Saturday, June 06, 2009

new attention on late-term abortions

Washington Post | When Susan Fitzgerald went in for a routine ultrasound near the end of her pregnancy, she was expecting good news. Instead, she was stunned to learn that the fetus had a rare condition that left his bones so brittle he would live less than a day.

"It was unbelievable," Fitzgerald said. "You think by the third trimester you're home free. It was devastating."

Desperate to end the pregnancy, she flew from her home in New England to Wichita, where George Tiller was one of the few doctors in the country willing to perform an abortion so late in a pregnancy.

"It was very difficult, but I knew it was the most humane thing I could do for my baby," Fitzgerald said. "It was absolutely the right thing to do. I'm just so grateful that Dr. Tiller was there for me."

Her story is one of dozens that have surfaced in the past week during candlelight vigils, at memorials and on blog postings since the shooting death of Tiller. An antiabortion activist has been charged in his slaying.

Tiller's death has focused attention on abortions late in pregnancy. While it is clear that they account for a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million U.S. abortions each year, much about the procedures is unclear, including exactly how many are done, by whom and under what circumstances. The government does not collect detailed data, and doctors who perform them publish little information.

"What made Dr. Tiller unusual was that he specialized in seeing women who found out late in very wanted pregnancies that they were carrying fetuses with anomalies that were incompatible with life," Saporta said. "For them, there was really no good choice. They needed to terminate their pregnancies to protect their own health, and he provided both the emotional and physical care for women in that situation."

Abortion opponents condemn the procedures, regardless of the circumstances.