Morally Velocitized

Author Greg Koukl Published on 03/17/2013

What happens when a culture’s decline in values begins to pick up speed? It becomes velocitized. What was unthinkable yesterday is thinkable today, and ordinary and commonplace tomorrow, like partial-birth abortion.

I’ve chosen to devote an entire issue of Clear Thinking to one topic: partial-birth abortion. Here’s why.

Two years ago I wrote that our culture was becoming morally “velocitized.” The term describes something I learned in driver’s training in high school. Once a driver accelerates from, say, 30 to 60 miles per hour and settles in, he gets acclimated to his new speed and loses his true sense of velocity. It doesn’t feel as if he’s moving any faster than he was at first.

This is dangerous on the highway, but it’s deadly when it happens to the moral consciousness of a society. Years ago, Dr. Francis Schaeffer noted that what was unthinkable yesterday is thinkable today, and ordinary and commonplace tomorrow. We saw it happen once in this century. We’re seeing it happen again.

Two Signs of Our Moral Velocity

On June 10, 1993, President Clinton signed into law “The Institute of Health Revitalization Act of 1993.” It authorized, for the first time in U.S. history, government-funded research using tissue from aborted children.

As I write, a different bill, one our President has pledged to veto, is on its way to his desk. The Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act (HR 1833) was first introduced in Congress on June 15, 1995. On November 1, it passed the House 288 to 139. On December 7, the Senate passed an amended form of the legislation 54 to 44, then sent it back to the House for final approval.

This measure has mobilized forces and stimulated vigorous responses from both sides of the abortion question. But this is no ordinary abortion debate, because this is no ordinary abortion.

Partial-birth abortion is actually a variation of “internal podalic version,” a technique used by obstetricians to deliver a living child. Dr. James McMahon, for years the director of abortion instruction at the Cedar Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, claims to have adapted the procedure for abortion.

Dr. McMahon refers to the method as “intact dilation and evacuation” and “intrauterine cranial decompression.” The other specialist in the method, Dr. Martin Haskell of Dayton, Ohio, coined the term “dilation and extraction,” or simply D&X.

These two doctors have personally performed over 3,000 such abortions, and have circulated detailed training papers on the subject. Characteristically, it’s a second trimester abortion technique, but Dr. McMahon often used it much later, even into the ninth month.[1 Dr. Martin Haskell, “Second Trimester Abortion: From Every Angle,” National Abortion Federation manual, p. 33.]

The National Abortion Federation literature blandly describes partial-birth abortion as “a surgical technique performed in some later abortions in which the fetus is removed intact.”[2 National Abortion Federation, “Later Abortions: Questions and Answers,” The Abortion Rights Activist, p. 2.] As you will see, there is nothing bland about it. Congressman Charles Canady (R-Fl.), who authored the bill, puts it bluntly: “The difference between the partial-birth abortion procedure and homicide is a mere three inches.”[3 Douglas Johnson, “Pro-Aborts Fight Bill to Ban Partial-Birth Abortion,” National Right to Life Committee, p. 1.]

President Clinton added a new twist when he approved government-funded research using brain tissue from aborted children. Abortion is no longer just a cash industry; it also produces a cash crop: fetal brain tissue. Thus, there’s an economic incentive to opposing any ban on partial-birth abortion.

“A baby who is born dead,” Dr. James Dobson notes, “is of less value to researchers because brain tissue and other organs quickly deteriorate when deprived of oxygen. Thus, the abortionist must employ a means of extracting the body parts and brain matter from a living baby who is not yet expelled from the birth canal. The method is called dilation and extraction, or D and X.”[4 James Dobson, Focus on the Family Newsletter, July, 1993.] [emphasis mine]

Why the Moral Confusion on D&X?

It has been disheartening, even painful, to listen to the justifications people are using for this procedure. One paper’s editorial called it “a strategy of misinformation, distortion, and outright falsehood.”[5 The Tidings, Dec. 8, 1995, p. 10.]

There are two reasons people are muddled about D&X abortions.

First, many people who think they’re informed still don’t know what a partial-birth abortion really entails.

A pro-life friend of mine had been gathering newspaper clippings to help me in my research. She made mention of the baby’s head “crowning” during this procedure. Her comment stunned me because in a D&X abortion the baby’s head doesn’t crown; the child is purposely delivered breech.

She was against D&X abortion, yet didn’t realize that the doctor uses a forceps to reverse the baby so its feet come out first. With its head still in the birth canal and its legs, arms and the rest of its body dangling on the outside of the mother, the brain tissue is extracted, usually while the baby is still alive.

In December, David Brinkley discussed the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act on his show. Even Brinkley did not appear to grasp what a partial-birth abortion entailed until well into the discussion. When he did, he visibly blanched.

The second reason people are confused about partial-birth abortion is because it’s called abortion. But calling a procedure an abortion doesn’t make it one. Partial-birth abortion is not about abortion. It’s about something much more insidious, something that clearly marks the velocity of our moral descent.

In the material that follows, you will learn exactly what partial-birth abortion is. You will read from the writings of abortion proponents themselves the truth of this barbarous procedure. Finally, you’ll learn why it shouldn’t be called an abortion; this debate is about something else entirely.

Three years ago I stated that revolutions do not start with rifle shot and cannon fire. Instead, they start with an idea. We are now in the throes of one of those quiet but desperate revolutions in thought. It’s taking place right in front of us, if only we would open our eyes.