassed by protesters outside his clinic and his home. Tiller was even shot in 1993, but survived the injury. In 2009, Tiller was serving as an usher at his church in Wichita, Kan. when anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder approached him and shot him through the eye, killing him almost instantly. Tiller’s murder has been investigated further as a possible connection to a larger case involving radical anti-abortion activists.

When one side of an argument forms groups with intentions of causing physical harm—sometimes life-ending harm—to the other side, it should take more than a flawed program to start sharing hugs and singing harmonies.

Regardless of the required counseling session, the two groups’ acceptance of the program may be premature.