The national battle over abortion, for decades firmly planted outside the Kansas clinic of Dr. George R. Tiller, has erupted here in suburban Omaha, where a longtime colleague has taken up the cause of late-term abortions.What should the dividing line be for legal, late-term abortion? I do not have a good answer, but I offer a few thoughts.
Since Dr. Tiller was shot to death in May, his colleague, Dr. LeRoy H. Carhart, has hired two people who worked at Dr. Tiller’s clinic and has trained his own staff members in the technical intricacies of performing late-term abortions.
Dr. Carhart has also begun performing some abortions “past 24 weeks,” he said in an interview, and is prepared to perform them still later if they meet legal requirements and if he considers them medically necessary.
1. The frequency of late-term abortions is likely to be low, even when legal, because so many people - including some doctors and nurses - oppose them. For example,
The late-term abortions, coming after the earliest point when a fetus might survive outside the womb, are the most controversial, even among some who favor abortion rights. A few of Dr. Carhart’s employees quit when he told them of his plans to expand the clinic’s work.2. It is easy to demonize late-term abortions as immoral, yet banning them can harm women who face serious health risks from carrying a baby to term.
3. A reasonable way to balance competing concerns is to leave the legality of late-term abortion (like abortion generally) to individual states. A few will permit late-term abortions, but most will significantly restrict or outlaw. This hodgepodge may not be "perfect," but no perfect solution exists. Any federal involvement - for or against late term abortions - is likely to do more harm than good.