Sunday, May 19, 2013

Murder or Abortion? A Thought Experiment

Five friends go on Spring Break together. They all come back from Spring Break pregnant.

They discuss their options over the ensuing months. Finally, at 24 weeks,  they decide to opt for abortions. At 24 weeks, the baby has a better than 50/50 chance of survival. Most states that restrict abortions late in the pregnancy also have the legal cutoff at 24 weeks.

The friends go to All Options Reproductive Services on the same day.

All Options Reproductive Services has five doctors, each of whom prefers a different method. These are all real methods that have been used, or are still being used, by real doctors in real abortion practices.

Kenneth uses the Edelin Method: It's a hysterotomy. He performs a c-section but instead of removing the fetus as soon as he opens the uterus, he reaches in and detaches the placenta then waits for the fetus to die from lack of oxygen before removing it.

LeRoy uses the Carhart Method: It's an induction. He injects a drug into the fetal heart to achieve fetal demise. He uses sterile seaweed sticks to dilate the patient's cervix. After a couple of days, the cervix is fully dilated and he administers drugs to induce labor and the dead fetus comes out. Sometimes he has to pull it out with forceps, and because it's been dead for a few days it is soft and comes out in pieces, "like meat in a crock pot."

Martin uses the Haskell Method: It's an extraction. He uses dilators, like LeRoy, to dilate the cervix, but he does not use the drug to ensure fetal demise. He uses forceps to pull the fetus out feet first, then, just before the head is delivered, he shoves scissors into the base of the skull to make a hole, then he suctions out the fetal brain.

Warren uses the Hern Method. It's an evacuation. He uses dilators, like LeRoy, to dilate the cervix, but not as far as LeRoy does. He uses forceps to reach in and grasp parts of the living fetus. As he gets hold of a body part -- an arm, a leg -- he pulls and twists until that part comes out. If it is too difficult to pull a piece off, he reaches in with heavy duty surgical scissors to cut off the body part he's trying to remove. The fetus dies at some point during this process. He continues this until he has removed all of the parts of the fetus and the placenta. 
Kermit uses the Gosnell Method: It's a mixed method. Like LeRoy, he uses dilators and drugs to induce labor. Like Martin, he doesn't ensure fetal demise first. He waits until the entire fetus is delivered, then, like Martin, uses skulls in the base of the skull to ensure fetal demise. The main difference between Kermit's method and Martin's method is where the fetus is when the scissors are inserted.

Each of the friends chooses a different doctor and goes through her abortion. All of them are finished by the end of the week.

Is there any moral difference among the friends' choices or the doctors' methods?

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